Mistletoe: A possible cancer treatment?

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Mistletoe: A possible cancer treatment?

Question

I've heard that mistletoe may help fight cancer. Is this true?

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Answer

The liquid extract from European mistletoe — which is different from American mistletoe — has long been used as an alternative cancer treatment in Europe. Proponents believe that certain substances in mistletoe may help boost the immune system and slow or stop cancer growth. However, published studies have had conflicting results.

In Europe, mistletoe extracts are prescription drugs that are given by injection. Mistletoe injections have not yet received approval in the United States. However, this may change. The National Institutes of Health is currently conducting a study to examine the safety and effectiveness of mistletoe injections, given in combination with the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine, as a cancer treatment.

It is important to note that you should never eat any part of a mistletoe plant or drink mistletoe extract because mistletoe is a poisonous plant. Ingesting mistletoe may cause vomiting, convulsions, seizures and even death. Keep mistletoe plants out of reach of children and pets.

Last Updated: 12/14/2005
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