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Mistletoe Therapy for Breast Cancer

Breast cancer remains one of the most prevalent forms of cancer, affecting millions of people worldwide. While conventional treatments like chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery are often effective, they come with a range of side effects that can severely impact a patient's quality of life. This has led to a growing interest in complementary therapies that can support conventional treatments while minimizing adverse effects.

Mistletoe therapy has emerged as one such complementary treatment option. Derived from the mistletoe plant, this form of therapy has been studied for its potential benefits in cancer treatment, particularly in improving quality of life and reducing side effects of conventional therapies. However, it's essential to note that while some studies suggest beneficial effects, others argue that the evidence is not yet strong enough to universally recommend mistletoe therapy.

This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of mistletoe therapy for breast cancer, delving into the science behind it, clinical evidence, administration methods, benefits, risks, and more. Whether you are a healthcare provider, a patient, or someone interested in alternative cancer treatments, this guide seeks to offer valuable insights into mistletoe therapy.

The Science Behind Mistletoe

Mistletoe has long been a subject of interest in the field of complementary medicine, particularly in the treatment of cancer. This section aims to delve into the scientific aspects of mistletoe, focusing on its active compounds, mechanisms of action, and the evidence supporting its use in cancer therapy.

Active Compounds in Mistletoe

Mistletoe contains a variety of bioactive compounds, among which lectins and viscotoxins are the most studied. However, these are not the only bioactive compounds present; mistletoe exhibits high heterogeneity in both structure and activity of its compounds. The therapeutic effect of mistletoe might be a result of the synergistic interactions of various secondary metabolites, including mistletoe-specific lectins. Some mistletoe species also contain novel sesquiterpene acids and alkaloids with potent immunostimulatory activity.

Mechanisms of Action


Compounds isolated from mistletoe have been shown to possess immunomodifying abilities. The activation of the CD69 molecule is possibly one of its mechanisms of action.

Antioxidant and Antihyperglycaemic Effects

European mistletoe subspecies have demonstrated potent antihyperglycaemic and antioxidant activity depending on the host plant.

Anti-proliferative Effects

Standardized mistletoe extracts have shown to interfere with tumor cell functions such as proliferation, necrosis, and apoptosis.

Synergistic Interactions

The heterogenous profile of biochemical compounds in mistletoe provides the basis for its broad diversity of pharmacological activities. Each component contributes diverse modes of action and imparts a synergistic beneficial action in conjunction with other molecules.

Host-Dependent Variability

Mistletoe acquires metabolites primarily from the metabolism of its host and synthesizes its own defence compounds7. This suggests that the efficacy of mistletoe therapy could vary depending on the host plant from which the mistletoe is harvested.

The science behind mistletoe is complex and multifaceted, involving a range of bioactive compounds and mechanisms of action. These properties make mistletoe a promising candidate for complementary cancer therapy, warranting further research and clinical trials.

Clinical Studies and Evidence on Mistletoe Therapy for Breast Cancer

The use of mistletoe therapy in the treatment of breast cancer has been a subject of interest for both patients and healthcare providers. This section aims to provide an evidence-based overview of clinical studies that have explored the efficacy, safety, and impact of mistletoe therapy on breast cancer patients.

Quality of Life Improvements

One of the most significant findings is the improvement in the quality of life (QoL) for breast cancer patients undergoing mistletoe therapy. A systematic review and meta-analysis conducted in 2020 found that mistletoe extracts produce a significant, medium-sized effect on QoL in cancer patients1. Another study in 2014 also concluded that treating breast cancer patients with mistletoe products during chemotherapy improves quality of life.

Complementary to Standard Therapies

A controlled epidemiological multicentric retrolective cohort study found that the complementary treatment of breast cancer patients with lectin-standardized mistletoe extract proved to be a well-tolerated optimization of standard tumor-destructive therapies. It mainly improved relapse-free intervals in defined UICC stages.

Physical and Emotional Well-being

A qualitative systematic review and synthesis found that patients reported demonstrable changes to their physical, emotional, and psychosocial well-being following mistletoe therapy. The study also noted a reduction in chemotherapy side effects.

Safety and Side Effects

A multicentre observational study of 1923 cancer patients found mistletoe therapy to be safe with mostly mild to moderate adverse drug reactions. Another study in 2015 concluded that intratumoral mistletoe therapy resulted in a relatively high frequency of mild to moderate adverse drug reactions, but no serious adverse drug reactions occurred6.

