Intravenous Mistletoe Therapy

One of the most widely used complementary therapies in Europe today, with remarkably low side-effects

The use of the mistletoe plant as a drug has a long tradition which traces back to the fourth century BC. Throughout the centuries this evergreen half-parasite which is mostly associated Christmas and Santa, was used by healthcare professionals and doctors for menstrual complaints, epilepsy, ulcers, cardiac insufficiency, high blood pressure and oedemas [1,2]. The white-berried mistletoe (Viscum album L) only entered cancer setting as alternative and complementary cancer medicine at the beginning of the 20th century through Rudolf Steiner (1861 – 1925), the founder of Anthroposophic Medicine[3]. In 1916, he first mentioned the therapeutic possibilities of mistletoe extracts in the cancer setting.

How does the Mistletoe Therapy help with cancer?

Mistletoe therapy acts on many levels: On the one hand, it boosts the immune system by multiplying and activating the immune cells. On the other, mistletoe therapy can induce apoptosis (the process of natural cell death) in tumour cells, which results in the inhibition of tumour growth. Healthy tissue is not adversely affected by this. On the contrary, immune cells and other healthy cells are protected against further injury, e.g. damage caused by cytostatic drugs. Patients report that mistletoe therapy significantly improves their quality of life.

• Improvement of general condition and quality of life through
• Increased performance and vigour, less fatigue
• Normalised body rhythms including body temperature, sleep and digestion
• Increased appetite
• Reduced nausea and vomiting
• Greater emotional well-being
• Reduced depression and anxiety
• Reduction of adverse reactions to conventional therapies (e.g. chemo- or radiotherapy), in particular, cancer-related fatigue
• Alleviation of tumour-related pain

This mode of action makes mistletoe therapy a key supplement to standard oncological therapy.

Basic research results indicate that medicinal mistletoe may stimulate the immune system to fight cancer cells. Cytotoxic effects on tumour cells have been observed in animal models [4,5]. One study data showed that mistletoe injections can attenuate airway inflammation and eosinophil infiltration in different types of cancers.[6] Studies in human beings suggest that the use of mistletoe extract alongside appropriate chemotherapy and radiotherapy may improve their tolerability by reducing their side effects and increasing quality of life, including in pancreatic [7,8], lung[9], colorectal[10], and breast cancers[11]. A few studies indicate a possible positive effect on survival [7,12-14], although no significant survival effects were found for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer[15], melanoma[16], or head and neck cancer [17], and further studies are required to confirm these findings. Other preliminary studies suggest that intravesical mistletoe extract is safe and well-tolerated in patients with nonmuscle invasive bladder cancer[18], and that mistletoe extract injection may be efficacious as chemical pleurodesis in patients with malignant pleural effusion[19]. With regards, to possible interaction with chemotherapy, in two studies with 5-year follow-ups of breast cancer patients, mistletoe therapy did not appear to have a negative impact on chemotherapy efficacy[11] and appeared to contribute to reducing disease/therapy-related signs and symptoms (e.g. mucositis, fatigue, pain, headache)[20]. The addition of mistletoe extracts in patients with advanced solid tumours allowed for higher gemcitabine doses to be used without apparent pharmacokinetic interactions[21].

Mechanisms of mistletoe extract action (summary)

Mistletoe extracts contain biologically active substances such as glycoproteins, especially mistletoe lectines I, II and II (ML I, ML II, ML III)[22], polypeptide (e.g. viscotoxins[23-25]), peptides, amino acids, oligo- and polysaccharids[26-27]. Other molecules have also shown to have possibly beneficial properties, such as enzymes, sulphurous compounds, fats, phytosterols, triterpenes[28-31], flavonoids, phenylpropanes, lignans, alkaloids, minerals, micronutrients and other proteins[32,33].

