Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey
195 Little Albany Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08903-2681
Mistletoe is a spiky green plant with small white berries. The leaves have been used with cancer therapies to help a person live a longer, better quality life. It can be taken as a pill, powder, or extract. Mistletoe can also be made into a tea. It is often injected under the skin. This should only be done by a doctor.
There aren’t any advised doses for mistletoe.
Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.
It is likely safe to take mistletoe in small amounts and use it on the skin for a short time, but it can cause the body to make too many white blood cells. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use mistletoe.
Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse, such as:B1-B6
A1. Melzer J, Iten F, et al. Efficacy and safety of mistletoe preparations (Viscum album) for patients with cancer diseases. A systematic review. Forsch Komplementmed. 2009;16(4):217-226.
A2. Kienle GS, Glockmann A, et al. Viscum album L. extracts in breast and gynaecological cancers: a systematic review of clinical and preclinical research. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2009 Jun 11;28:79.
A3. Ostermann T, Raak C, et al. Survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extract (Iscador): a systematic literature review. BMC Cancer. 2009 Dec 18;9:451.
A4. Kienle GS, Kiene H. Review article: Influence of Viscum album L (European mistletoe) extracts on quality of life in cancer patients: a systematic review of controlled clinical studies. Integr Cancer Ther. 2010 Jun;9(2):142-57.
A5. Huber R, Lüdtke H, et al. Safety and effects of two mistletoe preparations on production of Interleukin-6 and other immune parameters – a placebo controlled clinical trial in healthy subjects. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011;11:116.
A6. Ostermann T, Büssing A. Retrolective studies on the survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extracts: a meta-analysis. Explore (NY). 2012;8(5):277-281.
A7. Kim KC, Yook JH, et al. Quality of life, immunomodulation and safety of adjuvant mistletoe treatment in patients with gastric carcinoma - a randomized, controlled pilot study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Oct 3;12:172.
A8. Bar-Sela G, Wollner M, et al. Mistletoe as complementary treatment in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer treated with carboplatin-based combinations: a randomised phase II study. Eur J Cancer. 2013 Mar;49(5):1058-1064.
A9. Tröger W, Galun D, et al. Viscum album [L.] extract therapy in patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer: a randomised clinical trial on overall survival. Eur J Cancer. 2013 Dec;49(18):3788-3797.
A10. Tröger W, Galun D, et al. Quality of life in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer during treatment with mistletoe: a randomized controlled trial. Dtsch Arztabl Int. 2014;111(29-30):493-502.
A11. Pelzer F, Tröger W, et al. Complementary Treatment with Mistletoe Extracts During Chemotherapy: Safety, Neutropenia, Fever, and Quality of Life Assessed in a Randomized Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Sep/Oct;24(9-10):954-961.
A12. Freuding M, Keinki C, et al. Mistletoe in oncological treatment: a systematic review : Part 2: quality of life and toxicity of cancer treatment. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2019 Apr;145(4):927-939.
A13. Freuding M, Keinki C, et al. Mistletoe in oncological treatment: a systematic review: Part 1: survival and safety. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2019 Mar;145(3):695-707.
B1. Kienle GS, Grugel R, et al. Safety of higher dosages of Viscum album L. in animals and humans--systematic review of immune changes and safety parameters. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Aug 28;11:72. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-11-72. Review. PubMed PMID: 21871125; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3180269.
B2. Izzo AA. Interactions between herbs and conventional drugs: overview of the clinical data. Med Princ Pract. 2012;21(5):404-428.
B3. Teschke R, Wolff A, et al. Herbal hepatotoxicity: a tabular compilation of reported cases. Liver Int. 2012 Nov;32(10):1543-1556.
B4. Posadzki P, Watson LK, et al. Adverse effects of herbal medicines: an overview of systematic reviews. Clin Med (Lond). 2013 Feb;13(1):7-12.
B5. Posadzki P, Watson L, et al. Herb-drug interactions: an overview of systematic reviews. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Mar;75(3):603-618.
B6. Huber R, Schlodder D, et al. Safety of intravenously applied mistletoe extract - results from a phase I dose escalation study in patients with advanced cancer. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017 Sep 18;17(1):465.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC Last Updated: 6/29/2020