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Mistletoe Therapy

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Mistletoe Therapy in Scottsdale, Arizona For Cancer Treatment

Mistletoe (Viscum album) is a poisonous, semi-parasitic plant that grows on various host trees native to Europe and Western Asia. Its medicinal use dates back centuries to the ancient civilizations of the Druids and Greeks.

Today, preparations of its extracts are some of the most common holistic therapies used in oncology worldwide. With over 200 clinical studies, there’s no denying its safety and utility in cancer care.

The mistletoe plant blooms in winter and has a unique spherical growth pattern that mimics a tumor. Interestingly enough, it also grows independent of the sun and gravity.

Mistletoe therapy holistic cancer treatment

It contains numerous active constituents, but its effects on the immune system and tumor-inhibiting properties are primarily due to a group of compounds called lectins.

Different mistletoe products contain varying amounts of these lectins and are thus indicated for different conditions or tumor types.

If you or someone you know has recently been diagnosed with cancer, it’s essential to gather and learn as much information about the disease as possible.

The integrative oncology team at Brio Medical in Scottsdale, Arizona, is experienced in the holistic treatment of cancer and is here to help guide you through your healing journey.

Dr. Miranda LaBant, NMD explains the future of Mistletoe therapy in more detail below.

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Mistletoe Therapy Delivery Methods

The most common delivery method of mistletoe is via subcutaneous injection at a frequency of two to three times per week. Once in the system, its effects take hold on several different levels.

Mistletoe therapy delivery methods

First and foremost, it stimulates an immune response which can be observed by a localized skin reaction around the injection site, as well as a rise in body temperature.

As it recruits and activates immune cells, it also can induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancerous cells and block angiogenesis (new blood supply).

In addition, mistletoe extracts have been shown to stabilize and protect the DNA of healthy cells against damage caused by other cytotoxic therapies. These attributes make mistletoe a beneficial therapy for cancer patients at all stages of the disease.

Many of the clinical studies examining mistletoe use in cancer patients have shown improved outcomes, both in conjunction with conventional treatments and as stand-alone adjuvant therapy.

Another compelling benefit, which has been observed in a multitude of clinical trials, is improved quality of life measures.

Among those are fewer or less severe side effects from chemotherapy, such as fatigue, depression, nausea, vomiting, and improved emotional well-being and concentration. In addition, mistletoe therapy has very few side effects—the most common being mild soreness and inflammation at injection sites, headache, fever, and chills.

Despite mistletoe’s long track record of clinical use in Europe and several Asian countries, it has yet to be fully adopted by Western medicine.

According to the FDA, it remains in a nebulous category of unproven biologic therapies. However, in 2016 it was approved for a large phase I study at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, where a large cohort of cancer patients is to be enrolled and given mistletoe alongside conventional treatments.

Hopefully, the published results of this study will bring awareness and acceptance of the benefits of this therapy and its broad application across the field of oncology.

Benefits of Mistletoe Therapy for Breast Cancer Treatment

Some promising findings have shown mistletoe as a viable option for breast cancer treatment. There are studies showing the anticancer activity of mistletoe extracts on breast cancer cells and animal models. Recent evidence shows cytotoxic activity (quality of being toxic to certain types of cells) of mistletoe may be induced via different approaches, providing a substantive base for clinical trials. Various studies on mistletoe treatment for those diagnosed with breast cancer supplied similar evidence regarding advantages for health-related quality of life, survival span, rates of remission, and reduction of side effects from conventional therapy.

“In experiments using Iscador Q, Iscador M, and Iscador P [mistletoe extract], Ramaekers et al. in 2007 [65] indicated that different Iscador preparations can induce cell cycle inhibition and tumor cell regression. They observed concentration-dependent inhibition in cell cycle machinery, particularly complete inhibition of S-phase progression in MCF7 breast cancer cell line.”

Benefits of Mistletoe Therapy for Liver Cancer Treatment

An interesting case study about mistletoe for liver cancer comes from a 37-year-old mother of 4 who was diagnosed and treated for colon cancer. She had 15 inches of colon and 28 lymph nodes removed learned after surgery that the cancer had spread to her liver.

