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Mistletoe (Iscador)

Over the 10 years I injected it daily, I never had a cold or flu or even a day where I didn’t feel up to par,” ‘Miracle mistletoe’ saved my life, says cancer sufferer given weeks to live 10 years ago.Suzanne Somers, American actress, author, TV show host etc (Source: Daily Mirror)

Mistletoe Extracts

Source: National Cancer Institute


  • Mistletoe is a semiparasitic plant that grows on several types of common trees such as apple, oak, pine, and elm. Mistletoe extract has been used since ancient times to treat many ailments (see Question 1).
  • Mistletoe is one of the most widely studied complementary and alternative medicine therapies in people with cancer. In certain European countries, preparations made from European mistletoe are among the most prescribed drugs for patients with cancer (see Question 1).
  • Mistletoe extract has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory and to affect the immune system. However, there is limited evidence that mistletoe’s effects on the immune system help the body fight cancer (see Question 2 and Question 3).
  • Mistletoe extracts are usually given by injection under the skin or, less often, into a vein, into the pleural cavity, or into the tumor. (see Question 4).
  • Animal studies have suggested that mistletoe may be useful in decreasing the side effects of standard anticancer therapy, such as chemotherapy and radiation (see Question 5).
  • A large number of human studies using mistletoe to treat cancer have been done since the early 1960s, but major weaknesses in many of these have raised doubts about their findings (see Question 6).
  • Very few harmful side effects have been reported from the use of mistletoe extract (see Question 7).
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved mistletoe as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition (see Question 8).
  • The FDA does not allow injectable mistletoe to be imported, sold, or used except for clinical research (see Question 8).

Questions and Answers About Mistletoe

1. What is mistletoe?

Mistletoe is a semiparasitic plant that grows on several types of trees, including apple, oak, maple, elm, pine, and birch. It has been used for centuries to treat medical conditions such as epilepsy, hypertension, headaches, menopausal symptoms, infertility, arthritis, and rheumatism.

Mistletoe is one of the most widely studied complementary and alternative medicine therapies for cancer. In certain European countries, extracts made from European mistletoe are among the most prescribed therapies for cancer patients. These products are made and sold under brand names including:

  • Iscador (also called Iscar).
  • Eurixor.
  • Helixor.
  • Isorel (also called Vysorel).
  • Iscucin.
  • Lektinol (also called Plenosol).
  • abnobaVISCUM.

This summary discusses research done mainly with the European mistletoe species.

The chemical makeup of mistletoe products varies, depending on many factors, including:

  • The type of host tree on which the mistletoe plant grows.
  • The time of year the plant is harvested.
  • The exact species of mistletoe.
  • Whether the extract is fermented or unfermented.
  • Whether the extract is prepared with homeopathic methods.
  • The company that makes the product.

Mistletoe extracts are prepared as water-based solutions or solutions of water and alcohol. Mistletoe products may be named according to the type of host tree on which the plant grows. For example, IscadorM is from apple trees, IscadorP comes from pine trees, IscadorQ is from oak trees, and IscadorU comes from elm trees. Some users believe that the type of mistletoe extract chosen should depend on the type of tumor and the sex of the patient.

2. What is the history of the discovery and use of mistletoe as a complementary or alternative treatment for cancer?

Mistletoe was used by the Druids and the ancient Greeks, and appears in legend and folklore as a panacea or “cure -all”. Modern interest in mistletoe as a possible treatment for cancer began in the 1920s.

Extracts of mistletoe have been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory and to boost the immune system (the complex group of organs and cells that defends the body against infection or disease). For this reason, mistletoe has been classified as a type of biological response modifier (a substance that stimulates the body’s response to infection and disease). Extracts of mistletoe have also been shown in the laboratory to prevent the growth of new blood vessels needed for tumors to grow.

Ingredients in mistletoe that have been studied for their usefulness in treating cancer include:

  • Alkaloids.
  • Viscotoxins.
  • Polysaccharides.
  • Lectins.

3. What is the theory behind the claim that mistletoe is useful in treating cancer?

Mistletoe extract is studied as a possible anticancer agent because it has been shown to:

  • Have effects on the immune system.
  • Kill mouse, rat, and human cancer cells in the laboratory.
  • Protect the DNA in white blood cells in the laboratory, including cells that have been exposed to DNA-damaging chemotherapy drugs.

4. How is mistletoe administered?
Mistletoe extracts are usually given by injection under the skin (subcutaneous). Less common ways to give mistletoe include by mouth, into a vein (intravenous or IV), into the pleural cavity, or into the tumor. In most reported studies, injections under the skin were given 2 to 3 times a week for various lengths of time.