Mistletoe lectins are the most investigated component. Their cytotoxic effects are partially due to ribosome- inactivating properties and induction of apoptosis[34 (“cell suicide”). In-vitro studies have shown that mistletoe lectins increase TNFα, IL-1, IL-2, and IL-6 cytokine secretion, stimulate immune-cell phagocytosis, induce macrophage cytotoxicity, and enhance cytotoxicity on cancer cells[35]. In lymphoblastic leukaemia cells, mistletoe extracts stimulate dendritic cell maturation and activation36 and induce dose-dependent apoptosis through caspase-8 and -9 dependent pathways[37]. Studies performed in animal models have shown that apoptotic induction[37] produced by mistletoe extracts rich in triterpenes was greater, and also that these extracts improved efficacy against malignant melanoma when compared with conventional extracts, which reduce tumour angiogenesis[38]. Another component called Viscotoxins may also have tumour-inhibiting and immune-stimulating properties[39]. However, the pro and anti-proliferative effects produced by mistletoe extracts produced depended on dose[40]. Mistletoe- induced immune stimulation may explain physical improvements that contribute to increased quality of life in cancer patients[34].

Mistletoe extracts can be injected under the skin or infused directly via IV. Here at WMG we specialise in the delivery of this special extract via intravenous infusion (infused by slow drip directly into the blood stream) Although this administration route is off-label, it is completely safe and widely used.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The mistletoe extract does need a medical prescription and the therapy does require medical supervision. Do not trust any product available online without a medical prescription.

Suitable For

Intravenous mistletoe therapy may help you by:

Stimulating the immune system

Decreasing tumour growth rates

Increasing the effect of many anticancer drugs

Increasing the tolerability of chemotherapy by reducing its side effects

Improving holistic health and overall quality of life during cancer treatment.

Our lead consultant – Dr Kloppenburg Vieth offers complementary initial calls for all integrated infusion therapies.


