Before we developed the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe, the plant was a familiar staple in many folklore customs. The Greeks and earlier people believed that it possessed mystical powers. Venerated by the ancient Celts and Germans, the early Europeans were no less different. They considered it as a ceremonial plant, placing it in temples as an important aspect of rituals.
According to one ancient belief, life was spontaneous. A living object could spring to life from an inanimate object such as animal dung. Based on this then-accepted principle, the ancients believed that the mistletoe was propagated from bird droppings since the plant would often appear on branches or twigs where birds had left droppings. This then explains the name “mistletoe” which is derived from the Anglo-Saxon words “mistel”, meaning “dung”, and “tan” which refers to “twig.”
So, mistletoe literally means “dung-on-a-twig.” Not exactly the most romantic of names for a plant that is associated with holiday cheers and secret kisses.
Mistletoe is a fine example of something that allows folklore and medicine to go hand-in-hand. The myths surrounding the plant were only surpassed by the many health claims folk healers attribute to the mistletoe.
Since the ancient times, the mistletoe has been used for a variety of ailments. The leathery leaves of this evergreen shrub were brewed to make a tea known for its many therapeutic benefits. The sticky white berries of the mistletoe, they did not touch for they recognized early on that they were poisonous. But they made plenty of use of the mistletoe leaves, using it as a remedy for any ailment, ranging from nervous tension to skin sores.
Folk healers in some parts of Europe and Asia used liquid extracts from the mistletoe plant as treatment for cancer, rapid heart rates, high blood pressure, and epilepsy.
In the early 1900s, it was discovered that the mistletoe is actually a parasite. It grows on many large trees and draws water from the host tree’s vascular tissues. The year 1916 saw Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian philosopher relate this idea with the ability of the plant to cure cancer. According to him and as based on the system of thought called “anthroposophy,” tumors represent an error in the regulation of the physical or spiritual body.
In his view, tumors are parasites on the human body, just as mistletoes are parasites on a host tree. Now, since “like cures like”, according to homeopathic principles, Steiner introduced the mistletoe as a cure for cancer. To prove his theory, he diluted extracts of the poisonous mistletoe plant — sticking to the belief that the more diluted the substance, the more potent it becomes – and introduced it to the body with the aim of stimulating the self-correction of the so-called “error” growths or tumors. He believed that mistletoe could encourage the body to gain back a state of equilibrium and regulate the area where tumors had been allowed to develop.
Today, many studies have been published outlining the benefits of mistletoe as a potential cure for cancer. Every year, Germans alone spend an estimated amount of more than $30 million on mistletoe preparations to fight cancer. According to a recent survey, 80% of physicians were inclined to recommend unconventional cancer preparations to their patients and 45% prescribe mistletoe specifically.
Most of the evidences proving the mistletoe’s effectiveness against cancer are done through intravenous formulations or injections. Therefore, teas or other oral formulas may not result in any improvement.
TOTAL WORD COUNT – 582
KEYWORDS “Mistletoe” – 20 (density = 3.4%)