Most of us are familiar with the plant mistletoe, seen around the December holidays hanging in doorways, a symbol of romance and love. Most of us are not, however, aware that it has medicinal use and has been used in cancer care for over 100 years.
Interestingly, the plant itself is rather parasitic – it latches onto trees and feeds off them. Like other parasitic plants, it doesn’t necessarily kill the tree on which it grows because it makes most of its own food however it does depend upon its tree host for water and minerals, which can weaken a tree, and if it reproduces too much, it will eventually kill it. It was these cancer-like properties that initially led herbalists to consider mistletoe for cancer use.
Today, mistletoe (also known as Viscum album) is one of the most widely used unconventional cancer treatments in Europe and has been used as early as the 1930’s. European oncologists have been using the liquid extract of the plant to improve survival in patients with cancer and to improve quality of life by reducing the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation, such as nausea, vomiting and lack of appetite, as well as diminishing tumor-related pain. Mistletoe extract has also been shown to kill cancer cells, reduce tumour size and prevent cancer from spreading to other parts of the body. It is approved for palliative care use in several European countries, but not yet in North America.
A vast amount of research on mistletoe extracts and cancer has been conducted, primarily in Europe. Currently, a clinical trial is being conducted in the US at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. The research indicates that mistletoe is most effective when used in conjunction with standard conventional cancer care for the treatment of solid tumors. At the CCNM Integrative Cancer Centre, we utilize mistletoe with our patients as part of their supportive cancer care plan, as it helps with managing adverse side effects of chemotherapy and radiation and offers immune system support as well. We sell the liquid extracts in vials to our patients and teach them how to inject just under the skin, a few times a week. We follow up with these patients every few months, to refill their mistletoe and ensure that they are having a positive response.
If you would like to learn more about how we utilize mistletoe therapy at our clinic, please attend one of our online Monday night information sessions, held from 6-7pm (excluding holidays). Questions are encouraged!
Additionally, for more information on mistletoe, please visit these resources:
5. Physicians’ Association for Anthroposophic Medicine (PAAM) https://anthroposophicmedicine.org/Mistletoe