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Mistletoe Extracts (PDQ®): Complementary and alternative medicine - Health Professional Information [NCI] - Adverse Effects

Although a number of different mistletoe extracts have been used in human studies, the reported side effects have generally been minimal and not life threatening. Common side effects include soreness and inflammation at injection sites, headache, fever, and chills.[1,2,3]

One meta-analysis using Viscum album L. and isolated mistletoe lectins included both animal and human studies. Doses and application forms varied. No immunosuppressive effects were reported. Side effects included local reactions at the injection site and flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, fatigue, mild gastrointestinal symptoms, and headache. High doses of mistletoe lectins resulted in reversible hepatotoxicity in some cases.[4] Another review reported adverse reactions that included local reactions at the injection site, fever, increased intracerebral pressure, headache, circulatory problems, thrombophlebitis, swelling of lymph nodes, and allergic reactions.[5]

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A few cases of severe allergic reactions, including anaphylactic shock, have been reported.[2]

References:

  1. Kaegi E: Unconventional therapies for cancer: 3. Iscador. Task Force on Alternative Therapies of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative. CMAJ 158 (9): 1157-9, 1998.
  2. Hutt N, Kopferschmitt-Kubler M, Cabalion J, et al.: Anaphylactic reactions after therapeutic injection of mistletoe (Viscum album L.). Allergol Immunopathol (Madr) 29 (5): 201-3, 2001 Sep-Oct.
  3. Stauder H, Kreuser ED: Mistletoe extracts standardised in terms of mistletoe lectins (ML I) in oncology: current state of clinical research. Onkologie 25 (4): 374-80, 2002.
  4. Kienle GS, Kiene H: Review article: Influence of Viscum album L (European mistletoe) extracts on quality of life in cancer patients: a systematic review of controlled clinical studies. Integr Cancer Ther 9 (2): 142-57, 2010.
  5. Ernst E, Schmidt K, Steuer-Vogt MK: Mistletoe for cancer? A systematic review of randomised clinical trials. Int J Cancer 107 (2): 262-7, 2003.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Public Information from the National Cancer Institute

    Last Updated: May 28, 2015
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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