We chose mistletoe for this month because of the continued debate over its use. A semi-parasitic plant, mistletoe grows on many species of trees native to Europe and Western Asia. The leaves and twigs have a long medicinal history, but the berries are highly poisonous.
Mistletoe extracts are used to treat a variety of conditions including cancer, AIDS, hepatitis, and degenerative joint disease. Preclinical studies indicate that mistletoe extracts have anticancer effects, with lectins being the active constituents. Clinical data suggest utility of mistletoe therapy, mainly in the injectable form, for improving symptoms including pain, fatigue, insomnia; and for improving quality of life in cancer patients. These findings have led to the use of mistletoe as an adjuvant treatment in some countries. However, more rigorous studies are needed to determine its potential benefits.
Oral preparations are marketed as dietary supplements and homeopathic remedies in the United States. But injections are not available outside of clinical trials because mistletoe is not approved for medical use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Read more
This resource is provided with thanks to the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, which maintains a free web site, About Herbs.