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The promise of Mistletoe to treat cancer

Hyderabad: Despite the rapid development of modern technology and high-end research in the field of medicine, an effective cure or treatment for cancers continues to remain elusive for scientists, researchers, clinicians and patients.

While high-end diagnostics and treatment tools are available, a majority of cancer patients, however, continue to struggle with side effects and poor prognosis. To deal with such challenges, in the last few years, there have been a lot of concerted efforts to explore the possibility of integrating modern medicine with naturally occurring extracts of plants that can be used as an adjuvant to the already existing cancer treatment protocols, with an aim to enable cancer patients beat the disease fully with less pain.

One such naturally occurring plant that is being billed as a potential for managing and perhaps even treating cancer is Mistletoe (Viscum album)! Yes, the same plant that is associated with the yuletide spirit. Surprisingly, it turns out that Mistletoe has anti-cancer properties.

While there are no approvals from top international drug regulatory bodies like the USFDA, there is already a lot of research underway, especially in Europe, to explore cancer-treating prowess from the extracts of Mistletoe.

“Mistletoe is a very interesting plant. It grows exponentially on branches of trees and not on the ground. Interestingly, it is in vogue as a medicinal plant for a millennium. About a century ago, it was postulated to be an effective cancer treatment.

The European Mistletoe plant is something which is used and researched for its anti-cancer properties,” says Dr P Harihara Murthy, ENT Surgeon and well-known Mistletoe Therapist from Bengaluru.

Dr Murthy, who is visiting Hyderabad to train doctors here on Mistletoe therapy, points out that the oncological properties of Mistletoe are immune-effective. “It is in vogue as an adjuvant therapy along with conventional treatment of cancer in many parts of Europe. This is something worthy to learn so that we can support people in India who are looking for the treatment of cancer,” he points out.

Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant that grows on many types of trees, including apple, oak, maple, elm, pine, and poplar. It has been used for hundreds of years to treat medical conditions such as epilepsy, asthma, hypertension, headaches, menopausal symptoms, infertility, dermatitis, arthritis, and rheumatism.

In fact, Iscador, which is an extract from European Mistletoe, is regarded as a complementary cancer therapy and is the most commonly used oncological drug in Germany and other parts of Europe.

While still very new and novel to India, Mistletoe extracts are one of the most widely studied complementary and alternative medicine therapies for cancer. In Europe, mistletoe extracts are among the most prescribed therapies for cancer patients.

Basic research shows that mistletoe extracts may stimulate the immune system to fight cancer. Studies in humans show that mistletoe treatment may improve symptoms and reduce side effects of cancer treatments.

A few studies indicate it may also have some effects on survival. More studies are needed to see if mistletoe can be used as supportive therapy in cancer care.

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