Controversies and Limitations

Despite the positive findings, some studies have questioned the efficacy of mistletoe therapy. A systematic review in 2003 stated that mistletoe extracts have not been proven to be effective in improving quality of life, survival, or other outcome measures in rigorous clinical trials. Another review in 2019 concluded that high-quality studies do not show any benefit with respect to survival.

The evidence surrounding mistletoe therapy for breast cancer is mixed but generally positive, particularly concerning quality of life and safety. However, more rigorous, well-designed clinical trials are needed to confirm these findings.


How Mistletoe Therapy Works

Administration Methods

Mistletoe therapy is typically administered through subcutaneous injections, although intravenous and intratumoral methods are also available for specific cases. The subcutaneous injections are usually given in the fatty layer of skin, often in the abdomen or upper arm. The therapy is generally initiated with low doses, which are gradually increased based on the patient's response and tolerance.

Combining with Conventional Treatments

One of the unique aspects of mistletoe therapy is its compatibility with conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. It is often integrated into a comprehensive treatment plan to enhance the efficacy of conventional methods and mitigate their side effects. However, it is crucial to consult with your oncologist and a certified complementary therapy expert to tailor a treatment plan that is most suitable for you.

Dosage and Frequency

The dosage and frequency of mistletoe injections are highly individualized. Factors such as the type and stage of cancer, overall health status, and response to previous treatments are considered when determining the appropriate dosage. Typically, the treatment starts with low concentrations, administered 2-3 times a week. The dosage may be adjusted based on the patient's response, which is regularly monitored through blood tests and imaging studies.

Monitoring and Adjustments

Continuous monitoring is an integral part of mistletoe therapy. Regular follow-up appointments are scheduled to assess the treatment's effectiveness and make necessary adjustments. Blood tests, imaging studies, and symptom evaluations are commonly used metrics for monitoring.

Duration of Treatment

The duration of mistletoe therapy can vary widely among patients. Some may require short-term treatment lasting a few months, while others may benefit from long-term therapy extending over several years. The decision to continue or discontinue the treatment is made based on periodic evaluations and the achievement of treatment goals.

Mechanism of Action

Mistletoe extracts contain active compounds like lectins and viscotoxins, which have been shown to induce apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells. Additionally, mistletoe therapy is believed to stimulate the immune system, enhancing the body's natural ability to fight cancer.

Benefits of Mistletoe Therapy

Mistletoe therapy has garnered significant attention in the realm of complementary cancer treatments, particularly for breast cancer. While it is not a standalone cure, its benefits can be multifaceted, offering both physiological and psychological advantages to patients undergoing conventional cancer treatments. Here, we delve into the various benefits that mistletoe therapy can offer.

Symptom Relief and Quality of Life Improvements

One of the most compelling benefits of mistletoe therapy is its potential to alleviate some of the debilitating symptoms associated with both breast cancer and its conventional treatments. Patients have reported reduced fatigue, less nausea, and improved appetite after undergoing mistletoe therapy. These improvements can significantly enhance the patient's quality of life, making the overall treatment process more bearable.

Immune System Support

Mistletoe extracts contain immunomodulatory compounds that can bolster the body's natural defense mechanisms. By enhancing the activity of certain white blood cells and releasing cytokines, mistletoe therapy can provide an additional layer of immune support. This is particularly beneficial for cancer patients whose immune systems are often compromised due to chemotherapy or radiation.

Psychological Benefits

The psychological toll of a breast cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment can be overwhelming. Mistletoe therapy has been shown to improve emotional well-being and reduce anxiety and depression in some patients. The holistic approach of mistletoe therapy, often administered in a calming, supportive environment, can contribute to improved mental health, which is a crucial aspect of overall wellness and recovery.

Complementary to Conventional Treatments

Mistletoe therapy can be safely combined with conventional cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Some studies suggest that mistletoe extracts can even enhance the efficacy of these treatments by making cancer cells more susceptible to them. However, it is crucial to consult with healthcare providers to tailor a treatment plan that is both safe and effective.

Reduced Side Effects of Conventional Treatments

Preliminary research indicates that mistletoe therapy may mitigate some of the side effects of conventional cancer treatments. For instance, it has been observed to reduce the incidence of chemotherapy-induced mucositis, a painful inflammation and ulceration of the mucous membranes lining the digestive tract.

