During the Christmas period it is easy to see sprigs of mistletoe hanging from doors and windows as a symbol of Christmas and as a wish for good luck and love. Yet, mistletoe, scientific name Viscum album, should enter homes all year round, given its important health properties, as emerges from two recent scientific researches. The first was published in the journal Trials by a Swedish team and represents a study still in progress but with truly noteworthy implications (Wode et al, Trials, 2020), the second is a review published in the journal Archives of Pharmacal Research by a Polish team (Szurpnicka et al, Arch Pharm Res., 2020).
Mistletoe with anti-tumor action, the study
The first research proposes a study, currently still in progress, on the anti-tumor properties and support for conventional treatments in case of cellular degeneration. In fact, as the authors of the study point out, mistletoe contains important substances, such as lectins, triterpenes and oligosaccharides, which help to inhibit the tumor growth of some types of cellular degeneration. These substances, in fact, induce apoptosis, which is the programmed death of diseased cells, activate the natural defenses against diseased cells, inhibit the production of tumor genes, the migration of cancer cells and the formation of new blood vessels, nourishment for the tumor. The research aims to provide further evidence and a deeper understanding of the beneficial action of mistletoe intake in the event of a diagnosis of aggressive pancreatic cancer. What previous studies had observed were important benefits in terms of survival and physical well-being, with weight gain, reduction of fatigue and insomnia, following the intake of mistletoe extracts in case of cellular degeneration.
The properties of mistletoe
The second study we are talking about today collects the main results of previous studies on the properties of mistletoe. As mentioned in the dedicated paragraph, mistletoe is useful in the fight against tumors. Firstly because it inhibits the proliferation of diseased cells and secondly because it improves the quality of life in case of diagnosis, reducing fatigue, nausea, pain and anxiety. But the properties of mistletoe don't end there. Mistletoe is in fact cardioprotective, since it helps to counteract hypertension and the formation of thrombi and to reduce blood sugar. Mistletoe is also hepatoprotective and helps reduce ALT and AST values, which indicate liver disease. In addition to this, mistletoe is also calming, counteracts anxiety, depression, stress and insomnia, reduces the risk of loss of muscle mass with age, protects the gastric mucosa from the formation of ulcers and is antioxidant. Finally, mistletoe has been shown to increase levels of cerebral neurotrophic factor, which in turn increases neurogenesis and neurotransmission, modulates brain plasticity, enhances the hippocampus, which is the area of memory, and protects against neurodegeneration.
Mistletoe herbal tea, how to prepare it and warnings
As indicated by the herbalist Maria Treben, the mistletoe infusion is prepared cold so as not to alter the properties of the plant. Add 2 teaspoons of dried mistletoe to a cup of cold water. Leave to infuse for 6 hours, then filter, heat slightly and drink. Mistletoe is generally considered safe but pay attention and ask your doctor for advice if you are already taking medications, such as hypotensives, antidiabetics but also immunosuppressants, blood thinners and antidepressants, to avoid interactions. Mistletoe should be purchased in herbalist's shops and specialized shops while it is better to avoid self-harvesting as some parts of the plant, such as the berries, are toxic. In any case, mistletoe should not be seen as the remedy capable of treating any ailment on its own, you should always refer to your doctor and never overdo the doses. However, mistletoe can surely bring more health and well-being and this information provided by science is one of the most precious Christmas gifts one can give.
A little curiosity, the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe
Do you know where the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe was born? We should enter the realm of Nordic myth and legend. Loki, son of Freya and Odin, killed his brother Baldur with a dart made from mistletoe. Freya, destroyed by pain, cried all her tears that, magically, as they fell on the mistletoe dart, formed white and pearly berries that gave Baldur life again. Freya, who could no longer contain her joy, began to kiss and hug anyone who happened to pass under the tree on which the mistletoe was growing. Since that day, the kiss under the mistletoe has become a symbol of love that conquers death, of good luck and f health. And today we know, thanks to scientific research, that it is not just a popular belief…