Mistletoe Therapy - Powerful Cancer Medicine
No - it's not simply a cute addition to a Holiday party meant to entice chapping of lips. This powerful herb is actually a champion in the battle against Cancer! And though to the majority of North Americans it is new and exciting, Mistletoe, also known by its latin name as Viscum album, has actually been a key remedy in Europe for nearing on a century!
What Exactly is Mistletoe Extract?
Mistletoe extract is a completely natural, safe and extremely effective remedy used alongside both natural and conventional treatments for a variety of types of cancer. This extract is known to help increase cancer survival, improve quality of life, improve mood and energy, among many other effects which are listed below.
The herb itself (Latin name: Viscum album) is a plant that grows on certain variety of trees including apple, oak, pine and several others. It is a parasitic plant that survives by attaching to and penetrating its "roots" into the bark of other trees. There are hundreds of species of mistletoe and different ones grow in many parts of the world, notably Europe and Great Britain, Spain and Portugal and even some in North America (California particularly)
A History Lesson
European Mistletoe (Latin name: Viscum album) was described for the first time at length for medicinal use 2000 years ago. Modern research on mistletoe for the treatment of cancer began in Germany in the 1950s and has exploded over the past few decades.
Is Mistletoe the Cure for Cancer?
No, mistletoe is not a cure for cancer. It does however have an inhibitory effect on cancer cells (meaning it slows their growth/progression) and a stimulating effect on the immune system of a person with cancer. It is these effects that may increase life-span and improve quality of life in cancer patients.
Mistletoe therapy is not intended to be utilized as an alternate to all other forms of cancer care (alternative or conventional), but it is an excellent addition to almost any cancer therapy program (Chemotherapy, Surgery, Radiation, Complimentary therapies). It is in face standard of care in Oncology centres of Germany and other parts of Europe.
Key Effects of Mistletoe Therapy
Increased Survival Time
The majority of studies performed on mistletoe in the treatment of cancer have found that it increases survival time in cancer patients. This is a big deal, for an herbal medicine with very little side effects to have such a profound effect. Patients with pancreatic cancer1,2, ovarian cancer3,4, cervical cancer5, breast cancer6, liver cancer7, colon cancer8, glioma9 and multiple myeloma10 have all shown an increased survival when studied with mistletoe, compared to similar cancer patients not being treated with mistletoe.
Improved Quality Of Life
Mistletoe extract has also been studied extensively for its effect on quality of life in patients with cancer. The research shows that mistletoe improves many aspects of quality of life in patients with cancer including fatigue, sleep, exhaustion, nausea, vomiting, appetite, emotional well-being, depression, anxiety, concentration, ability to work, pain, diarrhea and adverse effects to conventional treatments11.
Enhanced Tolerance to Conventional therapies
Patients using Mistletoe therapy as part of their therapy regimes have reported decreased side effects like nausea, bowel disturbance, fatigue, malaise, joint and muscle pain and insomnia, and an improvement in appetite, energy, mood and ability to perform normal daily activities,
How Does Mistletoe Therapy work?
Mistletoe contains 2 major active compounds that have been shown to have effects in the body.
Lectins are the cytotoxic component, causing cell death to cancer cells specifically (NOT healthy cells!)
Viscotoxins are also cytotoxic but their main effect is as powerful immune stimulants.
Given the compounds, the effects of Mistletoe are:
a) Inhibition of cancer cell protein synthesis, inhibition of angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels) and induction of apoptosis (programmed cell death)
b) Refinement and improvement of the body's natural immune function against cancer cells (by increasing cytokines and white blood cells) and further protecting the DNA of the normal immune cells against the effects of chemotherapy
Is Mistletoe Therapy Safe?
Mistletoe a very safe herb in the treatment of cancer. The extract is given by subcutaneous injection, into the tissue below the skin, by either the Naturopathic Physician and eventually by the patient/caregiver after training by their ND. Mistletoe does have a few normal/desired effects which include redness and itching around the injection site, mild fever and occasionally chills or a headache. These are signs that the immune system is being stimulated and are considered a beneficial response.
How Is Mistletoe Used?
Mistletoe is given by subcutaneous injection (just under the skin), typically on the abdomen. Injections are typically given 2-3 times per week, are minimally painful, and can typically be done at home following training by your practitioner. Injecting mistletoe, rather than taking it orally allows it to act more directly on the immune system without being limited by digestive absorption and also allows for a targeted treatment since it can be injected near the site of a known tumor or cancerous lesion.
Mistletoe is completely appropriate and safe to be used alongside conventional therapies, including chemotherapy, radiation and surgery. As stated above, it can increase tolerance to these therapies and decrease common side effects, thus improving overall quality of life.
Mistletoe therapy in the treatment of cancer is an excellent option for many patients suffering from cancer, for those using conventional therapies (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery) and those who choose not to. If you are interested in this therapy for yourself or for a loved one, please don't hesitate to contact me.
Dr Katarine Holewa