I wish you all a happy, restful holiday. At this time of year, I’d like to write about the most romantic plant on Earth, Mistletoe. It has allowed more men to steal a kiss than anything else! Mistletoe, a traditional symbol of love, is literally a parasite, receiving no nourishment from the soil. It offers some of the most impressive health benefits of any plant for a variety of conditions.
Like all botanicals, there are different varieties. American mistletoe used as a Christmas decoration is not the same as the European or Korean sort which have all the medicinal properties. For ease, I’m just going to say mistletoe from now on, but I am referring to European (Viscum album) or Korean (Viscum album coloratum or “KML”) varieties.
You may not want to smooch if you are exhausted, anxious, irritable or suffering with high blood pressure and headaches. Those conditions may be relieved from what you think of as the kissing flower! Even more exciting, are mistletoe’s immune-enhancing benefits. Many of you have heard of celebrity and author Suzanne Somers who used European mistletoe when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000. A study in October 2007 Archives of Pharmacal Research, and another in November 2011 Phytotherapy Research confirmed some anti-cancer benefits.
Chinese Medicine herbalists have used Mistletoe for centuries to support the female reproductive system; it seems to improve libido, fertility, uterine bleeding and erratic (or absent) menstruation. A research brief was published in Fertility and Sterility (2002) indicating that Mistletoe extracts resulted in pain reduction of post-hysterectomy patients with endometriosis. Apparently, mistletoe inspires more than the urge to kiss in men, as studies suggest it can improve libido and erectile dysfunction.
Don’t eat your Christmas decoration, that is harmful. You can buy purified commercial dietary supplements of European Mistletoe in the United States. It’s sold as a liquid extract at health food stores nationwide and you just mix the drops in water. There are oral supplements sold at health food stores. It may be slightly relaxing or sedating. If you are reading my translated column overseas, I should tell you mistletoe goes by the brand name Helixor and Iscador, and is usually given via injection by oncologists.
The German Commission E (German equivalent of our FDA) has approved European Mistletoe as a treatment for degenerative and inflamed joints (think arthritis) and also for for malignant growths like cancer. German physicians have read various animal and human studies that show how mistletoe increases our NK (natural killer) cells which go after viruses and tumor cells. Mistletoe extracts stimulate activity of T cells (which are your bodies policemen), and increase cytokines, a good thing because these build up red and white blood cells, especially in the bone marrow. If you have cancer, I would not self-treat, seek a physician who uses mistletoe routinely and knows how to treat you.