… “For the production of Iscador, mistletoe plants are harvested in the summer — the stems and leaves — and in the winter — the stems, leaves and berries — and then are fermented with lactobacillus,” Renatus Ziegler, a research scientist at Institute Hiscia in Arlesheim, Switzerland, told Discovery News.
Various species of lactobacillus, a type of bacteria, are also used in the production of many foods and drinks such as yogurt, beer, wine and pickles.
Ziegler and co-author Ronald Grossarth-Maticek studied cervical and ovarian cancer patients to see how they might benefit in the long run if mistletoe extracts, such as Iscador, were added to their treatment regimes.
Ziegler explained that, “mistletoe is an old medical drug in Europe, particularly in Germany, and goes back at least to Hippocrates.”
“The exact mechanism of its (healing) actions are not known,” she said, adding that prior studies, both on animals and in the lab, have indicated it curbs the growth of cancerous tumors.
Holiday celebrants, however, should never just munch on mistletoe … Kienle told Discovery News, “There is good evidence that (Viscum album) improves the quality of life of patients, and moderate evidence that it prolongs life and can induce tumor remission using high dosage and local application.” – discovery
Isn’t it deadly if you eat it? Probably not.
In reality, studies show that mistletoe is not quite as hazardous as it is made out to be. The plant does in fact contain harmful chemicals like viscotoxins, which can cause gastrointestinal distress, a slowed heartbeat and other reactions.
But in studies of hundreds of cases of accidental ingestion over the years, there were no fatalities and only a handful of severe reactions. One study published in 1996 looked at 92 cases of mistletoe ingestion and found that only a small fraction of patients showed any symptoms. Eight of 10 people who consumed five or more berries had no symptoms, and 3 of the 11 people who consumed only leaves had upset stomachs.
Other studies have found similar effects, suggesting that while mistletoe can be toxic, its lethal reputation is not quite deserved. –spi