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En excerpt from the book : 

by Ross, R.Ph. Pelton, Lee Overholser

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EUROPEAN MISTLETOE {Viscum album} has been used in the treatment of many diseases, including cancer, for thousands of years. The druids considered it a sacred plant because it grew on oaks, and thus seemed to be joined or "married" to their most revered tree.

Mistletoe is a semiparasitic plant that takes water and minerals from the host tree and returns sugars to the host, which it manufactures by normal plant photosynthesis. As a result, the composition of chemicals in mistletoe extract varies, depending on the species of the host tree.


Rudolf Steiner began using mistletoe as a cancer treatment in Germany during the 1920s, when he founded anthroposophic medicine, which is a combination of spiritual and scientific principles. (17) Steiner concluded that there are two levels of forces that organize the behavior of cells in living organisms. The "lower organizing forces" are responsible for cell division, growth, and expansion, while the "higher organizing forces" limit cellular growth, control cell differentiation, form the organs, and determine bodily shape. (20)

Steiner believed that cancer was caused by a weakness in the higher organizing forces that led to excess cell proliferation, poor cellular organization, and the eventual formation of tumors. (12) Certainly cancer cells exhibit a more primitive organization than normal cells. The higher organizing forces could refer to damage to the DNA that governs cellular function or to the failure of the immune system to identify and destroy abnormal cells.

Manufacture and Administration

Weleda AG (Switzerland and Germany) produces the oldest and most widely used preparation of mistletoe, under the trade name Iscador. Iscador has gained its greatest acceptance in Europe. It is primarily used to treat solid cancerous tumors before and after surgery and radiotherapy. The entire plant is ground up to make a water extract, which is fermented with the Lactobacillus plantarum bacterium and then filtered. It is administered by subcutaneous injection near or into the tumor. In the case of brain and spinal cord tumors, it is administered orally to prevent increased cranial pressure. (20)

The preparation can be given in a series of ten to fourteen injections before surgery, at the rate of one dose a day, which is normally administered in the morning, when body temperature is rising. The preparation is used to stimulate the immune system, prevent metastasis, and promote rapid recovery. It can also be administered as a follow-up treatment after surgery or radiation treatment for a period of several years in gradually decreasing doses, with greater intervals between doses.

Iscador has been used to treat cancer of the cervix, ovaries, breast, stomach, colon, and lungs, as well as advanced-stage, inoperable solid tumors. It is also used by some physicians to treat other conditions, some of which are associated with increased risk of cancer, such as ulcerative colitis, cervical erosion, leukoplakia or white lesions of the mucous membranes in the mouth and various organs, proliferative mastopathy or abnormal growth of breast tissue, papillomatosis of the bladder or abnormal growth of the lining of the bladder, intestinal polyps, chronic gastric ulcers, and senile keratosis or dark, scaly lesions of the skin. (22)

Mechanism of Action

Hartmut Franz studied certain chemicals contained in mistletoe extract, called lectins, which have a high level of biological activity. Lectins are proteins that can attach to sugar molecules and produce changes in cells. (4, 11) The mistletoe compound is a combination of an enzyme (the A chain) and a lectin (the B chain). Franz found that the A chain inhibits cell reproduction and inhibits protein synthesis in the cell.

The B chain stimulates macrophages, a type of killer white blood cell, and causes other white blood cells to release cell-destroying chemicals. Franz concluded that it is possible that the combination of strengthening the immune system and selectively attacking specific cells by the A and B chains is the source of the therapeutic effects of mistletoe preparations. (4)

Based on over twenty years of clinical experience, Tibor Ha-jito of the Lucas Clinic Laboratory of Immunology in Arlesheim, Switzerland, has concluded that Iscador may both inhibit tumor growth and stimulate the immune system. (6) He found that within twenty-four hours of administering Iscador, there were significant increases in natural killer (NK) cell activity and in antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC). ADCC is a term that describes the action of certain white blood cells that use antibodies to kill unwanted cells.

Hajito states that this immune response is similar to that found with alpha-interferon, and he suggests that Iscador may have an important role in treating cancer by strengthening the immune system. The separation of the A and B chains during fermentation might explain the effectiveness of Iscador in stimulating the natural killer cells. (6, 23)

One researcher, Dr. Taneem Khwaja of the University of Southern California Cancer Center, pointed out that the anti-cancer activities of mistletoe are different from other cytotoxic drugs, because it does not suppress the immune system. (13) There are many compounds found in fermented mistletoe preparations, and Khwaja suggests that they may reinforce one another's activity; thus, studying isolated compounds will not give the whole picture. This may explain why some researchers found no therapeutic activity in purified mistletoe proteins. (1,3, 14)

A study of the effect of fermentation on the anticancer effects

of mistletoe preparations (23) found that fermented Iscador was more potent in attacking rat liver cancer cells, while the unfer-mented preparation had a strong effect on a strain of human leukemia cells. Both preparations dissolved the cellular membranes of the cancer cells. This and other studies (5, 6) support the conclusion that the various components of Iscador enhance one another's effects.

Clinical Studies

In a clinical trial by Tibor Hajito and his associate Christine Lanzrein, twenty breast cancer patients were given a single intravenous injection of Iscador. (7) Hajito and Lanzrein found that within six hours of the injection natural killer (NK) cell activity and antibody-dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity (ADCC) decreased, and then significantly increased a day later. This result could explain the number of studies (16, 18, 25) that demonstrate that Iscador has a selective growth-inhibitory effect on several different types of tumor cells.

A study of fermented mistletoe preparations from plants with different host trees on rat liver tumor cells produced a dose-dependent inhibition of the cultured cancer cells, with the oak tree preparation showing twice the potency of the apple tree preparation. (24)

An investigation of the treatment of a patient with small cell lung cancer with Iscador and homeopathic remedies appeared to produce a positive response. (2) With subsequent radiation therapy the patient lived for five years and seven months, which is an unusually long survival time for this aggressive cancer. A survival time of over three years is uncommon. (10)

Biological Activity

Early investigations of Iscador showed that the herbal preparation stimulates the action of the immune system (3) and enlarges the thymus gland, a major element in the immune system. (19) A later study replicated these results and showed that Iscador produced faster regeneration of the tissues that produce red blood cells after X-ray therapy. (21) This would explain why Iscador aids in recovery after radiation treatments.

Another study, using cancer patients and healthy volunteers, found that small, nontoxic doses of mistletoe lectin activated tumor-killing mechanisms, especially the natural killer (NK) cells, which "apparently play an important role in immune surveillance against primary tumors and in defense against tumor spread." (8) Hajito and others showed that mistletoe lectins enhance nonspecific defense mechanisms of the immune system, including the release of tumor necrosis factor alpha, which attacks and kills tumor cells. (9)

Finally, a recent study found increased rates of DNA repair in breast cancer patients receiving Iscador. Since DNA controls the basic cell metabolism and organization, this could be helpful in converting cancer cells to healthy cells. (15) Interestingly enough, this tends to confirm the approach of Steiner and an-throposophic medicine, which contends that Iscador can restore the higher organizing functions of cells.

Dosage and Toxicity

Iscador is a potentially toxic compound that can have serious side effects when taken in excess, and, therefore, should be administered only under the supervision of a physician experienced in its use. The studies by Hajito and others indicate that it is non-toxic at therapeutic levels. (6-9, 18, 19) In particular, no one should attempt to make any homemade extracts, because both the leaves and berries of mistletoe contain poisonous compounds.

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