mistletoe large Mistletoe

Mistletoe| Viscum album

general characteristics

general characteristics

Common names include mistletoe. European mistletoe, all heal, birdlime

 

Mistletoe is a perennial evergreen semi-parasitic plant (in the family Loranthaceae) that prefers certain trees as host. Apple, hawthorn, poplar, European lime are its most common host, sometimes but rarely seen on oak. There are many different varieties of mistletoe but Viscum album - European mistletoe - is native to The UK, France and many parts of mainland Europe, spreading as far as Asia.

It is diocieous, it needs both female and male plants nearby in order to produce berries and is only partly parasitic as its leaves photosynthesise, only drawing water and minerals from its host plant. It does little harm to its host unless it forms too many bunches and the host tree struggles to put out sufficient leaves. The female plants have the white berries on.

It is often only noticed in winter when its host tree has shed its leaves and the greeny-olive balls of mistletoe are prominent against the sky.

 

 

Mistletoe dried herb is available to buy in our herbal shop.


harvesting and preparation

harvesting and preparation

The dried and chopped leaves and stems are the parts used in medicine, NOT the berries which are quite poisonous internally.
 
Well, first you have to find it, then you have to get it down to ground level somehow! Unless its growing on small trees then it is unlikely you will be able to harvest from the wild. Mistletoe is quite rare in many parts of the UK so it is advised to buy from a reputable medicinal plant supplier.Don't use the kind of mistletoe you see outside shops at Christmas time as medicine.There is no guarantee it is the correct medicinal species and no guarantee of quality, sustainability or safety. Plus many commercial harvesters will spray the whole bunches with preservatives and other chemicals you won't want to ingest.
 
Collect the plant between October - December or March - April when its medicinal actions are thought to be strongest (Maria Treben). Also the mistletoe you harvest will have slightly different chemical and medicinal composition depending on which tree is its host. Oak grown mistletoe was revered by the Ancients as it is uncommon, most mistletoe preferring trees from the rose family such as apple. Those that are familiar with mistletoe medicine often suggest collecting several batches at different times throughout winter and from different host trees for a good all round medicinal  mixture.
 
Don't remove the whole plant from the tree, just cut some branches off the mature mistletoe clump, ideally just before berries form. Chop leaves and twigs into small pieces and lay out on a tray to dry.

 

If you are lucky enough to have some growing on trees on your land then you can take a leaf from the Druids book and harvest in the old traditional way... on a waxing moon, cut the mistletoe from the tree branch (using a golden scythe if you have one!) and have someone underneath to catch the falling mistletoe in a sheet before it hits the ground. It was believed to lose its potency if allowed to come in contact with the ground.
 
Dry gently and store in an airtight jar away from light and warmth.
 
Apart from ourselves of course, several reputable medicinal mistletoe suppliers are listed here.
 

Mistletoe dried herb is available to buy in our herbal shop.


therapeutic actions and uses

therapeutic actions and uses

The European mistletoe is drenched in magic and has a long held place in the mythology of Europe. Many other parts of the world have their own varieties of mistletoe equally held in high esteem. Aside from its medicinal properties, the Druids and Ancients noted where and how it lived its life, not of the Earth and not of the Sky but somewhere in between, in the trees. The trees themselves are connectors of sky and earth (roots reaching down, branches reaching up) and the mistletoe thrives in that in between space. I find it no coincidence that the mistletoe has an affinity for the heart - the organ that is in between above and below - right in the middle of the 3 lower chakras and the 3 higher chakras and the seat of the soul to many.

Mistletoe has a marked action on the heart and cardiovascular system. The leaves lower high blood pressure, calms the heart rate a little, provide a tonic like strengthening action to the heart and act to dilate coronary arteries. Useful combined with hawthorn in angina. Many herbalists insist mistletoe is a balancer of blood pressure, raising it if too low and lowering it if too high. It can also be used in formulas aimed at improving blood flow to tissues that have impaired blood flow due to tension, nervous irritability or stress. I have included it in many a herbal tea mix aimed at  lowering blood pressure that is rooted in tension and stress. Arteriosclerosis (stiffening/thickening of arteries) and atherosclerosis (plaque build up on the inner linings of arteries) and atheroma can also benefit from mistletoe in formulas. Headaches due to high blood pressure or nervous tension may also be relieved.

