There are an incredible amount of health benefits of mistletoe, including its ability to treat cancer in a number of ways, prevent diabetes, soothe respiratory distress, calm the nervous system, lower blood pressure, promote good sleep, eliminate inflammation, increase immune system activity, reduce snoring, and decrease menstrual pain.
What is Mistletoe?
Although many people associate mistletoe with certain cultural traditions or decorations, it comes in a wide variety of forms, on multiple continents, and is actually a broad term that encompasses many hemiparasitic plants in a particular taxonomic order, Santalales. A hemiparasitic plant attaches to a host tree or bush, penetrating into the branches and absorbing nutrients and water to survive. This parasitic behavior is the most unifying feature of the many species and types of mistletoe. In fact, there are more than 900 species belonging to 73 different genera, so there is quite a bit of diversity. Some species and varieties are toxic, like the mistletoe found in America. The broad popularity of mistletoe in America has perpetuated the idea that all mistletoe is dangerous, which is completely false.
In Europe, for example, mistletoe extract has been known as a viable and valuable health tonic for thousands of years, dating all the way back to Ancient Greece. The organic compounds and chemicals in its extract have been used for everything from epilepsy to cancer treatment (in more recent years) and are continuing to gain popularity in practice. Unlike many herbal extracts, it is commonly given in the form of injection, but it can also be used in the form of tinctures or teas. There are still some risks involved with it, particularly with using untreated or improperly prepared mistletoe. However, if you use a reliable and trusted herbalist or natural practitioner, then you can enjoy the wide range of benefits provided by this unusual herb. Now, let’s take a closer look at the many health benefits of mistletoe.
Health Benefits of Mistletoe
Health benefits of mistletoe include:
Lowers Blood Pressure
While this isn’t the most commonly praised benefit of mistletoe, the extract does have a measurable effect on hypertension, which affects millions of people around the world. By lowering blood pressure, its extract is able to ease the strain and stress on the cardiovascular system and also cutting down on the impact of atherosclerosis. The hypertension reduction of mistletoe extract can help prevent strokes, heart attacks, and coronary heart diseases. It also helps to slow the pulse, which also helps to reduce the exertion of the heart. These benefits are particularly prevalent in European and Japanese mistletoe species.
Promotes Good Sleep
Mistletoe is known as a very effective nervine agent and has been in use in traditional settings for hundreds of years. If you suffer from insomnia or restlessness when you sleep, using it to brew a strong tea might be the answer for you. The chemical components of mistletoe impact the release of neurotransmitters that calm you down, soothing the nervous system, and allowing for healthy, restful sleep. The nervous system is strongly linked to our Circadian rhythms, so calming down our nerves can regulate our sleep cycle and give us the rest we need.
Arguably the most important and widely studied aspect of mistletoe’s health benefits is its role in treating cancer. The effects of mistletoe on cancer are manifold. Some studies have focused on mistletoe’s reduction of symptoms following chemotherapy, which can be exhausting and painful. Other research has also directly linked its extract with anti-cancer activity, and in Europe, more than 50% of cancer patients now integrate some element of it in their treatment regimen.
This rapid increase in popularity and demand for mistletoe has also sparked interest in further research, which has certainly paid off. It has been found that in certain types of cancer, it can cause apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells. Subsequent research has connected mistletoe extract to a higher overall quality of life for patients, tumor shrinkage, and healthier blood counts. For this health benefit alone, it should be on your radar!
Soothes Respiratory Distress
The nerve-soothing aspect of mistletoe makes it ideal for calming the respiratory system in case of distress or irritation. From sore throats to coughing and bronchial inflammation, it has shown its ability to calm the irritation and lower the discomfort and tightness in the chest. There is a psychological connection between the act of coughing or wheezing, as might occur in an asthmatic attack, and the panic and mental distress, which causes a feedback loop. It can interrupt that neural connection and calm the mind and body at the same time.
The anti-diabetic potential of this herb is a relatively new area of research, but it has been practiced traditionally for generations. Research has shown that it does have the ability to lower blood glucose levels in laboratory tests, and other findings have shown that the extract stimulated insulin production in pancreatic cells, helping to regulate the levels in the body and lessening the severity of the disorder. It is commonly prescribed as a natural remedy for those suffering from diabetes.
Boosts Immune System
One of the most important health benefits of mistletoe is the impact it has on the immune system. This is one reason why this herb is so prized for cancer treatment, as it simultaneously boosts the compromised immune system and protects it from outside illnesses. The antibacterial, antioxidant, and antiviral capacity of this herb make it a perfect line of defense for the body, regardless of the illness or state of the immune system.
Calms Nervous System
If you suffer from anxiety, manifesting in physical tics, restless sleep, tremors, or other physical/mental symptoms, mistletoe can act as a complete nervine tonic for the body, lowering stress hormone levels, and bringing your nerves down to a manageable level.
Eases Menstrual Distress
If you suffer from excessive cramps and menstrual pain, then using this plant in those instances is a wonderful option. You can brew a strong mistletoe tea, which calms muscle spasms and inflammation, helping to release that tension and cramping. Always speak to your doctor before adding a strong nervine tonic like mistletoe to your diet, particularly if you are pregnant or considering getting pregnant.
For hundreds of years, tinctures of mistletoe have been prescribed for inflammation of the body, both inside and out. Arthritic pain is probably the most common form of inflammation for most people, and a tincture of this herb can do wonders to ease that pain and increase the range of motion as you age. Internally, this anti-inflammatory capacity can be good for digestion and gastrointestinal issues as well.
While this may not seem like a serious issue, it certainly is if you’re sleeping next to a snorer! A cup of this herbal tea before going to sleep can soothe the nerves and promote restful sleep, while also soothing respiratory distress. Together, this means a much lower chance of snoring while you sleep!
Word of Caution: Again, the particular variety of mistletoe used in herbal remedies is very important. Only purchase mistletoe extract from a trusted and trained herbalist or medical professional. The injection of the extract should only be done by a professional or by an individual after appropriate training. Before adding a strong substance like mistletoe to your health regimen, always speak to your doctor to ensure that it’s a good choice for you, based on your current health.