Facts and benefits of Mistletoe

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Mistletoe Quick Facts
Name: Mistletoe
Scientific Name: Viscum album
Origin Mistletoe is native to Europe and Western & Southern Asia.
Colors Glossy, white to yellowish or orange
Shapes Globular, pea-sized berry, 1 cm in diameter
Flesh colors White
Health benefits Cancer treatment, Cure for diabetes, Relaxes muscles, Cardiovascular health, Treat DNA damage
Mistletoe with its scientific name Viscum album is a small and woody shrub which reaches about 1 m in diameter. An inflorescence of 3 to 5 flowers is produced in the forks of branches. Flowers are pollinated by insects. Mistletoe has the constituents such as lectins, viscotoxins, biogenic amines, flavonoids and mucilages. Mistletoe is also known from these names such as All-Heal, Mystyldene, Devil’s Fuge, European mistletoe, Viscum, Birdlime and White-berry mistletoe.

Mistletoe is the species of parasitic plants of Loranthaceae, Santalaceae and Misodendraceae family. The species are used for decorations during Christmas and are related with holiday tradition of kissing. It is a popular plant sprig where people kiss beneath at the time of Christmas. From the centuries, Mistletoe has been used as an all-purpose herbal aid.

Mistletoe is grown on several woody hosts in an array of wooded habitats that extends from tropics to temperate regions. Besides its geographical range, it is available on gymnosperms and broadleaved trees. Its common hosts are poplar, apple, lime and hawthorn in UK. Commonly it is hemoparasitic meaning it depends on its host for mineral nutrients and water. It has the ability to photosynthesise due to the presence of green leaves and stems. Viscum album is dioecious which produces male and female flowers on separate plants.


Mistletoes are used in Europe for medicinal purposes for centuries as a treatment for infertility, epilepsy, arthritis and hypertension. According to naturalist Gaius Plinius Secundus and Roman author, Druids (Celtic priests) revered oak tree and mistletoe that grew upon it. Except green boughs of Mistletoes all sacred oaks were bare at winter celebration of Samhain which was considered as a sign of eternal fertility. A sprig of Mistletoe was placed by Celts above the door of their houses. The Austrain anthroposcophical spiritual leader in 1921 reported that Mistletoe is used for treating cancer.


Mistletoe is an evergreen and woody plant which grows upto the height of 1 m with abundant and regularly forked branches. Stems are (12-39 inches)30-100 centimeters long with dichotomous branching. The leaves occur in pairs. Leaves measures about 5 to 7 cm long, 0.8 to 2.5 cm (0.31–0.98 inches) broad which is narrowly oval with slightly curved in outline. Leaves are leathery textured and are matt yellowish to green in color. The plant bears flower from February to April. Flowers have yellowish green, four small petals. Flowers give way to white berries which are 1 cm in diameter which ripens in November and December. Fruit have sticky and glutinous pulp. The flowers are pollinated by insects and seeds are dispersed by birds.

Flower and Fruit

Flowers are yellowish to green in color which appears in small, insignificant and 3 to 5 flowered clusters. Stamens are fused with tips. Female flowers is small, has four tepals along with a thick stigma on die short style. The fruit becomes white to yellowish or orange when ripened with one to two oval or angular seeds.


Leaves are alternate, evergreen, coriaceous, sessile and lanceolate or lanceolate to spatulate in shape. It is matt yellowish to green and measures about 5 to 7 cm long.

Health Benefits of Mistletoe

Mistletoe is a hemiparasitic plant which penetrates into branches and absorbs water and nutrients to survive. There are more than 900 species which belongs to 73 different genera. Mistletoe extract has organic compounds and chemicals which have been used for treating cancer in these recent years. Recent studies have shown its anticancer effects. Mistletoe helps to treat nervous conditions and epilepsy. The calming effects in Mistletoe help to lower blood pressure. It is a parasitic shrub which grows on stem of broad leaved ones such as apple, lime and poplar trees. Scientifically known as Viscum Album, this species is used for medicinal purposes. It is used to make tinctures and also drunk as tea. Medically, it is also used in inject-able form. The extracts have low content of Mistletoe which lowers the chances of toxicity.

  1. Cancer treatment

The extracts of Mistletoe are used as a medicine for cancer. Its extracts contain solubilized triterpene acids or lectins which inhibits cell proliferation and also induced apoptosis. Research shows direct association of its extract with anti-cancer activity. It causes apoptosis in cancer cells. Research has associated Mistletoe extract for higher overall quality of life for patients, healthier blood counts and tumor reduction. (1)            

  1. Cure for diabetes

Mistletoe is the species of Santalaceae family which possess therapeutic properties for several health problems such as diabetes. The study was conducted on rat model with diabetes induced with strepozotocin in order to evaluate effect of Mistletoe on an antioxidant system and lipid peroxidation. Research shows that it is able to reduce levels of blood glucose and stimulates production of insulin in pancreatic cells, lessens severity of disorder and regulates the levels. It is an aid for those that suffer from diabetes. (2)

  1. Relaxes muscles

Mistletoe has inhibitory effect on smooth muscles. This plant is effective to manage cardiovascular disorders and hyperactive gut. The conducted study shows a pharmacological base of smooth muscle relaxant effect of Mistletoe in gut and also vascular preparations. Viscum album has vasodilatory and antispasmodic effects. Current study shows the medicinal use of Mistletoe in diarrhea, colic and hypertension. Still further studies need to be conducted to know underlying molecular mechanisms. Apply this herb as a poultice which helps to provide relief from pain and is also useful to aid painful and inflammatory health conditions such as gout and sciatica. It has good effect on muscles found in arteries, intestines and uterus. These properties help to calm muscles which assist in health conditions such as indigestion and dyspepsia. (3)