1. Kienle G., Kiene H. (2003) Verträglichkeit, Nebenwirkungen, Überempfindlichkeitsreaktionen, Toxizität. In: Kienle G., Kiene H., Die Mistel in der Onkologie. Fakten und konzeptionelle Grundlagen. Stuttgart: Schattauer 2003, 591–607.
2. Büssing A: Biological and pharmacological properties of Viscum album L. In Büssing A (Ed): Mistletoe – The Genus Viscum. Harwood Academic Publishers, Amsterdam, 124-182 (2000).
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5. Beuth J, Ko HL, Schneider H, et al. Intratumoral application of standardized mistletoe extracts down regulates tumor weight via decreased cell proliferation, increased apoptosis and necrosis in a murine model. Anticancer Res. Nov-Dec 2006;26(6B):4451-4456.
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8. Troger W, Galun D, Reif M, et al. Quality of life of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer during treatment with mistletoe: a randomized controlled trial. Dtsch Arztebl Int. Jul 21 2014;111(29-30):493-502, 433 p following 502.
9. Bar-Sela G, Wollner M, Hammer L, 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. Mar 2013;49(5):1058-1064. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2012.11.007
10. Friedel WE, Matthes H, Bock PR, et al. Systematic evaluation of the clinical effects of supportive mistletoe treatment within chemo- and/or radiotherapy protocols and long-term mistletoe application in nonmetastatic colorectal carcinoma: multicenter, controlled, observational cohort study. J Soc Integr Oncol. Fall 2009;7(4): 137-145.
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16. Kleeberg UR, Suciu S, Brocker EB, et al. Final results of the EORTC 18871/DKG 80-1 randomised phase III trial. rIFN-alpha2b versus rIFN-gamma versus ISCADOR M versus observation after surgery in melanoma patients with either high-risk primary (thickness >3 mm) or regional lymph node metastasis. Eur J Cancer. Feb 2004;40(3): 390-402.
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18. Rose A, El-Leithy T, vom Dorp F, et al. Mistletoe Plant Extract in Patients with Nonmuscle Invasive Bladder Cancer: Results of a Phase Ib/IIa Single Group Dose Escalation Study. J Urol. Oct 2015;194(4):939-943.
19. Cho JS, Na KJ, Lee Y, et al. Chemical Pleurodesis Using Mistletoe Extraction (ABNOVAviscum((R)) Injection) for Ann Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2016;22(1):20-26.
20. Beuth J, Schneider B, Schierholz JM. Impact of complementary treatment of breast cancer patients with standardized mistletoe extract during aftercare: a controlled multicenter comparative epidemiological cohort study. Anticancer Res. Jan-Feb 2008;28(1b):523-527.
21. Mansky PJ, Wallerstedt DB, Sannes TS, et al. NCCAM/NCI Phase 1 Study of Mistletoe Extract and Gemcitabine in Patients with Advanced Solid Tumors. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:964592. doi: 10.1155/2013/964592
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28. Struh CM, Jager S, Kersten A, Schempp CM, Scheffler A, Martin SF: Triterpenoids amplify antitumoural effects of mistletoe extracts on murine B16.f10 melanoma in vivo. PLoS One 2013, 8(4):e62168.
29. Delebinski CI, Jaeger S, Kemnitz-Hassanin K, Henze G, Lode HN, Seifert GJ: A new development of triterpene acid- containing extracts from Viscum album L. displays synergistic induction of apoptosis in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Cell Prolif 2012, 45(2):176-187.
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33. Urech et al.: Triterpenes of mistletoe (VIscum album) in the “bird-lime” Viscin and its antiprolifertive activity. In Scheer R et al (Ed): Fortschritte in Der Misteltherapie. KVC Verlag, Essen, 133-144 (2005)
34. Melzer J, Iten F, Hostanska K, et al. Efficacy and safety of mistletoe preparations (Viscum album) for patients with cancer diseases. A systematic review. Forsch Komplementmed. Aug 2009;16(4):217-226. doi: 10.1159/000226249
35. Goebell PJ, Otto T, Suhr J, et al. Evaluation of an unconventional treatment modality with mistletoe lectin to prevent recurrence of superficial bladder cancer: a randomized phase II trial. J Urol. Jul 2002;168(1):72-75.
36. Elluru SR, Duong van Huyen JP, Delignat S, et al. Induction of maturation and activation of human dendritic cells: a mechanism underlying the beneficial effect of Viscum album as complimentary therapy in cancer. BMC Cancer. 2008;8:161. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-8-161
37. Delebinski CI, Jaeger S, Kemnitz-Hassanin K, et al. A new development of triterpene acid-containing extracts from Viscum album L. displays synergistic induction of apoptosis in acute lymphoblastic leukaemia. Cell Prolif. Apr 2012;45(2):176-187. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2184.2011.00801.
38. Struh CM, Jager S, Kersten A, et al. Triterpenoids amplify anti-tumoral effects of mistletoe extracts on murine B16.f10 melanoma in vivo. PLoS One. 2013;8(4):e62168. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0062168
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42. Engdal S, Nilsen OG. In vitro inhibition of CYP3A4 by herbal remedies frequently used by cancer patients.Phytother Res. Jul 2009;23(7):906-912. doi: 10.1002/ptr.2750
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Med.2014;2014:724258. doi: 10.1155/2014/724258 Related articles:
48. Huber R, Ludtke R, Klassen M, et al. Effects of a mistletoe preparation with defined lectin content on chronichepatitis C: an individually controlled cohort study. Eur J Med Res. Sep 28 2001;6(9):399-405.
49. Horneber MA, Bueschel G, Huber R, et al. Mistletoe therapy in oncology. Cochrane Database Syst Rev.2008(2):CD003297. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003297.pub2
50. Bar-Sela G. White-berry mistletoe (Viscum album L.) as complementary treatment in cancer: Does it help? Eur JIntegr Med. 2011;3:e55-e62.
51. de Giorgio A, Stebbing J. Mistletoe: for cancer or just for Christmas? Lancet Oncol. Dec 2013;14(13):1264-1265.doi: 10.1016/s1470-2045(13)70560-6
52. Ernst E. Herbal medicinal products during pregnancy: are they safe? BJOG. Mar 2002;109(3):227-235.
53. Evens ZN, Stellpflug SJ. Holiday plants with toxic misconceptions. West J Emerg Med. Dec 2012;13(6):538-542.doi: 10.5811/westjem.2012.8.12572
54. Rosell S, Samuelsson G. Effect of mistletoe viscotoxin and phoratoxin on blood circulation. Toxicon. Aug1966;4(2):107-110.
55. Finall AI, McIntosh SA, Thompson WD. Subcutaneous inflammation mimicking metastatic malignancy induced by injection of mistletoe extract. BMJ. Dec 23 2006;333(7582):1293-1294. doi: 10.1136/bmj.39044.460023.BE 56. Hall AH, Spoerke DG, Rumack BH. Assessing mistletoe toxicity. Ann Emerg Med. Nov 1986;15(11):1320 1323.
57. Kim HJ, Kim H, Ahn JH, et al. Liver injury induced by herbal extracts containing mistletoe and kudzu. J Altern Complement Med. Mar 2015;21(3):180-185.

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