White-berried European Mistletoe extracts (Viscum album) is a medicinal plant that has been used since ancient times. Mistletoe extracts are the most frequently prescribed unconventional cancer treatment in Central Europe. Mistletoe therapy and its use in cancer treatment began in the early 1900s.
There are over 150 scientific publications examining the efficacy of mistletoe therapy as either a monotherapy or an adjunct therapy for patients with cancer.
How it works?
Our immune system can identify and destroy malignant cells, therefore a dysfunctional immune system can leave a person more susceptible to cancer. Mistletoe stimulates the body’s immune system which inhibits cancer cell growth by surrounding the tumour with immune cells, thus preventing the spread of the cancer without harming healthy tissues. Mistletoe activates the body’s immune system, allowing the body to play an active role in the healing process.
Mistletoe therapy is administered by subcutaneous injection into constantly changing sites of the abdomen, thigh or upper arm.
The frequency of injections is three time a week. In rapidly progressive cases, daily injections may be necessary.
The treatment always begins with low doses. The dose is increased gradually, according to the patient’s reaction, until the therapeutic dose is reached. If the disease is advanced, a higher dosage is usually required.
Possible Side Effects
Mistletoe that is administered properly is generally well tolerated. Berries taken orally are highly toxic and considered highly poisonous. When injected subcutaneously, on rare occasions there is an allergic reaction usually appearing as generalized itching or skin rash. Other possible side effects include swelling of lymph nodes, general malaise with shivering, headache, limb pain, dizziness, chills, high fever, angina, and orthostatic circulatory disturbances.
Often there is redness and swelling that develops at the injection site. Also, there is often a slight rise in temperature. These are actually positive reactions, indicating that the immune system is being activated. A local reaction in response to the mistletoe injection has been associated with better T-lymphocyte function, which demonstrates an activation of the immune system.
Treatment should be interrupted until symptoms disappear and doses should be adjusted if localized swelling is larger than 5cm in diameter or temperature is over 38ºC.
It is important that patients receiving mistletoe therapy are administered and being closely monitored by a health care practitioner who is well-trained and knowledgeable about this unconventional treatment, as there are serious risks if this therapy is used incorrectly.
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- Bussing A, Troger W, Stumpt C, Schietzel M. Local reactions to treatments with Viscum album L. extracts and their association with T-lymphocyte subsets and quality of life. Anticancer Res. 2008 May-June, 28(3B), 1893-7.
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- Beuth J, Schneider B, Schierholz JM. Impact of complementary treatment of breast cancer patients with standardized mistletoe extract during aftercare: a controlled multicenter comparative epidemiological cohort study. Anticancer Res. 2008 Jan-Feb, 28(1B), 523-527.
- Kienle GS, Berrino F, Bussing A, Portalupi E, Rosenzweig S, Kiene H. Mistletoe in cancer – a systematic review on controlled clinical trials. Eur J Med Res. 2003 Mar 27, 8(3), 109-119.
- Horneber MA, Buesschel G, Huber R, Linde K, Rostock M. Mistletoe therapy in oncology. Cochrane Database System Review. 2008 Apr 16, (2):CD003297.