Mistletoe is known because it plays a mystical role in many customs and also in magical rituals. Although this parasitic plant (plants that obtain their nutrients through another plant), found high in the branches of host trees, does not confer superhuman powers, it is definitely a miraculous medicinal plant used as a natural remedy in many parts of the world.
Thanks to modern science, today it is more than clear that the healing power of mistletoe it is not the work of a myth and fairy tale world, but actually it is a natural and healthy remedy that is even good in treating cancer. On the other hand, not only medicine, but also the cosmetic industry is making use of its versatile properties.
The belief in the magical power of mistletoe dates back to ancient times. The Druids, who were like priests, teachers and healers in one person, worshiped mistletoe, especially the one that grows on oak trees known as “omnia sanans”, and considered it a cure-all. Also in the Middle Ages, a type of mistletoe known as a witch’s broom was used for “magical” and medical purposes. Mistletoe is still hung over the doorframe at Christmas time today, as it is believed that this will ensure health, prosperity and fertility in the New Year.
Mistletoe: a plant with medicinal benefits
The fact that mistletoe behaves in the complete opposite way to most plants, in terms of growth and fruit ripening, has certainly contributed to its reputation as a medicinal plant.
This is because in the winter, when all other plants are in winter, the mistletoe suddenly starts to grow. It flowers from February to March and bears ripe fruit from November.
As in humans, the fruit takes about nine months to fully mature. This plant does not need the sun, it is independent of light and gravity. This is the reason why the evergreen leaves of the plant They grow in all directions and form the typical round mistletoe bush. This phenomenon does not exist in any other plant.
Benefits of mistletoe as a natural remedy
Mistletoe is common throughout Europe and is considered a semiparasite, since it does not grow on the ground but on trees, it obtains a large part of the nutrients from its host, but it also performs the function of photosynthesis, so it could easily survive without a host.
Of the approximately 1,400 types of plants known as mistletoes in the broadest sense, only one, white-leaf mistletoe (Viscum alba)is used today for the manufacture of medicines and cosmetic care products.
Mistletoe in the fight against cancer
White mistletoe therapy is the best researched among the unconventional procedures in cancer medicine. The unique combination of its ingredients makes mistletoe a very special medicinal plant.
In addition to containing a variety of amino acids, proteins, triglycerides (fats), flavonoids (colorants typical of plants), potassium and phosphorus, it also contains highly toxic substances: viscotoxins and lectins.
These toxic substances have an important effect as adjuvant therapy in patients suffering from cancer. [cancer.gov]. The lectins in mistletoe are sugary proteins that appear in this form only in mistletoe and inhibit the growth of cancer cells.
They are among the best-studied ingredients in mistletoe. Viscotoxins are protein compounds and are similar in structure to cobra venom. Their effect is not as well researched as that of lectins, however, viscotoxins are known to dissolve cancer cells by destroying their cell wall. [¹]
mistletoe supplements for cancer
Today, mistletoe supplements are mainly used as an add-on to cancer treatment to improve the patient’s condition and reduce side effects. A treatment accompanied at the same time with mistletoe extract reduces the side effects of conventional cancer therapies, such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
Mistletoe extracts also stimulate immune cell replication and activate natural killer cells. They also increase the formation of beta-endorphins, and endogenous opiates. This is good for pain relief and also against depression. In folk medicine, mistletoe is considered beneficial in menstrual disorders, epilepsy, atherosclerosis, and hypertension. [²]
Its role in natural medicine
Mistletoe was discovered as a medicinal plant in cancer therapy by the founder of anthroposophical spiritual science, Dr. Rudolf Steiner. According to the anthroposophical view, malignant tumors are malformations that grow at the wrong time in the wrong place in the human body.
Similarly, mistletoe is a plant that grows like a parasite on other plants, that is, in the “wrong place”, which is on trees and not on the ground. Mistletoe doesn’t feed itself, it gets most of its nutrients from the tree it grows on.
If we see it this way, a tumor also feeds on the body in which it has formed. Therefore, mistletoe reflects cancer in the plant kingdom. Prepared as a medicine, mistletoe provides the body with lost abilities, which is why tumor growth was possible in the first place.
Doctor Dr. Ita Wegman adopted the ideas of Rudolf Steiner and developed in 1917 together with a Zurich pharmacist the first medicinal preparation made from mistletoe. Today there is a whole range of cancer treatment products based on mistletoe extract.
Cosmetics – The uses of mistletoe in care products
The amino acids of this medicinal plant are especially important for the cosmetic industry. Especially arginine, which serves as a support for the skin and tissue in case of dryness, itching and eczema.
mistletoe is also very effective in the treatment and prophylaxis of cellulite. The flavonoids contained in mistletoe are important as antioxidants. They neutralize free radicals, preventing them from attacking skin cells or causing irreversible damage to DNA, they strengthen the skin’s immune system and provide a optimal protection against cellular aging.
Recent research has shown that mistletoe extract has a very special property: it relieves the appearance of pigmented spots and prevents the formation of new ones.
Unlike other active ingredients, which simply whiten pigment spots or freckles, and which are also often aggressive and therefore make the skin more sensitive, the substances contained in mistletoe inhibit tyrosinase, i.e. , the formation of melanin, the natural colorant that allows the development of dark and undesirable spots.
lightens the skin
The result of using mistletoe for this purpose is a gentle lightening of the skin. Mistletoe provides an additional protective function due to its antioxidant effect. Since pigmentary disorders are usually due to excessive sun exposure or free radical damage.
Furthermore, the fact that it is also a purely natural remedy makes mistletoe even more convenient. Lotions or creams containing mistletoe extract are a natural, harmless and effective alternative to bleaching through fruit acids, laser treatments and other aggressive treatments.
Mistletoe can be used to treat all of the following ailments:
- Sleep problems, restlessness, palpitations
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Vertigo caused by hypertension
- Back pain
- Weakness of the knees, weakness or atrophy of the tendons and bones
- Dry Skin
- Restless fetus and uterine bleeding during pregnancy
Parts used: twigs and leaves
- Taste: bitter.
- Thermal effect: neutral
- Organ allocation: kidneys, liver, heart.
- Dosage: 3 – 12g
The references cited below belong to official websites of international cancer research organizations and the uses of alternative medicine, with their respective approved scientific studies.
Folk medicine and anthroposophy
Folk medicine uses various preparations with this medicinal plant, for example in infusions, drops, pills, tablets and mistletoe tincture.
In anthroposophical medicine, fresh vegetable juices and fermented aqueous extracts of mistletoe are recommended for the treatment of cancer. This complementary healing dates back to Rudolf Steiner, the founder of the Waldorf schools.
- Kienle, GS, Mussler, M., Fuchs, D., & Kiene, H. (2016). Intravenous Mistletoe Treatment in Integrative Cancer Care: A Qualitative Study Exploring the Procedures, Concepts, and Observations of Expert Doctors. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM, 2016, 4628287. doi:10.1155/2016/4628287 [PubMed]
- Mistletoe for cancer? International Journal of Cancer, 107(2), 262-267, 2003 DOI https://doi.org/10.1002/ijc.11386 [Link]