European mistletoe is a plant that grows on several different trees. The berries, leaf, and stem of European mistletoe are used to make medicine.
Interest in mistletoe for cancer has grown in North America, ever since Suzanne Somers announced on Larry King Live that she is using it to treat her breast cancer. European mistletoe has been used for treating cancer since the 1920s, especially in Europe. Several brand name mistletoe extracts are available there: Iscador, Eurixor, Helixor, Isorel, Vysorel, and ABNOBAviscum. So far these products are not readily available in North America. There is no proof they work for breast or other cancers. Avoid these products and stick with proven cancer treatments.
European mistletoe is also used for heart and blood vessel conditions including high blood pressure, “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis), internal bleeding, and hemorrhoids; epilepsy and infantile convulsions; gout; psychiatric conditions such as depression; sleep disorders; headache; absence of menstrual periods; symptoms of menopause; and for "blood purifying."
Some people use European mistletoe for treating mental and physical exhaustion; to reduce side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy; as a tranquilizer; and for treating whooping cough, asthma, dizziness, diarrhea, chorea, and liver and gallbladder conditions.
European mistletoe injections are used for cancer and for failing joints.
How it works
European mistletoe has several active chemicals. It might stimulate the immune system and kill certain cancer cells in a test tube, but it doesn't seem to work in people.
Possibly IneffectiveHead and neck cancer
Injecting European mistletoe extract into the skin before or after surgery or radiation for head and neck cancers does not improve survival.
European mistletoe extract does not seem to increase remission rates in people with advanced (stage IV) pancreatic cancer.
European mistletoe is POSSIBLY SAFE when used by mouth or when injected beneath the skin in appropriate amounts. Taking three berries or two leaves or less by mouth does not seem to cause serious side effects
However, larger amounts are LIKELY UNSAFE and cause serious side effects. European mistletoe can cause vomiting, diarrhea, cramping, and other side effects. Short-term, frequent use of European mistletoe might cause liver damage.Injecting European mistletoe beneath the skin can cause fever, chills, allergic reactions, and other side effects.Because the correct amount is sometimes hard to determine, do not take European mistletoe without the advice of your healthcare professional.
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: European mistletoe isLIKELY UNSAFEwhen taken by mouth or inject under the skin duringpregnancy. It might stimulate the uterus and cause amiscarriage.
There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking European mistletoe if you are breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
“Auto-immune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other conditions: European mistletoe might cause the immune system to become more active, and this could increase the symptoms of auto-immune diseases. If you have one of these conditions, it's best to avoid using European mistletoe.
Heart disease: There is some evidence European mistletoe might make heart disease worse. Don't use it if you have a heart problem.
Leukemia: Some test tube studies suggested European mistletoe might be effective against childhood leukemia. But benefits have not been shown in people. In fact, European mistletoe might make leukemia worse. If you have leukemia, don't take European mistletoe.
Liver disease: There is some concern that taking European mistletoe might harm the liver. In theory, European mistletoe might make liver diseases, such as hepatitis, worse. People with liver disease or a history of liver disease should avoid European mistletoe.
Organ transplant: European mistletoe might make the immune system more active. This would be a problem for people who have received an organ transplant. A more active immune system might increase the risk of organ rejection. If you have had an organ transplant, avoid European mistletoe.
Surgery: European mistletoe might affect blood pressure. There is a concern that it might interfere with blood pressure control during and after surgery. Stop taking European mistletoe at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
ModerateMedications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)
European mistletoe seems to decrease blood pressure. Taking European mistletoe along with medications for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low.Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDiuril), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.European mistletoe might harm the liver. In theory, taking European mistletoe along with medication that might also harm the liver can increase the risk of liver damage.Some medications that can harm the liver include acarbose (Precose, Prandase), amiodarone (Cordarone), atorvastatin (Lipitor), azathioprine (Imuran), carbamazepine (Tegretol), cerivastatin (Baycol), diclofenac (Voltaren), felbamate (Felbatol), fenofibrate (Tricor), fluvastatin (Lescol), gemfibrozil (Lopid), isoniazid, itraconazole, (Sporanox), ketoconazole (Nizoral), leflunomide (Arava), lovastatin (Mevacor), methotrexate (Rheumatrex), nevirapine (Viramune), niacin, nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin), pioglitazone (Actos), pravastatin (Pravachol), pyrazinamide, rifampin (Rifadin), ritonavir (Norvir), rosiglitazone (Avandia), simvastatin (Zocor), tacrine (Cognex), tamoxifen, terbinafine (Lamisil), valproic acid, and zileuton (Zyflo).European mistletoe seems to increase the activity of the immune system. By increasing the immune system, European mistletoe might decrease the effectiveness of medications that decrease the immune system.Some medications that decrease the activity of the immune system include azathioprine (Imuran), basiliximab (Simulect), cyclosporine (Neoral, Sandimmune), daclizumab (Zenapax), muromonab-CD3 (OKT3, Orthoclone OKT3), mycophenolate (CellCept), tacrolimus (FK506, Prograf), sirolimus (Rapamune), prednisone (Deltasone, Orasone), corticosteroids (glucocorticoids), and others.