European Mistletoe
Health Benefits and Side Effects

This fact sheet provides basic information about the herb European mistletoe
[mistletoe, Viscum album]-- uses, potential side effects, and resources for more
information. European mistletoe is a semiparasitic plant that grows on several types
of trees in temperate regions worldwide. Where the term "mistletoe" is used in this
fact sheet, it refers to European mistletoe. (European mistletoe is different from
American mistletoe, which is used as a holiday decoration.) [1]

Mistletoe has been used for centuries in traditional medicine to treat seizures,
headaches, and other conditions. In Europe, mistletoe is believed to benefit people
suffered from cancers. The leafy shoots and berries of mistletoe are used to make
extracts that can be taken by mouth. In Europe, mistletoe extracts are prescription
drugs that are given by injection. [1]

Health Benefits of European Mistletoe

Extracts and preparations from the parasitic plant mistletoe (Viscum album L.) have
been used in the treatment of cancer for decades. Steiner and Wegman introduced
mistletoe as a treatment for cancer in 1920. Today, mistletoe extracts are the most
frequently prescribed unconventional cancer therapies in Germany, as in some other
European countries. [2] Most foundamental studies suggest that lectins are the key
ingredients for the cytotoxic and immunostimulating effects of the European
mistletoe. [3]
Laboratory studies have found that mistletoe kills cancer cells and stimulates the
immune system. The use of mistletoe to treat cancer has been studied in Europe in
more than 30 clinical trials. Although improvements in survival or quality of life have
been reported, almost all of the trials had major weaknesses in their design that raise
doubts about the findings. For example, many of the studies had a small number of
participants or did not have a control group. [1]

Japanese researchers have demonstrated that both Japanese and Euporean
mistletoe extracts had blood pressure lowering effects in a study of cats. [4]

Side Effects and Cautions of European Mistletoe

Raw, unprocessed mistletoe is poisonous. Eating raw, unprocessed European
mistletoe or American mistletoe can cause vomiting, seizures, a slowing of the heart
rate, and even death. American mistletoe is unsafe for medicinal use.[1]

In countries where commercial mistletoe is available by injection, such as Germany,
those extracts are considered to be generally safe when used according to product
directions and under the supervision of a health care provider. [1]

Injected mistletoe extract may cause itching or redness in the area of the injection.
Less commonly, side effects may include more extensive skin reactions, low-grade
fevers, or flu-like symptoms. There have been very rare reports of more serious
allergic reactions, such as difficulty breathing. [1]

Reference [1] National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Accessed June 30, 2005. [2]
Bar-Sela G, et al, Mistletoe (Viscum album) preparations: an optional drug for cancer patients?] Harefuah.
2006 Jan;145(1):42-6, 77. [3] Bruseth S, Enge A. Mistletoe in the treatment of cancerTidsskr Nor
Laegeforen. 1993 Mar 30;113(9):1058-60. [4]  Fukunaga T, et al, Studies on pharmacological activity of
the Japanese and European mistletoeYakugaku Zasshi. 1989 Aug;109(8):600-5.
Discuss with your doctor before taking any alternative medicine. This article is for
reference only, it is not a medical advice. All rights reserved. Do not copy this article to
other website or blog.
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