It's not just for kisses at Christmas. Mistletoe has been used to improve quality of life for cancer patients since the 1920's, and in German-speaking countries (Austria, Germany, and Switzerland), it is one of the most commonly used complementary medical treatments. In the past two years, several research articles published in English reported positive results from studies of mistletoe use.
For example, clinical trials showed a reduction in side effects from chemotherapy and radiation. A Swiss research team reported that mistletoe extracts protected healthy peripheral blood mononuclear cells, but not malignant cells, from the chemotherapy drug cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan). This drug is commonly used to treat breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and leukemia.
Reference 1 reported on a systematic review of 18 clinical trials evaluating the safety and effectiveness of mistletoe in improving the quality of life for cancer patients. The extracts were injected, mostly subcutaneously, but sometimes intravenously or into the muscle. The types of cancer studied included: breast, colorectal, glioma, abdominal, pancreatic, bladder, ovarian, cervical, bronchial/lung, head/neck, and melanoma.
Specific benefits include:
1. Increased appetite
2. Better sleep
3. Less fatigue
4. Lower susceptibility to respiratory infections
5. Less overall deterioration of health status
6. Better coping with disease
Side effects include:
1. One patient with angioedema
2. Injection site redness and itching
3. Flu-like syndrome with fatigue, fever, and headache
In Reference 4, a review of 41 clinical trials showed a survival advantage for patients who used mistletoe extract in addition to standard cancer treatment.
In the United States, mistletoe extract is available from many websites at a cost of approximately $10 per ounce. This extract is for oral use. The manufacturer provides recommendations for the dose. I don't know how this oral dose compares to the injected dose. Your doctor will want to know if you try any complementary medicine.
1. Melzer J et al, “Efficacy and safety of mistletoe preparations (Viscum album) for patients with cancer diseases.