In the early 1920’s mistletoe was suggested as a cancer treatment. Now it is one of the most widely studied alternative treatments for cancer. Since the use of mistletoe has increased enormously, many cancer patients worldwide, and particularly in Germany, use mistletoe in some form, mostly in conjunction with other cancer treatment methods such as radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery. In certain European countries, the preparations made from European mistletoe (Viscum album) are among the most prescribed drugs offered to cancer patients and are even covered under many insurance plans.
Mistletoe extracts have been evaluated in Europe in numerous clinical studies which have demonstrated improvements in survival, quality of life, and stimulation of the immune system.
In the United States, European mistletoe extract is available as a homeopathic treatment because it is not approved at this time for the treatment of cancer. Our physicians at Sunridge Medical prescribe homeopathic mistletoe not to treat a specific disease, but to enhance the immune system.
References on Mistletoe Extract
Survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extract (Iscador): a systematic literature review
Ostermann, T., Raak, C. & Büssing, A. Survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extract (Iscador): a systematic literature review. BMC Cancer 9, 451 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1186/1471-2407-9-451
Background: In Europe, extracts from Viscum album (VA-E), the European white-berry mistletoe, are widely used to treat patients with cancer.
Methods: We searched several databases such as Cochrane, EMBASE, NCCAM, NLM, DIMDI, CAMbase, and Medline. Inclusion criteria were controlled clinical studies on parameters associated with survival in cancer patients treated with Iscador. Outcome data were extracted as they were given in the publication, and expressed as hazard ratios (HR), their logarithm, and the respective standard errors using standard formulas.
Results: We found 49 publications on the clinical effects of Iscador usage on the survival of cancer patients which met our criteria. Among them, 41 studies and strata provided enough data to extract hazard ratios (HR) and their standard errors (Iscador versus no extra treatment). The majority of studies reported positive effects in favor of the Iscador application. Heterogeneity of study results was moderate (I2 = 38.3%, p < 0.0001).
Conclusions: A pooled analysis of clinical studies suggests that adjuvant treatment of cancer patients with the mistletoe extract Iscador is associated with better survival. Despite obvious limitations, and strong hints for a publication bias which limits the evidence found in this meta-analysis, one can not ignore the fact that studies with positive effects of VA-E on survival of cancer patients are accumulating. Future studies evaluating the effects of Iscador should focus on a transparent design and description of endpoints in order to provide greater insight into a treatment often being depreciated as ineffective, but highly valued by cancer patients.
Survival of Cancer Patients Treated with Non-Fermented Mistletoe Extract
Loef M, Walach H. Survival of Cancer Patients Treated with Non-Fermented Mistletoe Extract: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Integr Cancer Ther. 2022 Jan-Dec;21:15347354221133561. doi: 10.1177/15347354221133561. PMID: 36324298; PMCID: PMC9634211. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/36324298/
Background: Mistletoe extracts (ME) are used in integrative cancer care to improve quality of life and to prolong survival. ME are available from different producers and differ in pharmaceutical processing, such as fermentation. In contrast to fermented ME, the impact of unfermented extracts on the survival of cancer patients has not yet been assessed in a meta-analysis.
Methods: We searched the databases Embase, CENTRAL, Europe PMC, Clinicaltrials.gov, Opengrey and Google Scholar, and selected controlled studies on cancer patients treated with non-fermented ME. We included randomized controlled trials (RCTs) and non-randomized studies of intervention (NRSIs). The risk of bias was assessed with Cochrane’s ROB2 and ROBINS-I; a meta-analysis was conducted.
Results: Eleven RCTs and eight NRSIs met the inclusion criteria. The studies were heterogeneous and their ROB2 and ROBINS-I displayed a moderate and high risk of bias, respectively. For RCTs, the pooled effect estimate of non-fermented ME on survival was HR = 0.81 (95% CI 0.69-0.95, P = .01). Subgroup analyses as well as the NRSIs estimation support the robustness of the finding. When active comparators are added to the analysis, the effect estimates become non-significant.
Conclusion: The results may indicate a positive impact of non-fermented ME on the overall survival of cancer patients. High quality RCTs are necessary to substantiate our results.
Mistletoe Extract mechanisms of action
Mistletoe has been used as a treatment of many diseases in traditional and folk medicine. To date, anticancer, immunomodulatory, cardiac, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, neuropharmacological, antibacterial, and antifungal properties of mistletoe extracts have been studied the most. In this review, we summarized in vitro and in vivo studies on the pharmacological activity of Viscum species. Furthermore, we proposed the possible mechanisms of action of this herb, which might include many signaling pathways.