  1. Cardiovascular health

Besides vasorelaxant and antihypertensive activity, it possesses cardiovascular effects and Nitric oxide pathway upregulation has been suggested to be underlying mechanism. Nitric oxide has vital role in pathophysiology of heart failure. The effects on cardiac systolic function are still unclear. Mistletoe helps to lower blood pressure that prevents pressure on cardiovascular system which prevents the chances of shrinkage of arteries that induce atherosclerosis. It reduces the chances of lethal conditions such as coronary heart disease and stroke. (4)

  1. Treat DNA damage

Mistletoe is a semiparasitic plant which is grown on trees and used for treating diseases in complementary and traditional therapy. Some activities of Mistletoe depends on host trees such as apoptosis inducing, antioxidant and anticancer activities. The present study examines the comparative effects of methanolic extracts of Mistletoe which is grown on lime tree, locust tress and hedge maple tree. Mistletoe extracts helps to induce significantly. All the extracts protected against nuclear DNA damage. Results show that methanolic extracts of Mistletoe prevents oxidative DNA damage and its activity is depended on host tree. (5)

  1. Neutralizes tumor

 Results of the study provide anti-cancer effects of preparations of Mistletoe. Additionally the results acquired with vitro assay point to possible role for Mistletoe lectins to counteract tumor induced immunosuppression. Further studies are still need to be conducted to clarify it. (6)

  1. Normalizes blood pressure

Mistletoe extract helps to lower blood pressure that assist to ease stress and strain on cardiovascular system. It also lowers the chances of atherosclerosis. An extract of Mistletoe prevents the chances of heart attacks, strokes and coronary heart disease. It slows pulse which reduces heart exertion. It effects on blood pressure which helps to treat hypertension. It prevents the chances of atherosclerosis and plaque buildup in arteries that results in life threatening and dangerous heart conditions.

  1. Promote sound sleep

Mistletoe has nervine agent and is helpful for those who suffer from restlessness or insomnia. Mistletoe impact has chemical components which has impact on release of neurotransmitters that helps to calm and soothe nervous system and also provides sound sleep.

  1. Respiratory problems

Mistletoe has nerve soothing properties that calm respiratory system in cause of irritation and distress. Mistletoe is able to calm sore throats, bronchial inflammation and coughing. It also lowers tightness in chest and lowers discomfort. Wheezing and coughing occurs in asthmatic attack and mental distress and panic. It bothers neural connections and soothes body and mind. Historically it has been used to soothe distress and irritation in respiratory system. It is useful for bronchitis and chest tightness. It calms the symptoms of mental anxiety and distress.

  1. Strengthen immunity

Mistletoe is helpful for enhancing immune system. The herb is appreciated for treatment of cancer. It boosts immunity and prevents the chances of outside illness. The antioxidant, antibacterial and antiviral activities of Mistletoe herb defense the body from illness and maintain immune health. It also prevents further illness. The strong immune system maintains overall health and is able to improve natural defenses of the body.

Traditional uses

  • Mistletoes are well known as cardiac depressant.
  • It is used for treating arteriosclerosis, high blood pressure, hypertensive headache, nervous tachycardia, hysteria and chorea.
  • The preparations of Mistletoes are used as a treatment for various types of cancer.
  • It is used for lowering blood pressure, heart rate, promote sleep and ease anxiety.
  • If used in low doses, it provides relief from headaches, panic attacks and improves concentration.
  • Mistletoe plant is used to cure internal haemorrhages, treat cancers of ovaries, lungs and stomach.
  • Use it externally for treating rheumatism, arthritis, varicose veins, leg ulcers and chilblains.
  • An extract of Mistletoe affects immune system in HIV patients.
  • It is useful for rheumatism, bronchitis, prevent capillary haemorrhage and chronic skin disorders.
  • Apply it externally for milk scall in children and mild seborrheic skin diseases.
  • It has been used for treating cancer for decades.
  • Mistletoe is useful for treating coughs, headaches, menopausal symptoms, hypertension, rheumatism, arthritis and epileptic seizures.
  • It inhibits thrombosis formation and decreases platelet aggregation.
  • Mistletoe tea helps to lower blood pressure and circulatory problems such as arteriosclerosis and weak heart.
  • It strengthens metabolism and digestive system.
  • Use the cold infusion made from Mistletoe as poultice and bathing.
  • It is helpful for ulcers of lower legs and varicose veins.
  • Mistletoe infusions are used to treat eczema.


  • Mistletoe should not be used in case of allergy, high fever, acute inflammatory conditions, chronic progressive conditions such as tuberculosis.
  • An injection of Mistletoe can increase the body temperature.
  • It should not be used by breastfeeding mothers and pregnant women as it stimulates uterine contractions.
  • It might cause hepatitis.
  • It could interfere with allopathic drugs for heart disease, high blood pressure, anticoagulants and antidepressants.
  • The tuberculosis patients and allergic people should avoid its use.
  • Its common side effects are chills, fever, reaction at injection site, elevated white blood cell count and hypersensitivity.
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, low blood pressure, headache, fainting or passing out, low heart rate, itching, increased blood sugar and rash indicates toxicity.
  • Leaves, berries and stems of Mistletoe could be harmful for humans if ingested.
  • Side effects are mild fever, change in pupil size, slow pulse, dehydration from diarrhea, nausea, hallucinations, seizures and delirium.


















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