The Magic of Mistletoe – Viscum album

This time of the year the florists are full of mistletoe. This seasonal parasitic plant is found mainly on trees such as oak and apple. With its distinct waxy green leaf formations, yellowish flowers and sticky white berries it has a history founded in mystical and ritualistic practices. Now more recognised as something that is hung from a ceiling at Christmas parties in order that we may ask and be granted a kiss. The purpose of this article is to explore the potential of this plant as a medicine. A word of warning, Caution : Mistletoe, especially the berry is highly toxic. Take only under professional supervision.  The parts used to make tinctures include the leaves, branches and berries. Fresh leafy shoots and berries are harvested in autumn, chopped finely and macerated in alcohol. Mistletoe contains glycoproteins, polypeptides  flavonoids, caffeic and other acids, lignans, acetylcholine and in the berries polysaccharides. Viscotoxins that inhibit tumours and stimulate the immune system. Herbal and Homoeopathic prescribers are guided by mistletoe’s action to lower blood pressure and heart rate. Ease anxiety and promote sleep. In low doses it relieves panic attacks, headaches and improves concentration. Remedy profile. Fear and detachment from others, asthma, seizures, tremors, tearing joint and neuralgic pain. As a remedy, mistletoe can be taken orally. For use as a cancer treatment, extracts from the berries are injected (by medically qualified professionals ) subcutaneous, intravenous and intra-tumoral. For information of     medical practitioners/clinics that deliver this treatment contact Mistletoe Therapy UK Looking for evidence of past research studies of Mistletoe’s effectiveness as a cancer treatment in the UK I came across a systematic review conducted by Kienle GS. Kiene H. ( European Journal of Medical Research March 2007 12 (3) 103-119 ) that concluded. Regarding quality of studies and consistency of results, the best evidence for efficacy of mistletoe therapy exists for improvement of QoL and reduction of side effects of cytotoxic therapies (chemotherapy, radiation). Survival benefit has been shown but not beyond critique. Tumour remissions are described in cohort studies that investigate the application of high dose or local mistletoe extracts. As several reasonably well-conducted studies indicate beneficial effects, further properly designed trials should be encouraged to investigate clinical efficacy and its possible dependency on the mode of application.The University of Bristol are conducting a pilot trial: Mistletoe & breast cancer pilot randomised controlled trial.  Testing the feasibility of testing the effect of mistletoe therapy on symptoms and quality of life in women with newly diagnosed breast cancer undergoing chemotherapy. Led by Prof Gene Feder the trial will run for 10 months starting Oct 2017. The pilot aims to: Establish the feasibility of a placebo controlled trial with mistletoe therapy. Measure quality of life outcomes, fatigue and other symptoms in women having mistletoe therapy or placebo. Document the tolerability and safety of administering mistletoe preparations. Publish findings in a peer-reviewed journal. Lead to fully powered trial to test effectiveness. For more details, visit the University of Bristol website. The development of the study through to ethics has been financed by the National Institute of Health Research. Says Dr Stefan Geider, CWT medical director.“The trial will provide an important stepping stone in answering the questions of the scientific mainstream community.”News of this pilot study is very exciting.  Use of Mistletoe in cancer treatment has been around for a number of years. I have knowledge of a breast cancer patient who following radical surgery choose mistletoe therapy. She travels out of Dorset and self funds her treatment. The National Cancer Institute ( NCI) has screened approx 35,000 plant species for potential anti-cancer activity.( Medicinal Plants and Cancer Chemoprevention Curr Drug Metab 2008 Sept  9(7) 581-591). Scientifically conducted research is the way forward to enable true patient choice.