Reviews of many clinical trials combined

Findings from over 50 clinical trials using mistletoe extracts in patients with cancer have been published. Recent reviews of many studies taken together have looked at the effects of mistletoe on quality of life, survival, and symptom relief in different types of cancer:

  • Quality of life was measured in a review that included 26 randomized clinical trials. Of these, 22 trials showed patients had improved quality of life. All 10 nonrandomized, controlled clinical trials reviewed also reported the same benefits. Chemotherapy-related fatigue, nausea and vomiting, depression, emotional well-being, and concentration improved. Some of the studies were well designed, while others had weaknesses.
  • Tumor response, quality of life, and psychological distress were measured in a review of 21 randomized clinical trials in patients with different types of cancer. A variety of mistletoe extracts were used either alone, with chemotherapy, or with radiation therapy. Most of the studies reported benefits for patients, although this review had weaknesses in design and size.
  • Quality of life and survival were measured in a review of 10 randomized clinical trials which used a variety of mistletoe extracts in patients with different types of cancer. There was no difference in survival or quality of life measures in patients who received mistletoe compared to those who did not.

7. Have any side effects or risks been reported from mistletoe?

Very few serious side effects have been reported from the use of mistletoe extract products. Common side effects include soreness and inflammation at injection sites, headache, fever, and chills.

One review surveyed many animal and human studies that used European mistletoe and mistletoe lectins. Different doses and ways to give mistletoe were used. Treatment was not found to lessen immune system responses. High doses of mistletoe lectins damaged the liver in some cases; this damage was correctable. Another review of clinical trials reported adverse effects that included increased circulatory problems, thrombophlebitis, swelling of lymph nodes, and allergic reactions.

A few cases of severe allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock, have been reported.

Source: National Cancer Institute

Scientific evidence

This Study concluded:
Mistletoe extracts, which contain a complex of oncologically relevant active substances and exert a variety of anticancer effects, appear to prolong survival times in patients with various tumor types. In the studies described here, efficacy was observed in patients with rectum carcinoma, colon carcinoma, stomach carcinoma, breast carcinoma (with or without axillary metastases or remote metastases), and small cell and non-small-cell bronchogenic carcinoma. The study findings support the claim of anthroposophical medicine that mistletoe therapy is generally effective for treating cancer, irrespective of tumor type. Iscador treatment seems to exert general oncological effects that are not confined to specific tumor cells. An important effect of Iscador, according to our findings, is that it can enhance patients self-regulation.

This Review says:
Application of standardized and optimized mistletoe may be helpful in prolonging survival time and increasing HRQoL [health-related quality of life]. Subcutaneous application of mistletoe extracts to breast cancer patients might be associated with immunological side effects on the skin. Taking into consideration the subcutaneous administration side effects, oral administration of mistletoe preparations with apparent lack of adverse reactions might be a promising adjuvant alternative therapy for breast cancer patients.

This study concluded:
Iscador treatment can achieve a clinically relevant prolongation of survival time of cancer patients and appears to stimulate self-regulation.

This study concluded:
Pooled analysis of clinical studies suggests that adjuvant treatment of cancer patients with the mistletoe extract Iscador is associated with a better survival.

This study says:
…it could be shown that Iscador offers benefits–symptom control, overall survival…

This study says:
The analyzed studies give some evidence that Iscador treatment might have beneficial short-time effects on QoL-associated dimensions and psychosomatic self-regulation.

This study concluded:
ISCADOR Q, showing multiple positive effects in the treatment of glioblastoma, may be a candidate for concomitant treatment of this cancer.

This study says:
Intravenous mistletoe therapy was found to be safe and prospective studies for efficacy are recommended.

This study says:
This is the first report showing complete regression of a colon adenoma after intratumoural injection with Viscum album extract.

This study says:
In Germany, Switzerland and Austria, extracts derived from mistletoe (Viscum album L.) such as Iscador, Abnobaviscum, Helixor, Iscar, Iscucin and Isorel have been used in oncology for many years. These extracts have immunomodulating and immunostimulating properties, as demonstrated by experimental studies as well as in clinical trials.

This study says:
Mistletoes have emerged as promising alternative therapy against colon, oral, lung, and pancreas cancers. The plant extracts bolster immunity, delay tumour initiation and progression, kill malignant tumours, stabilize DNA, alleviate side effects of chemotherapeutics, improve the lifespan, and coping ability of cancer patients and survivors.

Breast cancer
This Review says:
The majority of the included clinical trials
suggested a beneficial effect with good evidence with respect
to survival,HRQoL, positive remission rate, and reduction of
chemotherapy causing side effects for breast cancer patients
treated with mistletoe extracts.

Where can I get this treatment and more information?

This treatment is available in a number of clinics in the Uk and throughout Europe and Mexico.



1. Some cancer therapies can conflict with others. Do not start ANY therapy without consulting your doctor to ensure it’s safe and beneficial to do so.
2. Just because any given therapy worked for someone else does not necessarily mean it will work for you.
3. Although there are many viable alternative cancer treatments, there isn’t a “best” treatment for a certain type or stage of cancer.

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