Written by Mirjam Wuesthof and the CAM-Cancer Consortium.
Updated January 19, 2015

Mistletoe (Viscum album)

Abstract and key points

  • Extracts of the mistletoe plant are injected subcutaneously
  • Numerous studies in humans show immunomodulatory effects
  • RCTs are heterogeneous but the majority of over 20 RCTs show benefits in terms of quality of life
  • Only limited evidence for improvement of survival rates
  • No major safety issues have been reported

Extracts of the plant mistletoe (Viscum album) are highly popular in cancer care, particularly in Europe. Mistletoe extracts are usually injected subcutaneously. Providers claim that they improve quality of life and immunomodulation.

Based on 18 controlled clinical trials (CCTs), there is reasonably good evidence that mistletoe preparations improve quality of life during chemotherapy. Seven out of 14 CCTs also show improvement of survival. Because of heterogeneity and shortcomings of the studies no firm conclusions can be drawn.

Mistletoe preparations are generally well tolerated and safe. 

Read about the regulation, supervision and reimbursement of herbal medicine at NAFKAMs website CAM Regulation.

Citation

Mirjam Wuesthof, CAM-Cancer Consortium. Mistletoe (Viscum album) [online document]. http://cam-cancer.org/The-Summaries/Herbal-products/Mistletoe-Viscum-album. January 19, 2015.

Document history

Summary fully revised and updated in January 2015 by Mirjam Wuesthof.

Summary first published in March 2011, authored by Edzard Ernst.

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