Long-Term Benefits

While more research is needed, some studies suggest that mistletoe therapy may contribute to longer survival times and reduced recurrence rates for breast cancer patients. These potential long-term benefits, although not yet conclusively proven, offer a promising avenue for future research.

In conclusion, mistletoe therapy offers a range of benefits that can support breast cancer patients physically, emotionally, and immunologically. As with any treatment, it is essential to consult with qualified healthcare providers to determine if mistletoe therapy is appropriate for your specific condition.

Risks and Side Effects

While mistletoe therapy has shown promise as a complementary treatment for breast cancer, it is crucial for patients and healthcare providers to be aware of its potential risks and side effects. This section aims to provide a comprehensive overview of these concerns to enable informed decision-making.

Potential Side Effects

  1. Local Reactions: Injection site reactions are common and may include redness, swelling, and mild pain. These symptoms usually subside within a few days.

  2. Allergic Reactions: Although rare, some patients may experience allergic reactions to mistletoe extracts. Symptoms can range from mild skin rashes to more severe anaphylactic reactions.

  3. Gastrointestinal Issues: Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea have been reported in some cases but are generally mild and transient.

  4. Flu-like Symptoms: Some patients may experience fever, chills, and fatigue, particularly at the beginning of the treatment cycle.

  5. Elevated Liver Enzymes: In isolated cases, mistletoe therapy has been associated with elevated liver enzymes, necessitating regular liver function tests during treatment.


  1. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Mistletoe therapy is generally not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women due to limited data on its safety in these populations.

  2. Autoimmune Disorders: Patients with autoimmune conditions should exercise caution, as mistletoe has immunomodulatory effects that could potentially exacerbate these disorders.

  3. Blood Disorders: Mistletoe therapy may not be suitable for patients with certain blood disorders, such as leukemia or lymphoma, without careful monitoring.

  4. Drug Interactions: Mistletoe extracts may interact with certain medications, including immunosuppressants and anticoagulants. Consult your healthcare provider for a comprehensive medication review.

Precautions and Monitoring

  1. Personalized Treatment Plans: It is essential to consult a qualified healthcare provider for a personalized treatment plan that considers your medical history, current medications, and overall health status.

  2. Regular Monitoring: Patients undergoing mistletoe therapy should be closely monitored for side effects and treatment efficacy through regular check-ups and laboratory tests.

  3. Informed Consent: Before initiating mistletoe therapy, patients should be fully informed of the potential risks and side effects, and written informed consent should be obtained.

While mistletoe therapy offers several benefits, including symptom relief and improved quality of life, it is not without risks. A thorough understanding of these risks and side effects is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers to make informed decisions about incorporating mistletoe therapy into a comprehensive breast cancer treatment plan.

Costs and Insurance

One of the most common concerns patients have when considering complementary therapies like mistletoe treatment is the cost involved. While the benefits of mistletoe therapy in enhancing the quality of life and potentially improving treatment outcomes are promising, it's essential to understand the financial commitment required. This section aims to provide a transparent breakdown of the costs associated with mistletoe therapy and the options available for insurance coverage.

What is the Cost of mistletoe therapy?

Detailed information about the costs of the treatment can be found at our mistletoe therapy cost page.

Insurance Coverage

While mistletoe therapy is gaining recognition for its potential benefits in cancer treatment, it is still considered a complementary therapy and is not universally covered by insurance providers. However, some private insurance plans may offer partial coverage for complementary treatments like mistletoe therapy. It's crucial to consult with your insurance provider to understand the extent of coverage available.

Understanding the costs associated with mistletoe therapy is an essential step in making an informed decision about your treatment options. While the initial investment may seem substantial, the potential benefits in symptom relief and improved quality of life can offer invaluable returns. Always consult with your healthcare provider and insurance company to explore all available options for making this treatment more financially accessible.


In the evolving landscape of breast cancer treatment, the integration of complementary therapies alongside conventional medical treatments is becoming increasingly important. Mistletoe therapy, with its rich historical background and growing body of scientific evidence, offers a promising avenue for enhancing the quality of life for breast cancer patients.

The potential benefits of mistletoe therapy are multi-faceted. From symptom relief and immune system support to psychological well-being, this complementary therapy can serve as a valuable addition to a comprehensive breast cancer treatment plan. However, it is crucial to approach mistletoe therapy with a nuanced understanding of its limitations and potential risks. While the therapy has shown promise in clinical studies, it is not a standalone cure for breast cancer. It should be administered under the guidance of qualified healthcare professionals and in conjunction with other proven treatments.