She underwent more surgery to remove 20 percent of her liver. Still, instead of undergoing conventional chemotherapy for additional treatment, she chose mistletoe therapy, suggested by another consulting doctor on the case (Peter Hinderberger of Baltimore’s Ruscombe Mansion Community Health Center).

From Luis Diaz, an associate professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine on this case:

“I’m an oncologist who treats with chemotherapy – and I’m really good at it – and here’s somebody who says not only do I not want chemotherapy, but I still want you to be my oncologist while I’m getting mistletoe,” Diaz says. “I reviewed the literature on mistletoe in other parts of the world and there is some acceptance of it. I was willing to work with her.”

The next time the doctor saw his patient, he was amazed. “The one thing I noticed was that as soon as she went on it, she started feeling better,” he recalls. “That’s a universal feature I’ve seen in all patients who get mistletoe. Their [color] improves; they have more energy.”

The mother of four has experienced full recovery since her procedure. She regards the improved state of her health as the combined effects of surgery, diet and exercise, and mistletoe treatment.

Studies of Mistletoe Therapy Extracts in Humans

Most clinical trials using mistletoe extract have been performed in Europe, mostly as adjuvant therapy in those diagnosed with cancer. Here are two studies using large numbers of patients:

  • Between 1993 and 2000 a retrospective cohort study was performed with 800 patients to examine mistletoe extract for adjuvant treatment long-term. Chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy for colorectal cancer was employed, and conclusions found that those using mistletoe experienced reduced adverse events, improved symptom relief, and increased disease-free survival rates versus those not using mistletoe therapy.
  • A 2013 study examined mistletoe use with advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer patients. Best supportive care practices were used, and patients received random assignments for mistletoe or anti-cancer approach. Results in 200 patients showed that those receiving mistletoe therapy experienced improved survival and lowered symptoms connected with diseases such as weight loss, fatigue, anxiety, diarrhea, nausea, and pain as compared with those not using mistletoe therapy.

Mistletoe’s Potential Benefits For the Immune System

Mistletoe is noted for its benefit to the immune system and the ability to improve quality of life because its “anti-tendency” is suitable for treating nearly all types of tumors. Following injection into the tumor site, a rash is created, signaling the mounting of an immune system attack. Mistletoe use increases the production of several white cell blood types.

These white blood cells release cytokines (a division of a cell that occurs during the conclusion of mitosis or meiosis, allowing separation into two daughter cells) such as tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1 and interleukin-6 that are of immune-system enhancing nature. Mistletoe enables the synthesis of protein in specified cells to facilitate the natural destruction of rogue cells, called apoptosis.

Treatment also can dramatically reduce side effects and improve tolerance of conventional treatments – including chemotherapy – without lowering efficacy rates/outcomes.

Mistletoe Therapy FAQs

What is mistletoe therapy?

Mistletoe therapy is a type of complementary and alternative medicine particularly popular in Europe, where it is used to support overall health, bolster the immune system, and as a treatment for cancer. The therapy involves the injection or sometimes oral administration of mistletoe extract. Mistletoe (Viscum album) is a semi-parasitic plant that grows on various host trees.

How does mistletoe therapy work?

Mistletoe extracts contain various biologically active compounds, including mistletoe lectins, viscotoxins, and other immunomodulatory substances. These components are believed to stimulate the immune system, inducing apoptosis (cell death) in cancer cells, slowing tumor growth, and improving the quality of life by reducing symptoms related to cancer and its treatment, such as fatigue and nausea.

What are the side effects of mistletoe therapy?

The side effects of mistletoe therapy can include redness, swelling, or itching at the injection site. Some people may experience mild flu-like symptoms, including fever, chills, headache, and body aches. Severe allergic reactions are rare, but they can occur. It is crucial to undergo mistletoe therapy under the supervision of a health professional who can monitor for adverse effects and adjust the treatment protocol accordingly.

Can mistletoe therapy be combined with other cancer treatments?

Mistletoe therapy is often used as a complementary treatment. However, there is evidence suggesting that mistletoe therapy can help mitigate the side effects of conventional treatments and improve patients' quality of life. However, it's critical to discuss this with your health provider before starting any new therapy or supplement.

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