Mistletoe in medicine – introduction

Mistletoe features in many traditional Herbals as a plant with a range of medicinal properties. This image, from an 19th century Herbal, is available as a poster. Click the image to download it.


This section of the website gives some background to traditional and modern uses of mistletoe in medicine in medicine.

There are traditions of mistletoe in medicine all around the world, involving many different species of mistletoe. Some have a long history, possibly dating all the way into prehistory.  Many will be based on the unusual parasitic growth form of mistletoe suggesting special properties.

Our European mistletoe has a particular added attraction in herbal tradition because of its unusual branching pattern and white berries.

There are three sub-pages in this part of the website:

The Modern herbal use page includes the mistletoe tea popular in Europe and the Cancer therapy page discusses the anthroposophic remedies championed by Rudolf Steiner. Each gives links to further information elsewhere.

Important medical points:

Check your species!
Do remember that this site is mostly about European Mistletoe, Viscum album, and any medical issues described relate to that species only.  Other species of mistletoe will have differing medical properties and may be dangerous.  There is particular confusion sometimes in North America, where local mistletoe species (especially Phoradendron) may be significantly more poisonous than our European variety.

Isn’t mistletoe poisonous?
Yes it is, but only in excess. European mistletoe, like many plants used in medicine, does contain some toxic chemicals, in this case complex proteins known as Lectins. These should not be a problem in most circumstances – and there is never any problem with handling mistletoe.  But mistletoe is not an edible herb – it should only ever be administered by experts or in forms that have been processed (the simplest processing is the drying process for mistletoe tea, which will change some of its chemical structures).

Medical advice
This website is not a medical site, and cannot recommend or endorse any possible treatments. The information here merely outlines past and present thinking on mistletoe in medicine and gives links to further information – and to mistletoe tea suppliers. Always read the label on any medicines or herbal products and obtain professional medical advice.

This page is part of the Mistletoe Medicine menu tab. Other pages in this tab include Medicine introduction, Herbal traditions, Modern herbal uses and Cancer therapy.  Please read the information about taking care with mistletoe on the Medicine Introduction page.