Mistletoe (Viscum Album)

European Mistletoe (Viscum Album)

In some cases, Mistletoe Therapy can complement and supplement standard oncological therapies such as surgery, radiation, chemotherapy and hormonal therapy.  Since 1917 Mistletoe therapies have been used in a variety of ways to manage cancer.  The National Cancer Institute provides a nice overview of Mistletoe Therapy.

Some of the reported benefits include: decreased fatigue and nausea, improved appetite, and decreased depression.

In 2015, after FDA approval to skip Phase I trials, Johns Hopkins Hospital undertook a Phase II clinical trial to examine Mistletoe’s effects on solid stage IV tumors. The trial is aimed at testing whether Mistletoe has any effect on shrinking and preventing tumors. Here’s a list of clinical trials outside of the United States.

Interest in Mistletoe has grown in the United States since Suzanne Somers announced her breast cancer diagnosis and treatment on Larry King Live.  While there have been many anecdotal cases ranging from long term cure to palliative qualities, given the stringent guidelines for well-designed clinical trials, the jury is still out on Mistletoe.  WebMD indicates that while Mistletoe kills cancer cells in a test tube, it doesn’t work on humans.

There’s also a pretty interesting article entitled “Survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extract (Iscador): a systematic literature review.” In this review, authors found 49 publications on the clinical effects of using adjuvant Iscador on the survival of cancer patients.  After they accounted for confidence intervals and bias, their conclusions were that Iscador is associated with better survival rates.  However, they caution that we should have better structured clinical trials.

The Cancer Cure Foundation, a site for alternative cancer therapy, has a short summary that describes the potential benefits and side effects.  It also has a list of doctors and clinics that use mistletoe. Check it out to see if it is right for you.

My naturopathic doctor recommended that I take Mistletoe injections 3 times per week for 3 years.  I would have to order the Mistletoe from Germany; it would take 2 weeks to arrive and then after a few injections and observations, we would determine the right dosing.  I asked him if it had any contraindications.  He said no…HOWEVER, after trying a 7 day pack of Iscador, my stomach began to ache and I was doubled over with chills, low blood pressure and loose stool.  So I called my doctor after I looked up Mistletoe on Sloan Kettering’s Integrative Medicine pages and in fact, ANYONE TAKING  CYTOCHROME P450 3A4 substrate drugs should not take mistletoe because it could exacerbate the side effects of that drug.  Gleevec is a chemotherapy drug that employs P450 3A4 (CYP3A4).  My doctor had not done his homework. That’s why we have to double and triple check their work.

European mistletoe is an inhibitor of the CYP3A4 enzyme and therefore, more of the drug goes into your body, and you could potentially injure your organs.

Be Careful, natural doesn’t always mean safe…think of hemlock…natural, but deadly.

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