Mistletoe (European)

Also known by these names

  • ABNOBA viscum
  • Abnoba-viscum
  • All-heal
  • Birdlime
  • Cefalektin
  • Eurixor
  • Helixor
  • Iscador
  • Iscador Qu
  • Lektinol
  • Quercus
  • Viscum
  • Viscum album
  • White-berry mistletoe

BCCT plans to write a summary on magnolia bark (honokiol). While our summary is in development, you can visit these sites:

Clinical Practice Guidelines

The 2017 Society for Integrative Oncology clinical practice guidelines for breast cancer give these recommendations:1

  • Grade C recommendation for co-administering mistletoe with conventional treatment for improving quality of life in those with breast cancer. Grade C "recommends selectively offering or providing this service to individual patients based on professional judgment and patient preferences (there is at least moderate certainty that the net benefit is small)."
  • Insufficient evidence to recommend using it for neutropenia/leukopenia in breast cancer.

Access

According to Gunver Kienle, Dr. Med, about half of all cancer patients in Germany use mistletoe. Breast cancer patients represent more than half of those using it. Anyone can purchase it in the pharmacy, but Dr, Kienle says having a doctor to prescribe and monitor it is much better. About half of doctors prescribe it and appreciate it. Some physicians are very experienced and knowledgeable, using very sophisticated methods of applying mistletoe, such as directly injected into the tumor, or by intravenous (IV) administration. Considered a drug, it is regulated by the German drug agency. Herbs are also regulated by the same agency in Germany.

In the US, however, the legal status of mistletoe is in limbo. The FDA previously approved the formulation Iscar for homeopathic use, but has since reversed that approval until it reviews the manufacturing plant in Sweden. However, people with cancer can apply to the FDA for compassionate use of mistletoe, assuming they have no other legal treatment options available to them. Look for more information on how to obtain Mistletoe legally if you are in the United States as we complete this page.

According to Dr. Kienle, “High-dose IV or intralesional use is considered off-label and should be restricted to and monitored by experienced physicians."2

Cautions

Several cautions, contraindications, adverse events and herb-drug interactions are described in the About Herbs and the CAM-Cancer summaries (links above). BCCT urges you to read these summaries for details about these cautions. BCCT strongly advises that if you are thinking about using mistletoe, you seek a physician knowledgeable and experienced in its use to prescribe it and monitor your response.

According to Neil McKinney, ND, mistletoe should not be used with a fever greater than 100.4°F (38°C). He advises not using it if the recipient has ascites (abdominal fluid) or in-brain tumors or other tumors in tight compartments where an immune response can cause initial inflammatory edema (swelling) and subsequent compression of vital structures. Dr. McKinney says mistletoe may activate a hidden focus of infection, such as dental abscess. He also cautions that increased cytokine release may aggravate cachexia (wasting). He considers mistletoe to be contraindicated in pregnancy, breastfeeding, tuberculosis, biliary stenosis, liver failure, heart failure, kidney failure, hyperthyroidism, and with interferon or interleukin therapies.3

Dosing

BCCT does not recommend therapies or doses, but only provides information for patients and providers to consider as part of a complete treatment plan. Patients should discuss therapies with their physicians, as contraindications, interactions and side effects must be evaluated.

Dosage recommendations are available from these sources:

Integrative Programs, Protocols and Medical Systems

For more information about programs and protocols, see our Integrative Programs and Protocols page.
  • Programs and protocols
    • Alschuler & Gazella complementary approaches4
      • Bladder cancer
      • Breast cancer
      • Colorectal cancer
      • Leukemia
      • Lymphoma
      • Multiple myeloma
      • Pancreatic cancer
      • list specific protocols
    • McKinney protocols5
      • Dr. McKinney points out that the type of mistletoe you use is important: Helixor type A or P or Iscador type P, etc. He distinguishes which type he uses when describing each cancer he uses it for. Please see his book for these distinctions:
      • Brain cancer (the type of mistletoe you use in this setting is very important, as some can cause brain swelling and inflammation)
      • Bladder cancer
      • Head and neck cancer (don’t use if a tumor is in a confined space)
      • Leukemia
      • Melanoma
      • Multiple myeloma
      • Renal cancer
      • Sarcoma (osteo-muscular)
  • Traditional systems

View All References

More Information

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Comments (1)

  1. Danielle Rice:
    Nov 08, 2018 at 10:21 AM

    My integrative care physician in Philadelphia was able to write me a prescription for Iscador. I e-mailed the prescription to a recommended drug store in Germany and they filled it for me. They will ship the drug to me in refrigerated containers and I will take the drug to my doctor so that he can show me how to self-administer and make sure that I'm familiar with side effects and risks. It's a bit convoluted but not that hard to obtain!

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