The Mistletoe (Viscum album ) has been used in complementary cancer care for more than 100 years. It has significant beneficial effects on quality of life, tolerance to conventional therapies, immune function, and overall survival. It can be used at any stage of the cancer journey, from post-surgical to palliative care.
Mistletoe therapy is at the heart of complementary cancer therapy – it is the measure most frequently used for humans. The use of mistletoe in dogs, cats, and horses has been expanding rapidly in Europe over the past 25 years and is gaining popularity in North America and other countries. Effective and safe, Viscum album should be a first-line therapy in integrative veterinary oncology.
The mistletoe has been used as a medicinal plant since ancient times: externally for wounds, ulcers, and diseases of the spleen, and internally for gynecological disorders and seizures (epilepsy). Since 1917, mistletoe products in the form of
injections have also been used in complementary cancer therapy. Over the years, the special manufacturing process has developed further, thus progressively increasing therapeutic efficiency. Mistletoe therapy has a positive effect on the
patient’s immune system and quality of life, and has been shown to improve tolerance of standard therapies rendering it more relevant today than ever
The White-Berry Mistletoe – Botany Mistletoe is most visible in the winter months, when deciduous trees have lost their leaves and you can see spheres of evergreen leaves on the bare branches. Mistletoe (Viscum album) is a semi-parasite that lives on trees. In the plant kingdom, it stands apart: It has no roots, only a so-called “sinker” that connects the mistletoe to the host tree and supplies it with water, salts, and some nutrients. Unlike all other plants, the mistletoe reproduces in winter, blooming in February/March and bearing ripe, white berries
in November/December. The mistletoe does not orient itself to the sun, so both sides of its leaves are identical and its branches grow out into all
directions – giving it its spherical shape. In Europe, there are three subspecies of white-berry mistletoe: deciduous tree, pine and fir mistletoe.
The mistletoe contains over 1,000 different constituents. The effects of its proteins – lectins (glycoproteins) and viscotoxins (polypeptides) – and complex carbohydrates (polysaccharides) have been researched most extensively.
Additional constituents like arginine (an amino acid), flavonoids (secondary plant metabolites), and a high level of vitamin C contribute to immunomodulation and tumor inhibition.With the mistletoe, as with most medicinal plants, the whole
extract should be considered the “active substance”. In scientific investigations, the extract was shown to have a broader effect spectrum than the isolated constituents.
Mistletoe Therapy – Mode of Action
Mistletoe therapy acts on many levels: On the one hand, it boosts the immune system by multiplying and activating the immune cells. On the other, mistletoe therapy can induce apoptosis (the process of natural cell death) in tumor cells
which results in the inhibition of tumor growth. Healthy tissue is not adversely affected by this. On the contrary: Immune cells and other healthy cells are protected against further injury, e.g. damage caused by cytostatic
drugs. It is noticed that the mistletoe therapy significantly improves
their quality of life. For example:
• Improved general well-being
• Less fatigue, especially during and
• Less nausea
• Improved appetite
• Less pain sensation, so fewer
painkillers and sedatives are needed
This mode of action makes mistletoe therapy a key
supplement to standard oncological veterinary therapy.
The mistletoe used in the therapy are named according to the mistletoe’s host tree for example: apple tree, fir or pine, the species that are originally from Europe.
The selection of the Mistletoe to be used will depend on what best suited to a specific patient and tumor. It has been observed for all these years that mistletoe from different host trees have different focuses in their activity.
In general, mistletoe therapy can be started at any time. The best time would be right after the tumor is diagnosed. Mistletoe therapy can support patients going through surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy – it can help reduce, or
even prevent possible adverse reactions.
Want to Learn More??? Check out our online course!
Dr. Angelique Barbara is the founder of Angel's Animals LLC, a company that has developed online animal bodywork courses for both owners and professionals. Dr. Barbara's unique teaching style along with the dynamic layout of the courses allows people of different educational backgrounds from all over the world to benefit from her knowledge.