folklore, mistletoe ‘magic’ may seal romance, bestow fertility and
bring peace to warring spouses.
The plant has
also been credited with the power of healing – an attribute currently
being harnessed by a new outpatient unit at the independent Raphael
Medical Centre in Kent, which offers integrated cancer care.
uses mistletoe (known by its Latin plant name, viscum album) to
combat undesirable effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, such
as fatigue, nausea, weight loss, low mood and infections.
the herb boosts the immune system and may even help kill tumour
cells – particularly breast, gynaecological, colo-rectal, pancreatic
and lung cancer, along with lymphomas and leukaemia.
been so promising that Professor Gene Feder, a GP and Professor
of Primary Care at Bristol University, is initiating the UK’s first
From his GP
experience he says: ‘Patients receiving mistletoe during and after
radiotherapy or chemotherapy appear to tolerate those treatments
better. The university is planning a pilot double-blind randomised
controlled trial, and hope to start recruiting in Bristol in April.’
usually by injections – two a week for two years. Patients inject
at home after initial treatment by medical staff to monitor effects.
Orange MSc, who heads the integrated cancer care clinic at Raphael,
explains: ‘We look for inflammation at the injection site.
This may be
itchy, tender or painful for a day or two. Like after-effects of
a bee sting, redness indicates the body’s immune response. For this
treatment that’s desirable. After weeks or months of treatment it
within 24 hours of an injection we expect patients to feel off-colour,
fatigued, headachy with bodily aches and pains, and possibly raised
body temperature – like mild flu, but lasting about 12 hours. Again
it’s a positive sign. The immune system is firing into action. Depending
on reactions we adjust doses, increasing as patients get used to
Dr Orange stresses
that mistletoe is an adjunct to conventional cancer treatment. While
patients sometimes want to avoid orthodox treatment, he sees his
job as discussing best treatments, often referring patients to sympathetic