Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant that grows on various host trees. Although some oral mistletoe products are sold as dietary supplements and homeopathic medicine, most scientific research has only evaluated intravenous or injected formulations that are not approved as prescription drugs in the United States.
Basic research shows that mistletoe extracts stimulates the immune system. Studies in humans show that mistletoe treatment may improve symptoms and reduce side effects of cancer treatments. A few studies indicate it may also have some effects on survival. It has been used for hundreds of years to treat medical conditions such as epilepsy, hypertension, headaches, menopausal symptoms, infertility, arthritis, and rheumatism. Mistletoe is one of the most widely studied complementary and alternative medicine therapies for cancer.
Onset and course of therapy
When should mistletoe therapy begin?
Mistletoe therapy can be started early, even immediately after diagnosis or before surgery, if this is planned. Since mistletoe therapy activates the immune system and thus promotes resistance, the body will be well prepared for the stress that surgery causes to the body. But a later start is also acceptable.
Can mistletoe therapy also be performed during chemo- and/or radiotherapy?
Yes, because mistletoe therapy can reduce the adverse effects of chemotherapy, radiation, hormone, or antibody/immune therapy. However, it is essential to ensure that the injection is given outside the radiation field, otherwise the skin can become highly inflamed. Also avoid injecting near sites where surgery will occur.
Does mistletoe interfere with the effects of other drugs?
No, so far there are no known negative interactions with other drugs. The studies available so far show that mistletoe therapy can be well combined with conventional treatment methods like chemo- radio-, hormone or antibody therapy. It can also reduce some of their undesirable effects.
How long does the treatment take?
Mistletoe therapy is often a long-term therapy but needs to be prescribed and monitored by a specially trained health professional. How long the therapy lasts in individual cases depends on how the disease develops and how the person reacts to the therapy.
Do blood levels need to be measured?
In most cases the blood levels are determined once at the beginning of mistletoe therapy and monitored repeatedly at longer intervals during the treatment. Each doctor decides which examinations are necessary in the individual case based on the disease situation.
Does mistletoe therapy influence tumor markers?
The tumor markers change depending on the course of the disease. If the general condition improves or the tumor size reduces as a result of mistletoe therapy, the tumor markers may also decrease again. Testing markers within 4 to 6 weeks of starting mistletoe is not advised because the markers may look falsely elevated. It’s also recommended to avoid imaging studies within 6-8 weeks of starting mistletoe because the tumors may initially look larger before shrinking.
Is mistletoe therapy useful if metastases are already present?
Yes, because mistletoe therapy can improve quality of life and strengthen the immune system, which may be manifested, for example, in an increase in appetite and weight, mood, and normalization of sleep quality. It may also prevent new mets from forming.
Can mistletoe therapy relieve pain?
Mistletoe therapy may reduce the need for analgesics. Pain intensity depends on the tumor growth, your general condition and physical strength. As your condition improves and energy returns, your pain also decreases.
Which mistletoe preparation is the appropriate one?
There is no “right” or “wrong” mistletoe preparation. The most important aspects in the selection of the mistletoe preparation are the type and stage of the tumor, the patients’ individual symptoms and situation of the patient and above all, the question of what is to be achieved with mistletoe therapy. Considering these factors, the doctor needs to find the most suitable preparation. People who are sensitive to drugs may initially be given a rather low-dose mistletoe preparation – some manufacturers offer special preparation series with particularly low initial concentrations for this purpose.
Is the reddening of the skin an allergy?
No, redness at the injection site up to 2 in diameter is a sign that the immune system reacts to mistletoe therapy, which is a desired effect.
The red spot itches – is that an indication of an allergic reaction?
No, this is not an indication of an allergy either. The itching can occur when the mild local inflammation caused by the mistletoe extract subsides.
Is it dangerous if mistletoe therapy causes fever?
An increased temperature of up to 100.4 °F is desired because the body is stimulated to regulate the body temperature. This ability is often weakened in cancer patients. Many cancer patients who are always shivering feel comfortably warmed up following subcutaneous mistletoe therapy. If temperatures exceed 100.4 °F and persist for more than 3 days, an infectious process or tumor fever should also be considered. If higher fever develops during mistletoe infusion (up to 100.4 °F), this may be therapeutically useful. However, this therapy variant is an off-label application and should therefore always be under medical supervision. If the body temperature remains above 100.4 °F for more than three days, you should consult your doctor.
Can mistletoe stimulate tumor proliferation?
Neither laboratory experiments nor more than 150 clinical studies have found evidence that mistletoe therapy could stimulate tumor proliferation.
Please note that this is considered advanced therapy and you must be a current patient to receive this therapy. Our patients have access to functional medicine options that compliment other treatments being received by their oncologists. If you are ready to discuss further, or to schedule, please reach out to our Wellness Consultants at (281) 298-6742 (and hit option 1).
Patient Information Handouts:
**Please note these are provided by outside sources for informational purposes only. Costs and protocols may vary from what is currently offered at The Woodlands Institute for Health and Wellness. Please refer to the handouts (links above) for current pricing and protocols.