Mistletoe is famous for helping couples sneak a smooch during the holidays. However, in some countries, cancer patients take mistletoe injection to ease symptoms, but the exact effects of the extracts are still up for debate.
Long before Christ was born, Druids, Greeks and other ancients knew the plants as a powerful healer for ailments from epilepsy to infertility. Recently people have again touted mistletoe’s benefits as a natural medicine, this time in the fight against cancer.
European mistletoe is a poisonous and semi parasitic plant that grows on a variety of trees. It is increasingly being processed into extracts that have become popular alternative treatments in part of Europe.
Piles of literature on mistletoe as medicine are so far inconclusive.
In the U.S., mistletoe treatments are only available from a few dozen naturopathic clinics. The extracts are unlikely to gain FDA approval anytime soon. The NIH currently recommends against the use of mistletoe as a cancer treatment outside of clinical trials because it has not yet been prove to be either effective or safe.
Some of the dozen laboratory experiments conducted credit mistletoe extract with killing cancer cells in animals and boosting the body’s immune system. The boost to the immune system may help to fight the disease naturally. However, other studies have showed little to no benefit. Even when mistletoe appears to be successful in the lab, it hasn’t proven through rigorous clinical trials to work reliably in the human body.
The U.S. overall seems to be skeptical about the benefits of mistletoe. However, across the ocean in Europe it is a different story. The German agency responsible for regulation of herbs has approved mistletoe treatments, not as a cancer fighter but as a palliative treatment that eases symptoms and improves quality of life. Over the past few decades, trials have reported that mistletoe helped chemotherapy patients by easing fatigue, nausea and depression while boosting concentration and emotional well-being. Some European studies also suggest that mistletoe can diminish the toxicity from cancer treatments, which means while using the extracts; patients are able to tolerate higher doses of chemotherapy.
Both the U.S. and Europe agree that more studies are needed to pinpoint the validity of mistletoe as a cancer fighting herb.