Many a Casanova have used mistletoe as an excuse to woo a fair maiden during the holiday season. The tradition involves hanging mistletoe over a doorway. When a couple stands under it, they are to kiss. Because the plant was believed to bestow life and fertility, protection against poison and aphrodisiacal characteristics, couples kissing under the mistletoe are blessed with happiness and prosperity.
It’s more than just an excuse to make out, however.
Cancer prevention. According to the American Cancer Society, mistletoe’s leaves and twigs are used in herbal remedies to treat symptoms of cancer. Several laboratories have shown that mistletoe may be effective in the treatment of cancer, although the clinical evidence is insufficient. Mistletoe has been approved in Germany for the treatment of the symptoms resulting from malignant tumors. Treatment involves daily injections given before and after surgery, chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Mistletoe injections for preventing cancer involve three to seven injections per week and can last for several years. It has been used to stimulate the immune system for the treatment of cancer of the cervix, ovaries, breast, stomach, colon and lung, and well as a treatment for leukemia, sarcoma and lymphoma.
Herbal remedy. Mistletoe has also been used to lower high blood pressure, decrease heart rate, relax spasms, and relieve symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism. Mistletoe has been used medicinally in Europe to treat epilepsy, infertility, hypertension and arthritis. Medicinal uses for mistletoe involve the stem and the leaves, not the berries, which are toxic.
Holiday decoration. The mistletoe that holiday revelers in the United States are familiar with differs from the European medicinal herb used to treat cancer. Most mistletoe decorations, in fact, are made from plastic. The original use of mistletoe as a holiday decoration originated in Europe, centuries before Christmas became a regular occasion in late December. Druids gathered the plant during the winter solstice, and the custom of using it to decorate houses and festive gatherings during Christmas stems from the Druid tradition.
Peace promotion. Christmas worshipers laud the season’s emphasis on peace and love on Earth, making mistletoe an ideal decoration. The mistletoe became a symbol of love and peace long before Christmas was celebrated in Europe. The Society for the Confluence of World Festivals and Celebrations reports that in ancient times, warring clans would stop their battles and declare a truce if the warriors happened across mistletoe.
The next time you’re wooing that special someone under the mistletoe this holiday season, impress them with your knowledge of this legendary, medicinal herb.