Parasites are plants and animals that grow on other plants and animals – often killing their hosts. But there’s one parasite that can be a lifesaver for people with cancer, although it’s often deadly to trees.
But you probably know it best as a Christmas decoration.
Now, I know what most people think of when they hear the word mistletoe – when you stand under it, you’re supposed to kiss your sweetheart.
However, cancer researchers around the world are once again playing catch-up with a conclusion that many alternative health practitioners reached decades ago – mistletoe can be remarkably effective against cancer tumors. In fact, it’s one of the most widely used cancer treatments in Germany, and there’s no doubt about its effectiveness.
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Mistletoe can’t survive by itself. It’s a vine that crawls up trees and gets its nutrition from its host. Different types of mistletoe grow on different species of trees.
Conquering colon cancer
Investigations of mistletoe’s anti-cancer powers performed at the University of Adelaide in Australia show that the natural compounds in mistletoe can quell colon cancer — the second leading cause of cancer deaths.
The Australian team tested extracts from three different kinds of mistletoe to see how they affected colon cancer cells and how their effects compared to chemotherapy. At the same time, the researchers analyzed the effects of these extracts on healthy intestinal cells.1
Not only were the mistletoe compounds deadly for colon cancer cells – even more effective than chemotherapy agents in some cases – but they were also milder in their impact on non-cancerous colon cells compared to chemotherapy.
Particularly effective, the study showed, was mistletoe that grows on ash trees, a type known scientifically as Viscum fraxini. It was the most potent in killing cancer cells.
“This is an important result because we know that chemotherapy is effective at killing healthy cells as well as cancer cells. This can result in severe side effects for the patient, such as oral mucositis (ulcers in the mouth) and hair loss,” says researcher Zahra Lotfollahi.
The lack of side effects caused by the most potent mistletoe extract adds to its allure as an anti-cancer treatment.
“Of the three extracts tested, and compared with chemotherapy, fraxini was the only one that showed a reduced impact on healthy intestinal cells. This might mean that fraxini is a potential candidate for increased toxicity against cancer, while also reducing potential side effects.”
The research at the University of Adelaide is part of an effort to persuade Australian authorities to allow the use of mistletoe as a therapeutic agent against cancer. While mistletoe extract is already permitted in Europe, many countries, including the U.S. and Australia, do not recognize its value.
Not allowing mistletoe to be used against cancer in the US is one of those regulatory decisions that leaves me scratching my head in bewilderment. As Andrew Scholberg points out in our special report German Cancer Breakthrough, mistletoe was already being promoted as a breakthrough against cancer nearly a hundred years ago by Rudolph Steiner.
Mr. Steiner is known as the founder of anthroposophical medicine, a practice that focuses on a healthy balancing of the mind, body and spirit.2 His advocacy of mistletoe, now supported by a wide variety of research, is the reason that European nations generally accept mistletoe extracts as a key component of cancer treatment.
Boost your immunity
Researchers have shown that mistletoe extracts can boost the immune system and expand its ability to attack tumors.
In analyzing the natural compounds in different varieties of mistletoe, scientists at the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, who have reviewed mistletoe’s effects on breast cancer, point out that the collection of chemicals in these plants is dauntingly large. The chemical makeup of any individual extract depends on how the extract is prepared, what time of year the plants are harvested, how old the plant was, where it was located and the type of tree the parasitic vine was growing on.3
But the consensus is that certain lectins in mistletoe are chiefly responsible for its benefits. Lectins are proteins in plants that bind to sugars and cellular membranes. The sticky aspect of lectins accounts for their power to influence the behavior of cells in the body.
A study at the University Hospital Zürich, Switzerland, shows that lectins in mistletoe can boost the production of cytokines – substances able to accelerate immune cell activity – and increase the anti-cancer activities of the immune system’s natural killer cells.4
In German Cancer Breakthrough, Andrew Scholberg notes that German cancer doctors frequently combine mistletoe therapy with other anti-cancer measures. For instance, Dr. Thomas Rau of the Paracelsus Klinik in Switzerland says that when he treats breast cancer he injects mistletoe extract near the tumor along with homeopathic chemotherapy, lactic acid and ozone.
According to Dr. Rau, “This treatment is probably one of the most specific and also most locally effective. For example, breast cancer tissue really ‘melts’ away.”
Gives cancer patients more energy
Another interesting aspect of using mistletoe is the fact that it significantly increases the energy levels of people with cancer. As scientists in Sweden point out, cancer-related fatigue is a “major and very common disabling condition in cancer patients. Treatment options do exist but have limited therapeutic effects.”
Mistletoe works great at reducing this debilitating tiredness. When the Swedish researchers looked at a 36-year-old woman who had been plagued by recurring breast cancer tumors for about ten years, they found that her extreme fatigue could be relieved with mistletoe extracts.5
A versatile plant with many talents
Since mistletoe comes in so many varieties and grows all over the world, it has traditionally been used to treat a large number of maladies. In Europe in the 1700s, the mistletoe variety that grows on oak trees was used to deal with epilepsy and kidney disease.
Another mistletoe species, when added to wine, was used to treat leprosy. Argentinian mistletoe has been used for hypertension. In India, a type of mistletoe tea was used to fight diabetes.6
When, in the 1920s, Rudolf Steiner originally introduced the idea of using mistletoe for cancer, he was using his own intuition and the homeopathic concept that “like can treat like.” Homeopathic treatments are based on the idea that if a normal dose of a substance causes a health problem, a tiny amount of that substance can actually function as a medicine and encourage the body to heal the very same health problem.
When I’ve tried homeopathic medicines myself, I didn’t see much in the way of results, but many people have and absolutely swear by this medical discipline. Mistletoe has been proven to my satisfaction.
Mr. Steiner thought that the way the parasitic mistletoe grew on trees was similar to the way cancer grows in the body as a sort of parasite that sinks its claws (so to speak) into health tissue. By giving mistletoe to cancer patients, he believed he could stimulate the body by mistletoe’s conceptual resemblance to cancer and would thereby defeat the illness.7
Of course, Steiner’s original intuitive grasp of the medicinal value of mistletoe would be pooh-poohed today by mainstream doctors as totally unscientific. But his insight has proven to be a lifesaver for thousands.
It still remains for mistletoe therapy to be more widely recognized in the US the way it is in Europe. Organizations like the non-profit Believe Big, founded by a cancer patient whose life was saved by mistletoe, are working to make that happen.
Meanwhile, Germany is the best place to go to receive this therapy – and many others, including hyperthermia, which I consider a must-have for cancer patients. Our special report German Cancer Breakthrough is based on three research trips to Germany conducted by Andrew Scholberg. I went along on one of them myself, and I was treated at a German clinic a few years later for early stage prostate cancer.
Andrew visited the clinics and interviewed both doctors and patients. The result was the first guide to German alternative cancer clinics ever published. German treatment is well worth considering for any cancer patient.