Mistletoe for Cancer Therapy
Mistletoe has been used for cancer treatment in Anthroposophic medicine for nearly 100 years. An estimated 30% of all cancer patients in some European countries will use mistletoe as an additional therapy to support them through treatment. Through the work of Believe Big mistletoe therapy for cancer is starting a resurgence in the United States. Viscum album is the species of European mistletoe used medicinally. Our European friends specially collect and prepare the mistletoe and deliver it in ampules.
Role in Cancer
Unlike conventional medicine, mistletoe is useful in almost every type of cancer. At the lower conventional doses studies have shown that mistletoe therapy has a positive effect on the immune system, quality of life and improves the tolerability of standard therapy for cancer (chemotherapy and radiation therapy). Studies have only found synergistic effects between chemotherapy and mistletoe therapy.
Mistletoe is commonly given for the purpose of reducing tumor size and slowing disease progression. There is accumulating evidence that in high doses mistletoe has even stronger anti-cancer effects. Case reports of remissions¹ ² ³ after high dose intravenous mistletoe exist in the medical literature and our experience has been positive in both quality and quantity of life.
Mistletoe therapy is administered under the direction of a physician. Conventionally mistletoe is administered in a small subcutaneous injection into the fat in the abdomen (like insulin). Doses are kept low at first and then slowly increased in a stepwise fashion. The expected and desired reaction is similar to a bee sting with local warmth swelling and redness that fades over a couple of days. Injections continue through cancer treatment and are typically continued at stepped down intervals afterwards.
Other methods of administration include intravenous administration and injecting mistletoe directly into tumors or affected lymph nodes. When injecting intravenously this gives the opportunity to combine another powerful agent, Vitamin C with this therapy. Injection into tumors seems to be more effective due to the immuno-stimulating effects of mistletoe combined with the direct cancer killing properties it has. The immune cells are summoned to a place where they can be “shown” pieces of killed cancer cells, hopefully triggering further work from the immune system itself.
A shift in recent decades to higher dosing of mistletoe has taken place. In those who can tolerate several initial escalating high doses of mistletoe being delivered, a strong anti cancer effect can come about. Dosing starts with intravenous as it is better tolerated and then proceeds to high dose subcutaneous dosing. This dosing method often creates fever, muscle aches and shakes during the hours after therapy.
The cost of obtaining mistletoe in lower conventional dosing is approximately $50-$100 per month through therapy though costs may change depending on how much mistletoe is needed. After the main treatment phase the cost is a fraction of this as mistletoe is injected less frequently.
High dose therapy uses about $150- 300 of supplies total, as well as $100-400 per month of mistletoe initially (this varies considerably due to individual response to mistletoe).
Mistletoe therapy has been shown over the last century to be safe. Most reactions are actually desired effects of mistletoe and should not be dampened down with ibuprofen or other NSAIDS or Tylenol.
Rare reaction of pseudo-allergy have taken place with the development of generalized hives. Reports of true anaphylaxis are exceedingly rare. It is prudent to have a plan in the case of side effects but most patients using mistletoe only have the desired immune system side effects.
How Mistletoe Works
Mistletoe was rediscovered on the basis of insights from the Austrian seer and friend of humanity, Rudolph Steiner. He claimed to see in this plant a counter to the disease process of cancer in the human body. Indications were given and are still being developed in how to gather, prepare, and administer mistletoe. Laboratory studies were only conducted much later in this plant’s development as a remedy.
Mistletoe’s activity on the immune system is mainly due to lectins and polysaccharides. The lectins are most well known. The lectin content of many mistletoe preparations has been standardized. Lectins have been shown to tell macrophages to kill “nonself” cells, increase cytokine secretion (TNF-alpha, IL-1, IL-2, and IL-6), and increase important cell killing effects on various cell lines. Laboratory studies show an increase and vigorous response of white blood cells, especially the cancer killing natural killer cell.
The lectins, viscotoxins and alkaloids also stimulate the body’s cytotoxic activity. They inhibit cancer cells’ protein synthesis (shutting down its cellular processes) and trigger cancer cells to commit suicide (apoptosis). Furthermore, mistletoe stimulates the body to produce endorphins which increase the sense of well being and decrease pain sensation.