European Mistletoe

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What other names is European Mistletoe known by?

All-Heal, Banda, Birdlime Mistletoe, Blandeau, Bois de Sainte-Croix, Bouchon, Devil's Fuge, Drudenfuss, Eurixor, Guérit-Tout, Gui, Gui Blanc, Gui Blanc d'Europe, Gui des Feuillus, Gui d'Europe, Gui Européen, Helixor, Herbe de Chèvre, Hexenbesen, Hurchu, Iscador, Isorel, Leimmistel, Mistlekraut, Mistletein, Mistletoe, Muérdago Europeo, Mystyldene, Nid de Sorcière, Pain de Biques, Rini, Verquet, Vert-Bois, Vert de Pommier, Visci, Visci Albi Folia, Visci Albi Fructus, Visci Albi Herba, Visci Albi Stipites, Vogelmistel, Vysorel, Viscum album.

What is European Mistletoe?

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.

Possibly Ineffective for...

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Bladder cancer. Some early research suggests that administering a specific European mistletoe extract into the bladder for 6 weeks might reduce bladder cancer recurrence in people who have had bladder cancer surgery.
  • Breast cancer. Some research suggests that injecting certain brands of European mistletoe extract (Iscador or Helixor) into the skin might reduce tumor growth and improve survival in people with breast cancer. But these results have been questioned. So far, there isn't enough reliable evidence to support using European mistletoe for this type of cancer. Stick to proven treatments.
  • Colon cancer. Early research suggests that certain specific European mistletoe extracts (Iscador, Isorel, or Helixor), given by injection alone or with conventional therapy, might improve survival in people with colon cancer. But these results have been questioned. So far, there isn't enough reliable evidence to support using European mistletoe for this type of cancer. Stick to proven treatments.
  • Common cold. Early research suggests that a specific European mistletoe extract (Iscador P or Iscador Qu), given by injection for 12 weeks, might not treat or prevent the common cold.
  • Stomach cancer. Early research suggests that a specific European mistletoe extract (Iscador), given by injection, might improve survival in people with stomach cancer. But these results have been questioned. So far, there isn't enough reliable evidence to support using European mistletoe for this type of cancer. Stick to proven treatments
  • Hepatitis C. Research about the effectiveness of European mistletoe in people with hepatitis C is conflicting. Some research suggests that injecting a specific extract of European mistletoe (Iscador Qu) may help to fight the infection that causes hepatitis C and improve quality of life in some people. Other research shows that injecting a different European mistletoe product (Abnobaviscum Quercus) does not help fight the hepatitis C infection but may improve symptoms of hepatitis C.
  • Leukemia. Early research suggests that injecting a specific European mistletoe extract (Helixor) might increase the survival of people with chronic myeloid leukemia by more than 2 years.
  • Liver cancer. Early research suggests that treatment with certain specific European mistletoe extracts (Iscador or Helixor) may improve survival in people with liver cancer. But these results have been questioned. So far, there isn't enough reliable evidence to support using European mistletoe for this type of cancer. Stick to proven treatments.
  • Lung cancer. There is contradictory evidence about the effectiveness of European mistletoe on survival in people with lung cancer. Some evidence suggests that injecting European mistletoe extract (Iscador) can improve overall survival in people with lung cancer. But other evidence suggests that this treatment does not improve survival time or cancer response. So far, there isn't enough reliable evidence to support using European mistletoe for this type of cancer. Stick to proven treatments.
  • Cancer of the tissue layer covering each lung, or malignant pleural effusions. Early research suggests that giving a specific European mistletoe extract (Helixor) into the pleural tissue decreases cancer in those with cancer of that area.
  • Melanoma, a type of skin cancer. Early research suggests that injecting a specific European mistletoe extract (Iscador M) into the skin does not improve survival or increase the time period without the disease in people with melanoma.
  • Quality of life. Early research suggests that injecting various European mistletoe extracts (PS76A2, Helixor, Isorel, and Eurixor) into the skin might improve quality of life and well-being in people with cancer when given alone or with chemotherapy.
  • Radiation exposure. Early research suggests that injecting a specific type of European mistletoe extract (Iscador) into the skin for 5 weeks might reduce lung infections and improve symptoms, such as fatigue, sweating, headache, joint pain, emotional instability, and muscle pain in children with repeated lung infections caused by radiation exposure during the Chernobyl nuclear accident.
  • Cancer of the uterus. Early research suggests that injecting a specific type of European mistletoe extract (Iscador) into the skin may to improve survival in people with cancer of the uterus.
  • Side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Internal bleeding.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Seizures.
  • High cholesterol.
  • Gout.
  • Depression.
  • Sleep disorders.
  • Headache.
  • Menstrual disorders.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of European mistletoe for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does European Mistletoe work?

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.

Are there safety concerns?

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.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: European mistletoe is LIKELY UNSAFE when taken by mouth or inject under the skin during pregnancy. It might stimulate the uterus and cause a miscarriage.

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.

Are there any interactions with medications?



Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

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.



Medications that can harm the liver (Hepatotoxic drugs)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

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).



Medications that decrease the immune system (Immunosuppressants)
Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Talk with your health provider.

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.

Dosing considerations for European Mistletoe.

The appropriate dose of European mistletoe depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for European mistletoe. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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