Did you know that Iscador (homeopathic preparation of mistletoe) is the most commonly prescribed oncological drug in Germany?

Actually, according to the Wikipedia entry, some 60% of all oncological treatments in central Europe include some form of mistletoe. You probably didn’t know that. Any inconvenient truths are suppressed by the US medical mafia and their media allies.

They cling here to the feeble obsession that the US way is the “only way” and by inference, therefore the correct way. Of course this has more to do with protecting profits than any subsumed moral or scientific right. But it’s curious, isn’t it, that all humble and inexpensive treatments are “bad”, “unproven” or even “dangerous”!

Iscador was originally introduced by German philosopher, educationalist and healer Rudolph Steiner (1861- 1925). Steiner went on to found a whole healing system called anthroposophic medicine—literally “human-loving”.

Iscador is actually a lactobacillus-fermented extract of the European mistletoe plant, Viscum album and is available here in the USA, by prescription, as the drug Iscar. None of what is written here applies to the American mistletoe, Phoradendron serotinum (we just don’t know).

Mistletoe colorful history

Do you know why we kiss under the mistletoe at Christmas? Millennia ago, in the days of the Druids in Europe, Yule was a highly celebrated event (it survives as our Christmas, which has nothing to do with Jesus’ supposed birthday). The drink and partying went on for days. So did the wild promiscuous sex!

Mistletoe was the chosen contraceptive. A decoction of this sacred plant taken by women gave them a few days in which they could make whoopee, without the inconvenience of becoming pregnant.

Fast forward 3,000 years or more and today we settle for a coy little kiss under a sprig of mistletoe. My, how times have changed!

Other uses of mistletoe

Mistletoe has been known medicinally since the earliest times. The Druids were well aware of its fabulous healing properties and called it “All-Heal”. Mistletoe growing on oak trees was especially prized. A Bronze Age burial found in England contained a skeleton covered with oak branches and mistletoe. The two plants have been associated with one another and held sacred in Britain since prehistoric times.

Mistletoe is, of course, very toxic and needs caution in use. It acts on the central nervous system: causing numbness, slowing of the heartbeat and is a specific against epilepsy: small doses stop spasms and convulsions. It is also prescribed as a diuretic, for high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries and chilblains.

Definitely not recommended as a contraceptive, even if it does work!

Anti-cancer properties

The tumor-fighting possibilities of mistletoe have been known for centuries.

As I reported, the use of mistletoe is still widespread in Europe, where it does not need to prove itself. Many cancer patients use natural supplements in conjunction with cytotoxic chemotherapy, but little is known about their potential interaction.
One survey showed that over 60% of all German cancer patients used mistletoe in some form—frequently in conjunction with standard cancer treatments such as radiation, chemotherapy, or surgery. 
[Bussing A: Mistletoe: A story with an open end. Anticancer Drugs 8:S1-S2, 1997 (suppl 1)]

Formulations are sometimes labeled based on the tree from which the mistletoe was harvested; M for Malus (apple); P for Pinus (pine); Q for Quercus (oak); and U for Ulmus (elm) with different effects attributed to each. Each varietal is considered right for different cancers.

So what about scientific proof?

I was coming to that. Surprisingly, conventional literature is littered with references to the use of various forms of mistletoe. I’ve resorted to just a few.

Multiple scientific reports suggest that Iscador augments the immune response. Iscador has been shown to increase natural-killer cell function and antibody dependent cell-mediated cytotoxicity. It enhance cytotoxicity of granulocytes and macrophages, and heighten delayed-type hyerpsensitivity response. Iscador has also been shown to stimulate T lymphocyte migration in vitro.

A landmark study was published in 2001 in the peer-reviewed journal Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. It was designed to assess any improvement in survival times of patients with carcinoma of the colon, rectum, stomach, breast and lung.

Altogether 10,226 cancer patients were involved in this long-term study, including 1668 patients treated with Iscador and 8475 who had taken neither Iscador nor any other mistletoe product (control patients).

The outcomes were very good. The patients who took Iscador survived 4.2 years, on average; the control group 3.05 years. That’s a 40% improvement—better than most chemo! (remember chemo success is NOT judged by survival times but by tumor shrinkage).
[Altern Ther Health Med. 2001 May-Jun;7(3):57-66, 68-72, 74-6 passim. Use of Iscador, an extract of European mistletoe (Viscum album), in cancer treatment: prospective nonrandomized and randomized matched-pair studies nested within a cohort study. Grossarth-Maticek R, Kiene H, Baumgartner SM, Ziegler R].

Most recent mistletoe study

A new study, published Dec 25th 2008, along with two other related papers, in the European Journal of Integrative Medicine, showed much the same thing (not quite such good survival).

Renatus Ziegler, a research scientist at Institute Hiscia in Arlesheim, Switzerland  and co-author Ronald Grossarth-Maticek studied cervical and ovarian cancer patients to see how they might benefit in the long run if fermented mistletoe extracts, such as Iscador, were added to their treatment regimes.