Mistletoe also has interesting neurological effects. it acts as a mild sedative to calm a racing heart, ease nervous excitability and hyperactivity, possibly due to its action of stimulating the vagus nerve, the nerve of rest and relaxation. It can be added to formulas for insomnia. It has a very long held reputation for being effective in cases of epilepsy, seizures, dizziness and tinnitus.

Pain relieving and anti-inflammatory, neuralgia.

Mistletoe has shown great promise in the treatment of various cancers, a use that has a long history throughout the world. Mistletoe leaves induce apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells and also stop cancer cells from proliferating. Mistletoe can also work well alongside conventional chemotherapy and radiation treatments and help to alleviate the many side effects and improve overall quality of life during such treatments. It is worth noting however that most of the positive results in cancer treatments are based on internal injections of mistletoe prepaperations.

It has shown good results in its action on the immune system. Mistletoe stimulates a broad reaction in the bodys immune response, raising levels of various immune cells and immune reactions. The leaves minimise immune suppression that is often caused by anaethestics, invasive operations and cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It is being used increasingly by AIDS patients to help with secondary infections and in some parts of the world goes into formulas against many kinds of infectious diseases.

Rheumatism is reputed to be eased with mistletoe.

Dry eyes, a condition more often associated with the elderly but increasing among the young also may be eased with mistletoe, link here

Since ancient history this plant has symbolised love and fertility and still holds those associations (kissing under the mistletoe?). Many old herbals mention its use for increasing fertility.

It does have interesting actions on the female system, having a stimulating action on the uterine muscles. In Chinese medicine it is used to prevent abortion however and is also well known as a tocolytic agent (labour suppressant). There is some scientific evidence for the ability of mistletoe in increasing fertility as detailed here, though this research is carried out on rats.

Mistletoe is also used to control excessive menstrual bleeding, especially useful during the menopause and for other menopausal symptoms such as irregular cycles, hot flushes and anxiety.

Mistletoe also seems to have the effect of acting like an androgen, testosterone availability is increased.

Mistletoe can also benefit skin health and is used in many commercial beauty preparations aimed at anti-ageing. It seems to encourage better flow through through the skin layers, is a soothing astringent antiseptic, has antioxidant properties and can be used externlly for swellings.

Mistletoe can also be helpful in cases of type 2 diabetes as it lowers blood sugar levels by increasing insulin secretion. It improves carbohydrate metabolism and blood fat levels.

A combination of mistletoe leaves and berries, soaked in cold water overnight and strained can be applied externally to help frostbite.

 

A useful article on the safe use of mistletoe as medicine is found here.

An extensive article detailing the medicinal uses of mistletoe throughout history is found here.

And finally, the best site I have ever come across on the mighty mistletoe - how to grow, history, medicinal uses - written by a true mistletoe enthusiast.

 

 

 


 


 

 


dosage and cautions

dosage and cautions

* Generally accepted by herbalists that mistletoe should make up no more than 10% of any herbal formula.
 
 * Avoid during pregnancy (it stimulates uterine contractions) and breastfeeding.
 
 * Avoid use with medications for asthma.
 
 
Adult 

 

Start and continue treatment using the smallest dose, only increasing gradually (if needed) to the larger doses suggested below. Dosage suggestions among herbalists vary but the most commonly used dosages are stated below.

Tincture (leaf): 10-15 drops up to 3 times daily. No more than 1-2 mls daily overall (conservative dose), 20-40 mls overall in a week. However, herbalist David Hoffman suggests 1 -4 mls three times daily.

Dried leaves in tea form: 1/2 teaspoon per cup soaked in cold water for 12 hours or overnight, strain out the herb then warm gently, up to 3 cups daily. Hoffman suggests 1 - 2 teaspoons per cup, add boiling water, infuse for 15 minutes, drink up to 3 times daily. Maria Treben reccommends drinking one cup daily (using one teaspoon of dried herb) throughout the year to keep volatile blood pressure within healthy parameters.

Mistletoe can be used alone as a herbal treatment but I have only ever used it in combination with other herbs.

Combines well with hawthorn, lime blossom, motherwort etc. for hypertension and with skullcap and valerian etc. for nervous tension and excitability.

 

 

Children

Add 12 to the child’s age. Divide the child’s age by the total.
E.g. dosage for a 4 year old...... 4 {age} divided by 16 {age + 12} = . 25  or 1/4 of the adult dosage.
 
 
 

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