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Home :: Mistletoe :: Herbs

Mistletoe Herb - Uses And Side Effects

Mistletoe preparations come from the leaves, branches, and berries of European mistletoe, Viscum album, and the related species If. abietis and If. austriacum. These plants, which live as parasites on tree branches, are native to England, Europe, and Asia. North American mistletoes are used mainly as Christmas greens. Also parasitic, they grow on fruit trees, poplars, and oaks.

Description

The stem is yellowish and smooth, freely forked, separating when dead into bone-like joints. The leaves are tongue-shaped, broader towards the end, 1 to 3 inches long, very thick and leathery, of a dull yellow-green colour, arranged in pairs, with very short footstalks. The flowers, small and inconspicuous, are arranged in threes, in close short spikes or clusters in the forks of the branches, and are of two varieties, the male and female occurring on different plants. Neither male nor female flowers have a corolla, the parts of the fructification springing from the yellowish calyx. They open in May. The fruit is a globular, smooth, white berry, ripening in December.

Common doses of mistletoe

Mistletoe comes as dried leaves, capsules, an infusion, liquid extract, tablets, and tincture. Some experts recommend the following doses:

  • As dried leaves, 2 to 6 grams orally three times daily.
  • As liquid extract (1: 1 solution in 25% alcohol), 1 to 3 milliliters orally three times daily.
  • As tincture (1:5 solution in 45% alcohol), 0.5 milliliter orally three times daily.

Uses of mistletoe

Folk healers in Europe and particularly in Asia have long relied on mistletoe for treating everything from rapid heart rates and high blood pressure to epilepsy. But by far the most popular use of mistletoe today--particularly in Europe--is for treating cancer. Specifically , mistletoe may help to:

  • Arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy
  • Headache
  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Bervousness
  • Sterility
  • Tension
  • Ulcers
  • Urinary disorders

According to Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, mistletoe is "insanely aristocratic," because it grows according to its own rhythms, "as if the Earth were not there." It grows in any direction, often forming a strange ball up in a tree, it flowers in the winter, and it has berries all year long.  He argued that mistletoe was the perfect remedy for cancer and developed it into a specially crafted medicine called Iscador, which is used in Europe (and which is not the same thing as an extract - mistletoe is poisonous).  Mistletoe is also known as Birdlime, Herbe de la Croix, Mystyldene, and Lignum Crucis. This is chopped mistletoe harvested in Europe from apple trees.

Side effects of mistletoe

Call your health care practitioner if you experience any of these possible side effects of mistletoe:

  • change in pupil size
  • mild fever
  • dehydration
  • fever
  • nausea
  • delirium
  • seizures
  • diarrhea
  • slow pulse
  • hallucinations

Interactions

Combining herbs with certain drugs may alter their action or produce unwanted side effects. Don't use mistletoe while taking:

  • alcohol and other drugs that slow the nervous system, such as cold and allergy drugs, sedatives, tranquilizers, narcotic pain relievers, barbiturates, seizure drugs, and muscle relaxants
  • drugs that lower blood pressure
  • drugs to relieve depression called MAO inhibitors (such as Marplan and Nardil)
  • Mistletoe should not be used along with heart medicines; the combination creates an increased risk of cardiac slow-down.

Important points to remember

  • Don't use mistletoe if you're pregnant or breast-feeding. The herb may stimulate the uterus.
  • Be aware that all plant parts are toxic.
  • If you're considering taking mistletoe for cancer, know that medical experts recommend trying conventional treatments first.
  • Keep the mistletoe plant and all extracts and formulations made with it out of reach of children.

What the research shows

Despite mistletoe's known toxic effects, some people still use it as a natural remedy. Certain chemicals in mistletoe have shown antitumor activity, but more studies must be done to evaluate the herb's effectiveness and long-term safety. In the United States, intravenous mistletoe preparations aren't standardized, so researchers probably won't evaluate the herb as a tumor treatment in the near future.

Other names for mistletoe : -

Other names for mistletoe include all heal, bird lime, devil's fuge, golden bough, and Viscum.

A product containing mistletoe is sold as Iscador.


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