When we think of mistletoe, we usually associate this herb with Christmas decorations and kissing the ones you love. As cheerful as the mistletoe can be, it can also be more valuable than a simple kiss on the cheek.
Research has now suggested that this herb possesses the ability to heal a variety of ailments ranging from strengthening the immune system to curing multiple forms of cancer.
Botanical Name and Family of Misletoe
Mistletoe is known botanically as Viscum album. It is a part of the Santalaceae or Sandlewood family and has been referred to as European mistletoe, Christmas mistletoe and Loranthus.
What Is Mistletoe?
Best known for being part of the customary Christmas decoration, Mistletoe is a hemiparasitic plant that is found attached to old apple, ash and hawthorn trees; even though mistletoe does not grow as well on oak trees, mistletoe from oak trees has been most commonly used in herbal medicine.
Because of its long list of benefits, Shakespeare himself called mistletoe “baleful Mistletoe,” which is referenced in the Nordic mythology when Baldur, the god of peace and beauty, was killed by an arrow made of mistletoe.
This herb has been considered to have medicinal properties and the stem, berries and leaf are used in traditional European medicine. Currently, it is being investigated for its usefulness against cancer.
Active Ingredients Found in Misletoe
Mistletoe contains amine compounds such as choline, tyramine and histamine; it is also a rich source of flavonoids and terpenoids.
Health Benefits of Mistletoe
Mistletoe was used traditionally in European medicine to treat nervous disorders including epilepsy. It was used to lower blood pressure, help people sleep better and treat pain accompanied by arthritis. Researchers have found that this herb shows valuable cancer-protective action.
According to a study conducted by the University of Adelaide in Australia, three different forms of mistletoe and chemotherapy was compared to see which one would be more effective in treating colon cancer.
Out of the three mistletoe extracts, they concluded that Fraxini, a form of mistletoe found on ash trees, was most effective in killing malignant cells. As a matter of fact, in this experiment, Fraxini was more effective in killing cancer cells than chemotherapy was.
As an added bonus, the Fraxini mistletoe extract was also determined to be less harmful to healthy intestinal cells than chemotherapy treatments. But mistletoe’s health benefits don’t just stop at regulating blood pressure and fighting cancer. This wonder-herb has also been used to:
- Treat hypertension
- Treat coughing, sore throats and bronchitis
- Prevent atherosclerosis
- Treat inflammation
- Treat arthritis and joint pain
- Boost the immune system
- Treat nervous disorders like epilepsy
- Ease menstrual cramps and pains
Different Ways to Use Mistletoe
Mistletoe is used in the form of tincture, tea and injectable extracts. Injectable extracts are not approved in the U.S. but diluted forms of mistletoe are available in liquid and capsule form sold by online retailers.
Side Effects of Mistletoe
Up to two leaves and three berries may be consumed by mouth; larger doses can lead to abdominal cramps, vomiting and diarrhea. Injecting mistletoe subcutaneously can lead to allergic reactions. It’s always best to consult your primary care physician regarding mistletoe to make sure it will benefit you.
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Grossarth-Maticek R, Kiene H, Baumgartner SM, Ziegler R. Use of Iscador, an extract of European mistletoe (Viscum album), in cancer treatment: Prospective nonrandomized and randomized matched-pair studies nested within a cohort study.Altern Ther Health Med. 2001 May-Jun;7(3):57-66, 68-72, 74-6 passim. PubMed PMID: 11347286.
Zarkovic N, Vukovic T, Loncaric I, Miletic M, Zarkovic K, Borovic S, Cipak A, Sabolovic S, Konitzer M, Mang S. An overview on anticancer activities of the Viscum album extract Isorel. Cancer Biother Radiopharm. 2001 Feb;16(1):55-62. PubMed PMID: 11279798.