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

Mistletoe has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties.[1,2,3,4,5,6] It was reportedly used by the Druids and the ancient Greeks, and it appears in legend and folklore as a panacea. It has been used in various forms to treat cancer, epilepsy, infertility, menopausal symptoms, nervous tension, asthma, hypertension, headache, and dermatitis. Modern interest in mistletoe as an anticancer treatment began in the 1920s. Most of the results of clinical studies have been published exclusively in German. Refer to the Human/Clinical Studies section of this summary for more information.

Another reported activity that may be relevant to optimum functioning of the immune system in individuals with cancer is stabilization of the DNA in white blood cells, including white blood cells that have been exposed to DNA-damaging chemotherapy drugs.[7,8,9,10,11]

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Mistletoe has been shown to stimulate increases in the number and the activity of various types of white blood cells.[2,3,9,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48,49,50,51,52,53] Immune-system-enhancing cytokines, such as interleukin-1, interleukin-6, and tumor necrosis factor -alpha, are released by white blood cells after exposure to mistletoe extracts.[1,3,7,9,10,11,14,19,29,33,37,42,43,44,45,46,48,49,50,52,53,54] Other evidence suggests that mistletoe exerts its cytotoxic effects by interfering with protein synthesis in target cells [3,4,8,11,33,42,43,44,45,46,52,55,56,57,58,59,60,61,62,63] and by inducing apoptosis.[3,11,36,42,46,52,64,65,66] Mistletoe may also serve a bridging function, bringing together immune system effector cells and tumor cells.[18,67]

References:

