Mistletoe has long been used as a Christmas decoration — but did you know that it has medicinal qualities, not the least of which is its ability to cure cancer?
Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant that grows on apple, oak, and other broadleaf trees in Europe, Asia, America and Korea. It bears white glutinous berries in winter. Mistletoe has traditionally been known as the “kissing herb” because it’s customary to kiss someone under the mistletoe, a practice that originates from a Scandinavian legend of Balder, the god of Peace, who was slain with an arrow made of mistletoe. He was restored to life at the request of the other gods and goddesses, and mistletoe was thereafter given into the keeping of the Goddess of Love. It has since been ordained that everyone who passes under a mistletoe should receive a kiss, to show that the plant had become an emblem of love, and not of hate.
The European species of mistletoe have long been used in the treatment of cancer, inflammatory conditions and AIDS. The leaves, twigs, and berries are used to produce mistletoe extracts, most renowned of which is called Iscador, whose effectiveness against cancer has been known for many years. Although mistletoe plants and berries are regarded as poisonous to humans, few serious side effects have been associated with the use of mistletoe extract.
Austrian scientist and philosopher, Rudolf Steiner, the founder of both the Society for Cancer Research and the study of Anthropological Medicine, was the first to propose the use of mistletoe extracts for the treatment of cancer in 1920.
It has been observed that in a cancer patient, mistletoe causes an immediate increase in the macrophages, which is normally followed by a regression of cancer. This may be because mistletoe has immune-stimulatory properties. The levels of immunomodulating agents like cytokines, for instance, increase significantly with the use of mistletoe. There are also components in mistletoe that can kill cancer cells, or put them in hibernation.
In Steiner clinics, the mistletoe extract, Iscador (manufactured by Weleda AG), is used as part of an integrative program against cancer, which takes into consideration the emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of an individual who suffers from cancer. Mistletoe extracts are marketed under several other trade names, such as Helixor, Eurixor, and Isorel, most of which are available in Europe.
One of the most high-profile advocates of mistletoe is actress Suzanne Somers, who revealed that in 2001, when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she chose the natural treatment of being injected with Iscador. She claims that she conquered cancer using the mistletoe extract — and continues to be cancer-free till the present day.
In the United States, mistletoe extracts must be prescribed by a physician. However, American doctors do not commonly use or prescribe it, but it is allowed for compassionate use, which refers to expanded access outside of a clinical trial of an investigational medical product (i.e., one that has not been approved by FDA). Physicians in the United States are able to order mistletoe extracts for their patients directly from European manufacturers.