Mistletoe (Viscum album) is a partial parasitic plant that grows on several types of trees. It has been used for centuries to treat numerous human diseases, mainly in Europe. There are a variety of extracts of mistletoe manufactured as oral or injectable preparations. Some of these extracts are fermented preparations and others are un-fermented. The preparations can be further classified by the tree the mistletoe is harvested from.
Mistletoe is one of the most widely studied complementary therapies and in certain European countries, such as Germany and Switzerland, it is the most used complementary therapy for cancer.
The use of mistletoe as a treatment for cancer has been shown in some clinical trials to improve survival and reduce symptoms of fatigue, nausea and side effects from chemotherapy. In 2016 a Mistletoe trial started at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center (USA), where a large cohort of cancer patients is enrolled and given mistletoe alongside conventional treatments. The results of this study will shed more light on any benefits of this therapy and its broad application across the field of oncology. The study is planned to end in 2023 with the results to follow (https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT03051477).
Laboratory research on mistletoe extracts have been shown to do the following:
- Stimulate immune system cells, in particular the natural killer cells which attack and destroy tumour cells.
- Reduce the spread of tumour cells.
- Anti-angiogenesis: reducing the blood supply to cancer.
Mistletoe preparations contain a number of biologically active constituents, but these depend on whether the extract is crude or fermented; on the host species from which the mistletoe has been obtained and on the season during which it was harvested. Suppliers of mistletoe usually mix harvests from different seasons to diversify the active ingredients in the mix. Four different active ingredients (ML - Mistletoe Lectins) have been identified in mistletoe extracts that may produce the observed effects, these are: ML-1; ML-2; ML-3 and Viscum album chitin-binding agglutinin.
ML-1 (or Viscumin) may be responsible for many of mistletoe’s biological effects. When a laboratory method was used to selectively deplete ML-1 from mistletoe extracts, their cytotoxic and immune system–stimulating properties were markedly reduced. Fermentation eliminates most of the ML-1 in mistletoe extracts. Iscador, and other fermented mistletoe extracts, contain only the mistletoe lectins ML-2 and ML-3, whereas the proteins of the ML-1 are missing. In laboratory studies, the ML-1 has been coupled to monoclonal antibodies to produce immuno-toxins that target and kill specific cell types. Attempts have been made to manufacture drugs to mimic the effect of ML-1 e.g rML (also known as rViscumin or aviscumine) which appears to have the same efficacy as plant-based ML-1 in laboratory studies.
Mistletoe extracts are usually given by subcutaneous injection, 2 to 3 times a week although administration by other routes (i.e., oral, intrapleural, intratumoral, and intravenous) has been described.
Although mistletoe plants and berries are considered poisonous to humans, few serious side effects have been associated with mistletoe extract use. There is usually some local inflammation at the injection site and an increase in body temperature that is sometimes accompanied by headache and chills. The "fever-inducing" properties of mistletoe is thought to contribute to its beneficial effects.
A typical course of treatment lasts several weeks and requires that injections be given early in the morning 2–7 times per week, with gradual increases in the concentration until response is obtained. This is called the "initiation phase". Response is usually defined as a 1 °C increase in body temperature or a localised redness at the injection site . After initiation, a long-term maintenance dose or a "rhythmic"course where breaks are given may be recommended depending on the person’s health and tumour status.
Mistletoe is compatible with chemotherapy and radiotherapy but is not recommended for anyone with an allergy to Mistletoe, or anyone with acute inflammatory disease, autoimmune disease, high fever, pregnancy, Myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, or uncontrolled hyperthyroidism.
At Leicester Ozone Clinic we use an unfermented version of Mistletoe to employ the cytotoxic effects of ML-1 as described above. We only use it to help improve wellness for people with or without cancer diagnosis.
If you are interested to learn more about mistletoe therapy, please watch this video:
prices & Bookings
Price: Mistletoe subcutaneous injection costs £50/injection. Requires an initial functional consultation then a consultation every week during dose titration then every 2 weeks during maintenance. Supply of Mistletoe will be given for the patient to self administer. Instructions and training will be provided.