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  2. Mistletoe. In: Murray MT: The Healing Power of Herbs. Roseville, Calif: Prima Publishing, 1995, pp 253-9.
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  4. Olsnes S, Stirpe F, Sandvig K, et al.: Isolation and characterization of viscumin, a toxic lectin from Viscum album L. (mistletoe). J Biol Chem 257 (22): 13263-70, 1982.
  5. Becker H: Botany of European mistletoe (Viscum album L.). Oncology 43 (Suppl 1): 2-7, 1986.
  6. Watkins D: A berry Christmas. Nurs Times 93 (51): 28-9, 1997 Dec 17-23.
  7. Büssing A, Azhari T, Ostendorp H, et al.: Viscum album L. extracts reduce sister chromatid exchanges in cultured peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Eur J Cancer 30A (12): 1836-41, 1994.
  8. Büssing A, Lehnert A, Schink M, et al.: Effect of Viscum album L. on rapidly proliferating amniotic fluid cells. Sister chromatid exchange frequency and proliferation index. Arzneimittelforschung 45 (1): 81-3, 1995.
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  10. Bussing A, Jungmann H, Suzart K, et al.: Suppression of sister chromatid exchange-inducing DNA lesions in cultured peripheral blood mononuclear cells by Viscum album L. J Exp Clin Cancer Res 15 (2): 107-14, 1996.
  11. Büssing A, Suzart K, Bergmann J, et al.: Induction of apoptosis in human lymphocytes treated with Viscum album L. is mediated by the mistletoe lectins. Cancer Lett 99 (1): 59-72, 1996.
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  20. Beuth J, Ko HL, Gabius HJ, et al.: Behavior of lymphocyte subsets and expression of activation markers in response to immunotherapy with galactoside-specific lectin from mistletoe in breast cancer patients. Clin Investig 70 (8): 658-61, 1992.
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  24. Beuth J, Ko HL, Tunggal L, et al.: Thymocyte proliferation and maturation in response to galactoside-specific mistletoe lectin-1. In Vivo 7 (5): 407-10, 1993 Sep-Oct.
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  26. Timoshenko AV, Kayser K, Drings P, et al.: Modulation of lectin-triggered superoxide release from neutrophils of tumor patients with and without chemotherapy. Anticancer Res 13 (5C): 1789-92, 1993 Sep-Oct.
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  29. Heiny BM, Beuth J: Mistletoe extract standardized for the galactoside-specific lectin (ML-1) induces beta-endorphin release and immunopotentiation in breast cancer patients. Anticancer Res 14 (3B): 1339-42, 1994 May-Jun.
  30. Stein G, Berg PA: Non-lectin component in a fermented extract from Viscum album L. grown on pines induces proliferation of lymphocytes from healthy and allergic individuals in vitro. Eur J Clin Pharmacol 47 (1): 33-8, 1994.
  31. Timoshenko AV, Gabius HJ: Influence of the galactoside-specific lectin from Viscum album and its subunits on cell aggregation and selected intracellular parameters of rat thymocytes. Planta Med 61 (2): 130-3, 1995.
  32. Timoshenko AV, Cherenkevich SN, Gabius HJ: Viscum album agglutinin-induced aggregation of blood cells and the lectin effects on neutrophil function. Biomed Pharmacother 49 (3): 153-8, 1995.
  33. Hostanska K, Hajto T, Spagnoli GC, et al.: A plant lectin derived from Viscum album induces cytokine gene expression and protein production in cultures of human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Nat Immun 14 (5-6): 295-304, 1995.
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  35. Lenartz D, Stoffel B, Menzel J, et al.: Immunoprotective activity of the galactoside-specific lectin from mistletoe after tumor destructive therapy in glioma patients. Anticancer Res 16 (6B): 3799-802, 1996 Nov-Dec.
  36. Fischer S, Scheffler A, Kabelitz D: Oligoclonal in vitro response of CD4 T cells to vesicles of mistletoe extracts in mistletoe-treated cancer patients. Cancer Immunol Immunother 44 (3): 150-6, 1997.
  37. Preisfeld A: Influence of aqueous mistletoe preparations on humoral immune parameters with emphasis on the cytotoxicity of human complement in breast cancer patients. Forsch Komplementarmed 4 (4): 224-8, 1997.
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  39. Heiny BM, Albrecht V, Beuth J: Correlation of immune cell activities and beta-endorphin release in breast carcinoma patients treated with galactose-specific lectin standardized mistletoe extract. Anticancer Res 18 (1B): 583-6, 1998 Jan-Feb.
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  46. 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.
  47. Lenartz D, Dott U, Menzel J, et al.: Survival of glioma patients after complementary treatment with galactoside-specific lectin from mistletoe. Anticancer Res 20 (3B): 2073-6, 2000 May-Jun.
  48. Goebell PJ, Otto T, Suhr J, et al.: Evaluation of an unconventional treatment modality with mistletoe lectin to prevent recurrence of superficial bladder cancer: a randomized phase II trial. J Urol 168 (1): 72-5, 2002.
  49. Schaefermeyer G, Schaefermeyer H: Treatment of pancreatic cancer with Viscum album (Iscador): a retrospective study of 292 patients 1986-1996. Complement Ther Med 6 (4): 172-7, 1998.
  50. Kunze E, Schulz H, Gabius HJ: Inability of galactoside-specific mistletoe lectin to inhibit N-methyl-N-nitrosourea-induced tumor development in the urinary bladder of rats and to mediate a local cellular immune response after long-term administration. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 124 (2): 73-87, 1998.
  51. Kunze E, Schulz H, Adamek M, et al.: Long-term administration of galactoside-specific mistletoe lectin in an animal model: no protection against N-butyl-N-(4-hydroxybutyl)-nitrosamine-induced urinary bladder carcinogenesis in rats and no induction of a relevant local cellular immune response. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 126 (3): 125-38, 2000.
  52. Mengs U, Schwarz T, Bulitta M, et al.: Antitumoral effects of an intravesically applied aqueous mistletoe extract on urinary bladder carcinoma MB49 in mice. Anticancer Res 20 (5B): 3565-8, 2000 Sep- Oct.
  53. 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.
  54. Kleijnen J, Knipschild P: Mistletoe treatment for cancer: review of controlled trials in humans. Phytomedicine 1: 255-60, 1994.
  55. Stirpe F, Sandvig K, Olsnes S, et al.: Action of viscumin, a toxic lectin from mistletoe, on cells in culture. J Biol Chem 257 (22): 13271-7, 1982.
  56. Walzel H, Jonas L, Rosin T, et al.: Relationship between internalization kinetics and cytotoxicity of mistletoe lectin I to L1210 leukaemia cells. Folia Biol (Praha) 36 (3-4): 181-8, 1990.
  57. Franz H: Mistletoe lectins and their A and B chains. Oncology 43 (Suppl 1): 23-34, 1986.
  58. Sweeney EC, Palmer RA, Pfüller U: Crystallization of the ribosome inactivating protein ML1 from Viscum album (mistletoe) complexed with beta-D-galactose. J Mol Biol 234 (4): 1279-81, 1993.
  59. Jung ML, Baudino S, Ribéreau-Gayon G, et al.: Characterization of cytotoxic proteins from mistletoe (Viscum album L.). Cancer Lett 51 (2): 103-8, 1990.
  60. Gabius HJ, Darro F, Remmelink M, et al.: Evidence for stimulation of tumor proliferation in cell lines and histotypic cultures by clinically relevant low doses of the galactoside-binding mistletoe lectin, a component of proprietary extracts. Cancer Invest 19 (2): 114-26, 2001.
  61. Dietrich JB, Ribéreau-Gayon G, Jung ML, et al.: Identity of the N-terminal sequences of the three A chains of mistletoe (Viscum album L.) lectins: homology with ricin-like plant toxins and single-chain ribosome-inhibiting proteins. Anticancer Drugs 3 (5): 507-11, 1992.
  62. Jäggy C, Musielski H, Urech K, et al.: Quantitative determination of lectins in mistletoe preparations. Arzneimittelforschung 45 (8): 905-9, 1995.
  63. Burger AM, Mengs U, Schüler JB, et al.: Anticancer activity of an aqueous mistletoe extract (AME) in syngeneic murine tumor models. Anticancer Res 21 (3B): 1965-8, 2001 May-Jun.
  64. Janssen O, Scheffler A, Kabelitz D: In vitro effects of mistletoe extracts and mistletoe lectins. Cytotoxicity towards tumor cells due to the induction of programmed cell death (apoptosis). Arzneimittelforschung 43 (11): 1221-7, 1993.
  65. Zarkovic N, Vukovic T, Loncaric I, et al.: An overview on anticancer activities of the Viscum album extract Isorel. Cancer Biother Radiopharm 16 (1): 55-62, 2001.
  66. Maier G, Fiebig HH: Absence of tumor growth stimulation in a panel of 16 human tumor cell lines by mistletoe extracts in vitro. Anticancer Drugs 13 (4): 373-9, 2002.
  67. Mueller EA, Anderer FA: Chemical specificity of effector cell/tumor cell bridging by a Viscum album rhamnogalacturonan enhancing cytotoxicity of human NK cells. Immunopharmacology 19 (1): 69-77, 1990 Jan-Feb.

    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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