Mistletoe therapy for cancer is a hot topic in integrative and alternative medicine.
It is continually being explored and studied as an alternative and supplementary treatment for cancer patients. Though it is not as popular in the United States, many trials have been conducted across Europe to study the effectiveness of mistletoe cancer therapy methods.
Mistletoe cancer therapy has come a long way since the 1920s when scientists first started exploring the use of mistletoe extract as a possible alternative treatment for cancer. Some studies have suggested that mistletoe extract, when used on cancer patients, can stop some cancer cells from growing, strengthen a person’s immune system, and relieve negative side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
Is Mistletoe Therapy Widely Accepted?
Mistletoe therapy as an alternative treatment for cancer is not standard practice in the United States or approved by the FDA outside of approved research and trials. There are only around fifty medical practitioners with the permission to buy and use mistletoe extract for medicinal purpose and in mistletoe cancer therapy.
Mistletoe is one of the most widely studied CAM therapies for cancer. In certain European countries, the preparations made from European mistletoe (Viscum album, Loranthaceae) are among the most prescribed drugs offered to cancer patients. –The National Cancer Institute
Mistletoe cancer therapy has been the focus of dozens of studies across Europe in the 20th Century. It is more commonly prescribed in certain European countries as an alternative cancer treatment. Scientists and doctors continue to search for more concrete evidence to prove the benefits of mistletoe therapy in helping cancer patients.
Types of Treatments
There different strains of mistletoe and therefore different kinds of medical mistletoe extracts that can be used in mistletoe cancer therapy, each with different chemical composites and uses in the realm of integrative medicine. Mistletoe extract used for medicinal purpose, called Viscum album, is derived from European white mistletoe plants, which differ from the American mistletoe used for festive holiday decorations.
There are a few different ways mistletoe can be administered.
The most common way to give a patient the liquid mistletoe extract is through an injection under the skin via a syringe (subcutaneously). Other, less common, methods include injecting the mistletoe into a patient’s vein with (either with an IV or intravenously), by injection into the pleural cavity, or in some instances, directly into the tumor itself.
Mistletoe is sometimes administered directly into a patient’s mouth, though there are some reports to suggest that this method contains a higher risk of negative side effects.
Effectiveness and Safety
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) and the National Cancer Institute have completed a preliminary trial to evaluate the safety of injected European mistletoe extract in combination with a cancer drug in patients with advanced cancer. It showed that patients could tolerate the herb/drug combination and provided other information that may be helpful in the design of future studies to evaluate mistletoe’s effectiveness. –NCCIH
Perhaps the most unsafe way to use mistletoe in cancer therapy is by directly giving it into a patient’s mouth. In general, mistletoe therapy rarely causes severe medical side effects and is safe to use. At the site of the mistletoe’s injection, there can be some inflammation or soreness. Using the extract has occasionally been found to have side effects including headaches, chills, or fevers. Unless there is some serious allergic reaction to the mistletoe, using mistletoe therapy is not a high-risk treatment method.
Mistletoe therapy aims to help improve the quality of life of cancer patients. Some of the mistletoe trials run in Europe suggest that using mistletoe therapy can have health benefits such as decreasing some of the negative side effects of radiation and chemotherapy treatments, such as nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite. Using mistletoe extract for tumors has sometimes been found to reduce the pain from these tumors.
Mistletoe therapy isn’t a blanket alternative or a replacement for chemo and radiation. It can be used to supplement existing treatments for more benefits and can help improve the patient’s overall state of health and quality of life during this difficult treatment process.
Pregnant or Breastfeeding?
There are safety concerns for using mistletoe if the cancer patient is pregnant or breastfeeding since there is not enough evidence to confirm its safe to use in these circumstances. It is usually best to err on the side of caution and not use mistletoe therapy in either of these instances.
How Do I Learn More About It?
To learn more about mistletoe cancer therapy and the medicinal properties of mistletoe, check out this blog post on the history and potential effects of using mistletoe therapies for cancer.
Other websites and organization with research and information on mistletoe therapy can be found on Believebig.org, a non-profit organization that advocates for the use of mistletoe cancer therapy and for FDA approval, and from The National Cancer Institute.
To learn more about a current clinical trial testing the effectiveness of mistletoe cancer therapy being conducted at Johns Hopkins Hospital, you can read this article on mistletoe therapy and the Johns Hopkins Mistletoe Trials. They have been running these trials since 2016 and are still accepting eligible applicants to join the study.
Always consult your doctor when seeking alternative cancer treatment and resources for more medical information on using mistletoe cancer therapy.
Are you interested in learning more about mistletoe cancer therapy? Contact Virginia Integrative Practice today to learn more!
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This website is for educational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for the diagnosis, treatment, and advice of a qualified licensed professional. This site offers people medical information and tells them their alternative medical options, but in no way should anyone consider that this site represents the “practice of medicine.” This site assumes no responsibility for how this material is used. Also note that this website frequently updates its contents, due to a variety of reasons, therefore, some information may be out of date. The statements regarding alternative treatments for cancer have not been evaluated by the FDA.