HEALTH Does mistletoe offer benefits for cancer?
Its healing powers have long been touted as a dietary supplement.
LOS ANGELES TIMES
It's debatable whether mistletoe inspires passion and increases fertility, as legend has it. It may, however, help some cancer patients. This parasitic evergreen plant has long been considered a good herbal tonic for various ailments, including epilepsy, arthritis, nervous disorders and digestive problems. It also has a long history as a folk remedy for cancer, the supplement's most common modern-day use.
UUses: The species Viscum album has been used for decades in Europe to treat cancer. Less common uses include treating arthritis and regulating blood pressure.
UDose: In studies, mistletoe extract is injected under the skin. Mistletoe is also made into tinctures. Some capsules come in 500-milligram doses.
UPrecautions: Experts disagree about its safety. The berries are considered poisonous, though some herbalists believe the twigs and leaves are safe for teas and tinctures. Most scientists say the herb should be taken only under a doctor's guidance. Pregnant women shouldn't use it because it can induce labor.
UResearch: In a new study by the federal government, about 50 people with advanced cancer will receive injections of mistletoe along with a standard cancer drug. This treatment is common in Europe as a way to stimulate the immune system. But a study in the European Journal of Cancer in 2001 found mistletoe did not prevent recurrences of head and neck cancer.
Dietary supplement makers are not required by the U.S. government to demonstrate that their products are safe or effective. Ask your health-care provider for advice on selecting a brand.