Monday, December 12, 2011

Health Benefits of Mistletoe

Common Mistletoe - Viscum Album
Common Mistletoe - Viscum Album

Common or Eurasian Mistletoe (Viscum album) is one of the many species of a hemiparasitic plant that grows on a variety of trees, especially apple trees, poplars, willows and linden. It forms a drooping, evergreen bush on branches of a host tree from which it obtains some its nutrients. The fact that it contains chlorophyll enables it to synthesize its own nutrition as well.

Mistletoe was believed to have magical properties and was used in medicine since ancient times. The Druids held mistletoe in great reverence as a sacred plant that could cure any illness. It was harvested in a great ceremony and cut from the trees with a golden sickle. Mistletoe that grew on oak trees had the highest value because of its rarity.

In the beginning of the twenty century Rudolf Steiner, who initiated the Anthroposophic Society, proposed the use of mistletoe in the cancer therapy. A wide research of the plant was conducted by anthroposophic researchers. They came up with homeopathic preparations that combined the summer and winter extracts of the plant harvested from different trees. These preparations are still successfully used in anthroposophic medicine to treat cancer patients in Europe.

It is assumed that the host tree influences the healing characteristics of mistletoe. Rudolf Steiner observed that to heal some of the female conditions, extracts from the mistletoe that grew on apple trees was the most effective. Extracts derived from the plant that grew on oak trees was considered to be the best to correct male health problems. Different extracts were used to heal different organs or systems of the body.

Nowadays the amazing healing properties of mistletoe have almost been forgotten. Mistletoe is commonly used as a Christmas decoration and many people consider it to be poisonous. This is only partly true. The white berries containing the seeds are indeed poisonous and should never be consumed. But the leaves and twigs are considered to have high medicinal value and may be taken like any other herb on a regular basis. Usually homeopathic preparations, tinctures, and tea are used for therapeutic purposes.

Mistletoe contains many active compounds that have strong healing properties. Among others, scientists identified viscotoxins, alkaloids, lectins, glycoproteins, flavonoids, polypeptides, saponines, choline, lignans, histamine, mucilage, and tannin. Mistletoe is believed to have many therapeutic properties, among others it is used to:
  • alleviate hypertension
  • help heal arteriosclerosis
  • stimulate immune system
  • improve the function of the urogenital tract
  • alleviate PMS and menopausal symptoms
  • improve the gastrointestinal function
  • enhance metabolism
  • calm the nervous system
  • alleviate respiratory ailments, including asthma
  • improve cardiovascular function
  • inhibit the formation of tumors
Common mistletoe in cancer therapy

In Europe mistletoe is used in complementary cancer therapies. The extract is injected subcutaneously, but it can also be applied topically around or directly to the tumor or a body cavity. Sometimes it is delivered intravenously as an infusion. It can also be administered orally. The extract is used to treat all kinds of cancer. It can be used alone or as an adjuvant to a conventional cancer treatments.

Mistletoe extract works on many levels in the body. Most importantly, it stimulates body's own defenses. A strong immune system is absolutely vital at any time, but especially when a person is afflicted with cancer. Mistletoe extract protects the DNA of healthy cells against the harmful effects of cell toxins, otherwise known as the cytostatic agents. The extract lessens the effects of the administered chemotherapy or radiation treatment and helps to minimize the damage caused by these treatments to healthy body tissues. Moreover, the extract has a substantial thermogenic effect. It induces mild inflammatory reaction and a slight fever in the body of a patient. This in turn helps to speed up metabolism and activate the immune system. Both reactions are necessary to effectively eliminate toxins and to heal.

Clinical studies and direct patient observation demonstrated that patients using the mistletoe extract tolerate the conventional cancer treatments much better. They experience less pain, have better appetite, and manage to sleep better at night. They recover much faster and have more energy in comparison to those who do not use the extract, and their survival chances are higher.
"The effectiveness of mistletoe extract appears to be not so much attributable to any individual constituent as to the concerted effects of all the substances contained in the whole extract – just as the desired overall sound of an orchestra is only brought about if all instruments play harmoniously together." From the Mistletoe Therapy Website
There are many different preparations on the market. Some of them are produced under the anthroposophic guidelines, others are non-anthroposophic. The anthroposophic preparations use extracts of mistletoe harvested from different trees. Summer and winter extracts are mixed together. The non-anthroposophic preparations use only mistletoe harvested from poplars during winter and emphasize the lectin content on the premise that lectins are the main active compounds in mistletoe. This approach, however, is fragmentary and the efficacy of the preparation uncertain.

One of the most popular preparations is the lactobacillus-fermented Iscador. This potion was first developed in 1917 by anthroposophic doctor Ita Wegman. Iscador is widely prescribed by oncologists in Germany. This preparation is sold in the USA under the name of Iscar. It is a prescription drug.

There is an ongoing debate in the scientific circles as the clinical effectiveness of mistletoe cancer therapy is still greatly disputed as the conducted studies use different standards. The anthroposophic approach is holistic. Disease is regarded as imbalance in the organism. To restore balance, physical, psychological, and spiritual aspects of a person have to be addressed as well as the relationship with the environment in which she or he lives. Since every human being is different, each disease takes on a personal characteristics. Some of the therapeutic results may not be replicable in clinical studies.

Mistletoe is a very potent herb and should not be administered without a supervision. The mistletoe tea may be safely consumed daily over a longer periods of time. However, it is strongly advised to consult a certified health care provider, particularly one who understands the principles of anthroposophic medicine, before beginning self medication.

By Dominique Allmon

*This information is for educational purpose only. It is not meant to diagnose or cure a disease.

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Health Benefits of Mistletoe by Dominique Allmon is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.