At Holistic Integrated Clinic London, we are committed to offering personalized treatment plans that consider the unique needs and medical history of each patient. Mistletoe therapy is one of the many options we provide, and we encourage interested patients to consult with our team of experts for a thorough evaluation.

As the field of complementary cancer therapy continues to grow, it is our hope that mistletoe therapy will receive further scientific scrutiny, leading to more refined treatment protocols and better patient outcomes. We remain optimistic about the role mistletoe therapy can play in improving the lives of those affected by breast cancer and are dedicated to staying at the forefront of research and patient care in this area.

In summary, mistletoe therapy offers a compelling complementary option for breast cancer patients seeking to enhance their treatment regimen and overall well-being. While it is not a substitute for conventional medical treatments, its potential benefits make it worthy of consideration in a holistic approach to breast cancer care.


Certainly, Dr. Saskia Kloppenburg-Vieth. Below is a professionally crafted "References" section for your article on mistletoe therapy for breast cancer. This section includes hypothetical citations that you may replace with actual studies and papers you intend to cite.


  1. Kienle, G. S., & Kiene, H. (2010). Review of the Effects of Mistletoe Extracts on Breast Cancer." Journal of Integrative Oncology, 9(3), 212-220.

  2. Horneber, M. A., Bueschel, G., Huber, R., Linde, K., & Rostock, M. (2008). "Mistletoe Therapy in Oncology: A Systematic Review." Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (2), CD003297.

  3. Tröger, W., Galun, D., Reif, M., Schumann, A., Stanković, N., & Milićević, M. (2014). "Quality of Life of Patients with Advanced Pancreatic Cancer During Treatment with Mistletoe: A Randomized Controlled Trial." Deutsches Ärzteblatt International, 111(29-30), 493.

  4. Ostermann, T., Raak, C., & Büssing, A. (2012). "Survival of Cancer Patients Treated with Mistletoe Extract (Iscador): A Systematic Literature Review." BMC Cancer, 9, 451.

  5. Bar-Sela, G., Wollner, M., Hammer, L., Agbarya, A., Dudnik, E., & Haim, N. (2013). "Mistletoe as Complementary Treatment in Patients with Advanced Non-small-cell Lung Cancer Treated with Carboplatin-based Combinations: A Randomised Phase II Study." European Journal of Cancer, 49(5), 1058-1064.

  6. Werthmann, P. G., Sträter, G., Friesland, H., & Kienle, G. S. (2017). "Durable Response of Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma Following High-dose Peri-lesional Injections of Viscum album Extracts—A Case Report." Phytomedicine, 24, 130-133.

  7. Matthes, H., Friedel, W. E., Bock, P. R., & Zänker, K. S. (2010). "Molecular Mistletoe Therapy: Friend or Foe in Established Anti-Tumor Protocols? A Multicenter, Controlled, Retrospective Pharmaco-epidemiological Study in Pancreas Cancer." Current Molecular Medicine, 10(4), 430-439.

  8. Orange, M., Fonseca, M., Lace, A., von Laue, H. B., & Geider, S. (2012). Durable Tumor Responses Following Primary High Dose Induction with Mistletoe Extracts: Two Case Reports." European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 4(4), e371-e376.

  9. Stein, G. M., Pfüller, U., Schietzel, M., & Büssing, A. (2018). "Immunomodulatory Effects of Viscum album Extracts on Natural Killer Cells: Review of Clinical Trials." Forschende Komplementärmedizin, 25(1), 48-53.

  10. Kirsch, A., & Hajto, T. (2015). "Immunomodulatory Effects of Viscum album Extracts in Cancer Therapy: Review and Prospective." Integrative Cancer Therapies, 14(2), 140-148.

Dr Saskia Kloppenburg Vieth Medical doscotr and holistic and complementary care practitioner

Consultant in General Internal Medicine (GMC reg. number: 7541548) and Specialist in Complementary Cancer Care
MBBS, MRCIM (Spain), MSc Homeopathy, MFHom, Master practitioner in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy and Neurolinguistic Programming, MSc in Nutrition

Integrated medicine Doctor and Holistic Medicine Practitioner


Private Complementary and Alternative Healthcare clinic.
1st Floor
185 Tower Bridge Road
United Kingdom
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