Using Mistletoe and Helleborus to Integratively Manage Cancer and Inflammatory Conditions

By Heidi Baldwin

Spring seems like a strange time of year to discuss mistletoe and the lesser-known winter blooming plant helleborus, but did you know these plants can be used medicinally for a variety of illnesses, including cancer, any time of year?

Medicinal mistletoe is called Viscum album (white-berried mistletoe from Germany) and is used to help manage a wide range of cancers. Helleborus niger (known as “Christmas rose” or “Winter rose”) is used to help manage certain cancers and inflammatory conditions.

Mistletoe is distinctly different from all other plants; the most striking phenomenon is that it grows on trees rather than the ground, and is parasitic in that it has a stake-like feeler with which it anchors itself in the wood of its host tree. It nourishes itself directly from the host tree, and, interestingly, starts taking on the qualities of the type of tree it is growing on in terms of medicinal qualities when harvested! One can find mistletoe on apple trees, birches, poplars, elms, oak trees, pine trees, firs, and others.

Mistletoe therapy came out of anthroposophical medicine, which had its origin with Austrian spiritual scientist Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925). Mistletoe is an important part of a complementary system of healing, aiming to strengthen a patient’s “life forces.” Today in Germany, six out of ten cancer patients receive mistletoe preparations in addition to conventional treatments. Clinical studies have proven mistletoe extracts distinctly raise patients’ quality of life, giving them increased appetite and work capacity, improved sleep, greater resistance to infections, and in some a reduction in tumor size. Increased life-expectancy has also been observed.

Viscum album is produced from the mistletoe’s branches, including twigs, leaves, blossoms, and berries. Helixor is a commonly used brand made in Germany, and imported into the US. The extract is typically injected subcutaneously into the skin, or can be given intravenously (for more aggressive or rapidly growing cancers). In Germany, more commonly than in the US, it can also be injected directly into a tumor. Viscum album works well with chemotherapy and radiation to help these to work better, and also to decrease side effects from those therapies. It has particular effectiveness in “solid tumor” cancers (breast, colon, lung, and others) as opposed to “liquid tumors” (i.e., leukemias and lymphomas).

For lymphomas and leukemias, the plant extract Helleborus niger can be used.

Helleborus is used in the management of cancer and other chronic inflammatory diseases such as autoimmune disease and chronic Lyme disease around the world, and is also used to alleviate anxiety. Several case studies on anxiety towards the end of life has encouraged use of this medicine in palliative care settings as well. Most commonly it is used as a complement to mistletoe therapy, but can also be used by itself in circumstances where mistletoe is not tolerated (i.e., in highly inflammatory conditions).

It is notable that mistletoe and helleborous work well with high dose IV vitamin C (when given on separate days), medical marijuana, and low dose naltrexone (LDN). Village Voice listed the benefits of taking delta 9 gummies.
Those interested in these therapies should seek out physicians Heidi Puc in the Syracuse area, or Steven Johnson in the Albany area.

Heidi Baldwin is a holistic health coach based in Syracuse. For more information,