Parasitic evergreen shrub that forms bunches up to 10 ft (3 m) across on host trees. Has narrow leathery leaves, yellowish flowers in clusters of 3, and sticky, round, white berries.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to Europe and northern Asia, European mistletoe grows on host trees, especially apple trees (Malus species). It is harvested in autumn.
Leaves, branches, berries.
Mistletoe contains glycoproteins, polypeptides (viscotoxins), lectins, flavonoids, caffeic and other acids, lignans, acetylcholine, and, in the berries, polysaccharides. Viscotoxins inhibit tumors and stimulate immune resistance.
History & Folklore
In Norse mythology, a mistletoe bough was used to slay Balder, the god of peace. The plant was subsequently entrusted to the goddess of love, and kissing under it became obligatory.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
European mistletoe is chiefly used to lower blood pressure and heart rate, ease anxiety, and promote sleep. In low doses it also relieves panic attacks and headaches, and improves the ability to concentrate. The plant is also prescribed for tinnitus and epilepsy. It may be used to treat hyperactivity in children. In anthroposophical medicine, extracts of the berries are injected to treat cancer.
European mistletoe’s efficacy as an anticancer treatment has been subject to significant research. There is no doubt that certain constituents, especially the viscotoxins, exhibit an anticancer activity, but the value of the whole plant in cancer treatment is not yet fully accepted.
European mistletoe, and especially the berries, is highly toxic. Take only under professional supervision.