Over the course of a few decades, cancer patients who received mistletoe preparations lived an average of half a year longer and experienced reduced drug reactions, could better withstand chemotherapy, and had prolonged remission periods.

So the best take-home for this recent study is that it definitely prolongs survival but also improves the quality of life.

One this note, I found a 2005 paper studying the immune system of ear, nose and throat carcinoma patients treated with radiation and chemotherapy that was interesting in the context. It found that adverse effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy on the microcirculation and the immune system were significantly decreased and reconstitution processes were accelerated by complementary administration of a standardized mistletoe extract (Iscador).
[Anticancer Res. 2005 Jan-Feb;25(1B):601-10].

Potential side effects of Iscador

Side effects are very mild and benign. They include flu-like symptoms, gingivitis, fever, local erythema, and eosinophilia.

Anaphylactic reactions have been reported but they happen with virtual any substance. None of this seem to me to be worth worrying about.
Sometimes there is a skin sensitivity reaction, especially with sun-exposure. Severe reactions are said to have occurred with the use of methotrexate, but that’s pretty evil stuff on its own!
This is all that is known and therefore makes Viscum a proven much safer drug than anything in the conventional armoury against cancer. Oncologists take note!


Let me make it clear right off that Viscum in all its forms, including Iscador, and especially referring to decoctions of the plant berries, is NOT a matter for self-administration.

Get yourself a knowledgeable herbalist, homeopath or, better still, an alternative MD who knows all the wider issues of cancer markers etc.

The usual route of administration is by injection of the Viscum just under the skin. Each day of therapy a more concentrated version is administered. After the first few daily doses, a red swelling often appears at the injection site. There may be a transient fever, which most CAM doctors would theorize plays a positive role in the beneficial action of Iscador. Once the maximum-strength dose is reached, the injections are continued regularly, the length of time judged by the treating physician.

Generally speaking, I prefer HEEL’s preparation Viscum compositum. It is usually recommended to take it with Echinacea compositum (from HEEL), alternating every couple of days.

I found this often provoked a fever response, reminiscent of Coley’s toxins fever therapy.

Latterly (well, 1990s), Dr. Patrick Kingsley, who I regard as a mentor in this domain, taught me the use of Abnoba’s viscum range.

Abnoba suggest different host trees for different cancers:

So, for example, the apple tree (Malus) is said to be good for breast cancer; oak (Quercus) is used for the gastrointestinal tract and the male sex organs; ash (Frexini) has a high concentration of viscotoxins and lectins in Viscum album, Fraxini can be recommended for the treatment of metastatic tumour diseases. 

Dr. Kingsley reported to me a remarkable case of recovery. A man with multiple melanoma had present as a bowel blockage, caused by a melanoma the size of a baseball in his gut. After resection the patient started on Viscum, injected into one of the skin lesions; it began to shrink steadily after each shot. It quickly disappeared and Dr. Kinsley had to choose another site for injection. There were scores of these skin lesions but the interesting thing that happened was that, although the shots were only to one site each time, soon ALL of them started to recede at once. Eventually, they all disappeared.

To conclude, I found one reasonably well done conventional trial for Abnoba Quercus in the Journal of Oncology, vol 21, no 3, 2004, which said it didn’t work. This was on a bunch of cases resistant to all other therapy, so not quite a fair trial! Still, we must acknowledge they tested it (and they chose the correct varietal).

Perhaps the advisory from Abnoba is critical: the selection of the host tree by your doctor, however, also depends very substantially on the treatment plan and above all on the individual disease. In individual cases it may occur that in the treatment of breast cancer that mistletoe from the pine tree (Pini) or Viscum album Abietis (fir tree) is used instead of the frequently employed "Mali" species (apple tree). This is done in order to make the body react in a different way to the different compositions of the ingredients.

Mistletoe’s other names

True Mistletoe, All-Heal, Heal-All, Holy Wood, Golden Bough, Druid’s Weed, Witches’ Broom, Wood of the Holy Cross, Devil’s Fugue, Birdlime, Lignum Sanctae Crucis, Omnia Sanantem.

Host trees include apple, pear, poplar, linden and oak. It is usually found high on the tree, especially on soft-barked apple, willow and poplar trees.

Viscum blooms from February to May with greenish or yellow flowers. The fruit is a small, round, transparent white berry with a black seed in viscous pulp. The berries ripen in late fall and stay on the plant all winter. Propagate by crushing the sticky berries against the bark of a tree. Birds, especially the thrush, spread mistletoe by wiping their beaks on trees after they have eaten the berries.

Finally, a poem:


"The day that is no day calls for a tree
That is no tree, of low yet lofty growth.
When the pale queen of Autumn casts her leaves
My leaves are freshly tufted on her boughs.
Look, the twin temple-posts of green and gold
The overshadowing lintel stone of white
For here with white and green and gold I shine –
Graft me upon the King when his sap rises
That I may bloom with him at the year’s prime,
That I may blind him in his hour of joy."

– Robert Graves, The White Goddess