Can Mistletoe Therapy In India Cure Cancer?

Zaid Siddiqui

, Health A2Z



Steiner’s notion that mistletoe could serve as a treatment for cancer is rooted in its parallel with cancer as a parasitic growth ultimately fatal to its host. Inspired by Hahnemann’s “like cures like” principle, Steiner believed that an extract from mistletoe could remedy cancer. Despite the seeming implausibility, approximately 1000 in vitro studies have demonstrated anticancer activity in mistletoe or its primary constituents (alkaloids, lectins, and viscotoxins). Nevertheless, numerous plants exhibit some form of anticancer activity, though practical application is often hindered by toxicity or limited bioavailability, as seen with vinblastine and vincristine from the common periwinkle and Taxol from the yew tree.



What Is Mistletoe?


European mistletoe, a medicinal plant used for cancer treatment for over a century, is an evergreen semiparasitic plant growing on certain trees, extracting water and nutrients. Indigenous to Europe and Asia, mistletoe extracts are employed for various conditions, including cancer.



How Effective Is Mistletoe?


In contrast to many other complementary cancer treatments, mistletoe extract has undergone extensive human studies, with over 50 clinical trials exploring its effects on people with cancer.


Some research suggests potential benefits of mistletoe, including enhanced quality of life, reduced treatment-related side effects, prolonged survival, and improved symptoms for certain cancers.


However, not all studies have demonstrated these benefits, and concerns about the quality of the existing evidence have been raised.


A review of 26 studies revealed significantly improved quality of life, including pain and nausea reduction, in people with cancer-prescribed mistletoe extract compared to those receiving placebos, although a high risk of bias was noted.


Conversely, a two-part review of 28 studies found little to no benefit from mistletoe treatment for quality of life or survival in well-designed studies for various cancer types, including colorectal, lung, and breast cancers.


Another review focused on the prescription mistletoe extract Iscador and its impact on the survival of people with cancer, concluding that as an adjuvant treatment, Iscador led to better survival, particularly in cervical cancer patients.


A 2013 randomized controlled trial showed positive results for Iscador, with participants experiencing extended survival and reduced disease-related symptoms compared to a placebo group in advanced metastatic pancreatic cancer.


A study involving 319 women with nonmetastasized breast cancer compared standard cancer treatment (chemotherapy) to a combination of standard treatment and mistletoe extract. At 12 months, the mistletoe and standard treatment groups showed improvement in symptoms like fatigue, insomnia, and physical functioning, while the standard treatment group experienced worsened symptoms.


A U.S. trial exploring Iscar, a mistletoe extract product, in combination with the chemotherapy drug Gemcitabine was completed in 2007, but the results remain unpublished. The trial examined individuals with non-small-cell lung cancer for whom one round of chemotherapy had proven ineffective.


While some results suggest mistletoe’s potential benefits in certain cancers, researchers caution that many completed studies have notable weaknesses, emphasizing the need for high-quality research to comprehensively understand mistletoe extract’s impact on cancer patients.


For individuals with cancer interested in mistletoe and its potential as a treatment, consulting their oncology team is advised. These medical experts possess a deeper understanding of the individual’s diagnosis and treatment, guiding decisions on whether alternative and complementary treatments, such as mistletoe, are suitable for their specific case.




Mistletoe therapy is available in India, but there is no solid evidence that says that it may cure cancer properly. Research shows promise for immune system stimulation and potentially reducing the side effects of conventional treatments, but large-scale studies haven’t confirmed effectiveness against cancer itself.



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