Mistletoe (Phoradendron vernicifluum) is a species of evergreen shrub or small tree native to Europe, Asia and North America. It grows up to 30 feet tall with a spread of 6 – 8 feet. Mistletoe is commonly called hollyhock because its flowers are produced on the branches of these trees. These plants have been used for centuries in folk medicine for their supposed medicinal properties. They are often found growing near graves, where they were believed to bring good luck. Mistletoe is one of the most common plants used in Halloween decorations. Some people believe that mistletoe contains poison ivy, which causes rash and itching when ingested. Other folk remedies claim that eating mistletoe will cause paralysis if swallowed whole.
The leaves of mistletoes contain compounds known as flavonoids, which may have anti-inflammatory effects. However, the exact mechanism of action remains unknown.
In addition to being used medicinally, mistletoe is sometimes used in home decoration. It is usually placed at the top of a tree branch to give it a festive look.
Sometimes mistletoe is wrapped around a candle and lit inside the house for added effect.
The most common species in the United States is the western mistletoe (Phoradendron occidentale). It is native to the Southwestern United States and northern Mexico.
In the southern United States, it can be found in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and occasionally in parts of California.
It is also known as American mistletoe or plumeless mistletoe. This species of mistletoe grows on various trees, including junipers, pines, oaks and other broad-leafed trees.
Another species of mistletoe that is commonly used for Christmas decoration is the European mistletoe (Viscum album). It is considered to be a parasite because it requires host plants to survive.
In fact, it is one of the most well-known parasites in the world. The word “mistletoe” is derived from the Old English words “mistel” and “tan,” which translates to “dung ball.” This refers to the sticky ball on the branches of pine trees where the mistletoe grows.
It is a traditional custom in many countries to kiss underneath the mistletoe.
Why is this so?
It is said that the Greek god of war, Achilles, used to kill every soldier whose head he turned as his shield. When his beloved Paris was killed by an arrow, it was Paris’ fault that he ducked so low that the arrow hit him in the temple. One of Achilles’ soldiers, called Eros, took advantage of this and shot a mistletoe arrow into the dead man’s skull. Achilles went to kill Eros in revenge, and Eros saved himself by promising to give a kiss to the next person he saw. Because Eros was fond of Paris, he saw his dead face and pecked him. Meanwhile, Achilles killed Eros out of revenge. Because the pair of them were kissing, the Gods made it that when two people are under a mistletoe they must kiss.
Mistletoe is a common parasitic plant that grows on trees. It contains toxic compounds, such as the lectins viscotoxins and andromedotoxins.
It can also cause uterine contractions, which could lead to miscarriage. In addition, it may increase the risk of heart attack in people with heart conditions.
This medicine should not be used without medical advice.
You should not use this medication if you are allergic to mistletoe.
Do not use mistletoe in combination with the sedative midazolam (Versed).
Mistletoe extract may also hide the symptoms of a rare heart condition that you have, such as angina (chest pain). If you experience any chest pain after using the medicine, seek immediate medical attention.
In some cases, mistletoe can worsen seizures in people with epilepsy.
It is not known whether the use of mistletoe extract would affect labor and delivery in people who are pregnant. Do not use this substance without medical advice if you are pregnant.
It is not known whether mistletoe extract passes into the milk of lactating mothers. Do not use this medication without medical advice if you are breastfeeding a baby.
How should I take Mistletoe?
The recommended dose of mistletoe is usually 2 grams per day (1 capsule). It is important to follow medical instructions about how much medicine you should take.
Mistletoe extracts are often taken by mouth in the form of a pill or capsule. Follow all directions on your prescription label.
Do not take this medicine in larger or smaller amounts or for longer than recommended. Mistletoe should be taken with food.
Some mistletoe extracts should be diluted in water before taking or injected with a needle and syringe. Follow the directions on your prescription label carefully, and ask your doctor or pharmacist to explain any part you do not understand.
Do not use mistletoe in larger amounts, or use it for longer than recommended by your doctor.
Do not share this medication with another person, even if they have the same symptoms you have.
Mistletoe is often given with other medications, like paclitaxel (Taxol). Follow your doctor’s instructions about taking this medication.
Mistletoe should not be given to a child without medical advice.
Store this medication at room temperature, away from moisture and heat.
Mistletoe may interact with certain types of anesthesia. Tell all health professionals involved in your medical care that you are using this herbal medication.
What happens if I miss a dose?
Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the one you missed and return to your regular dosing schedule. Do not take double the dose.
What happens if I overdose?
Seek emergency medical attention.
Symptoms of an mistletoe overdose are not known. However, mistletoe can cause side effects that may endanger your life.
What should I avoid while taking Mistletoe?
Grapes, wine, or any product containing grapes or grape seeds (even if using for medical reasons) can make your condition worse. Avoid them while using this medication.
Mistletoe side effects
Stop using mistletoe and get emergency medical help if you have a hard time breathing, start wheezing, or develop new or worsening chest pains after using the medication.
Get emergency medical help if you have nausea, vomiting, fever, chills, flu symptoms, muscle pain, blue lips and fingertips, shallow breathing, long pauses between breaths, seizure, confusion, or cold feeling in your fingers or toes. These can be signs of a rare but dangerous reaction to the medication.
Also seek immediate medical attention if you have slow heart rate.
Less serious side effects may include diarrhea, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, rapid heartbeat, and headache.
Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or especially bothersome.
What other drugs will affect Mistletoe?
Other drugs may interact with mistletoe, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Tell each of your health care providers about all medicines you use now and any medicine you start or stop using.
Where can I get more information?
Consult with a licensed healthcare professional before using any herbal medication.
Sources & references used in this article:
Forest stand dynamics and ecological factors in relation to dwarf mistletoe spread, impact, and control by JR Parmeter Jr – … mistletoe control through forest management …, 1978 – books.google.com
Mistletoe—a keystone resource in forests and woodlands worldwide by DM Watson – Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics, 2001 – annualreviews.org
American mistletoe exposures by EP Krenzelok, TD Jacobsen, J Aronis – The American journal of emergency …, 1997 – Elsevier
Mistletoe as a keystone resource: an experimental test by DM Watson, M Herring – Proceedings of the Royal …, 2012 – royalsocietypublishing.org
Influence of Viscum album L (European mistletoe) extracts on quality of life in cancer patients: a systematic review of controlled clinical studies by GS Kienle, H Kiene – Integrative cancer therapies, 2010 – journals.sagepub.com
Mistletoes: pathology, systematics, ecology, and management by RL Mathiasen, DL Nickrent, DC Shaw… – Plant …, 2008 – Am Phytopath Society