Kissing under the mistletoe during the holiday season is not the only reason to be celebrating the benefits of mistletoe. Medical studies have shown that European mistletoe (known by product brands as Iscador and Helixor) may prolong the lives of cancer patients and increase their quality of life.

Being the number one complementary treatment for cancer in Europe, mistletoe is slowly making its appearance more known in North America. The Center offers Helixor mistletoe prescription for cancer patients.


European Mistletoe (Viscum album Loranthaceae -Viscum album L.)

Mistletoe therapy is the most frequently used complementary treatment in cancer patients in Germany and Switzerland. Iscador was first used for cancer therapy in 1922 by Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman based on anthroposophy. (Anthrosophical medicine views the occurrence of cancer, or any illness, as a disease that involves the whole human being, physically, mentally and emotionally.)

Recent Supporting Evidence

Mistletoe is one of the most widely studied complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies for cancer. Mistletoe extracts have been evaluated in numerous clinical studies and improvements in survival, quality of life, and/or stimulation of the immune system have been frequently reported.

Mistletoe, a semiparasitic plant, is a potential anticancer agent because extracts derived from it have been shown to kill cancer cells in vitro. Other reviews have suggested that it can stimulate immune system cells both in vitro and in vivo. Two components of mistletoe, namely viscotoxins and lectins, may be responsible for these effects.


Multiple scientific reports suggest that mistletoe augments the immune response.Mistletoe has been shown to increase natural-killer cell function helping the body's own surveillance system in attacking unwanted cancer cells. It also stimulates antibodies to cancer cells which helps recognize the cancer cells as foreign in order to destroy these cells.

Improved survival, reduced tumor recurrence, reduced tumor size and enhanced quality of life were found in most reported studies reviewed.

Expected Benefits
Expected benefits include improvements in:

  • Sleep
  • Appetite
  • Immune support
  • Pain reduction
  • Overall improved sense of general well being

Whether chosen to be used alone or in conjunction with other modalities, the expected beneficial effects of mistletoe will allow a patient to cope with the challenges that a cancer diagnosis brings.

Side Effects

Although a number of different mistletoe extracts have been used in human studies, the reported side effects have generally been minimal and not life threatening.

Common side effects include soreness and inflammation at injection sites, headache, fever, and chills.


With regard to toxicity, European mistletoe treatments have been well tolerated, with no serious or life-threatening effects.

Is Mistletoe Therapy Right for You?

Mistletoe Therapy requires a face-to-face consultation to see if it is right for you and further, to determine which type of therapy is most beneficial. Please call our office for more information: (518) 689-2244.


Grossarth-Maticek R, Kiene H, Baumgartner SM, et al.: Use of Iscador, an extract of European mistletoe (Viscum album), in cancer treatment: prospective nonrandomized and randomized matched-pair studies nested within a cohort study. Altern Ther Health Med 7 (3): 57-66, 68-72, 74-6 passim, 2001 May-Jun.

Shaw, H, Hobbs, KB, Sewaldt, VL, & Kroll, DJ: Delayed-type hypersensitivity reaction with Iscador M given in combination with cytotoxic chemotherapy. J. Clin. Oncol., 22 (21): 4432-4434, 2004.

National Cancer Institute. Mistletoe Extracts (PDQ). Accessed 12/12/2008

Augustin M, Bock PR, Hanisch J, et al.: Safety and efficacy of the long-term adjuvant treatment of primary intermediate- to high-risk malignant melanoma (UICC/AJCC stage II and III) with a standardized fermented European mistletoe (Viscum album L.) extract. Results from a multicenter, comparative, epidemiological cohort study in Germany and Switzerland. Arzneimittelforschung 55 (1): 38-49, 2005.

Huber, R, Klein, R, Berg, PA, Lüdtke, R &Werner, M. : Effects of a lectin- and a viscotoxin-rich mistletoe Preparation on clinical and hematologic parameters: A placebo-controlled evaluation in healthy subjects. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,8 (6): 857-866, 2002.

Bock PR, Friedel WE, Hanisch J, et al.: [Efficacy and safety of long-term complementary treatment with standardized European mistletoe extract (Viscum album L.) in addition to the conventional adjuvant oncologic therapy in patients with primary non-metastasized mammary carcinoma. Results of a multi-center, comparative, epidemiological cohort study in Germany and Switzerland] Arzneimittelforschung 54 (8): 456-66, 2004.