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Can Mistletoe Improve Overall Survival in Cancer Patients?

Jan 21, 2020


Analysis of anticancer benefits of mistletoe across many different clinical studies found no substantial evidence for increased patient survival and recommended not prescribing mistletoe to cancer patients, as done in Europe. Studies also found no impact/improvement in a patient’s quality of life with taking mistletoe supplements.

What is Mistletoe?

Obligate parasitic plants, more commonly known as mistletoe, are a lot more than just symbols of romance and Christmas. This special breed of evergreens is actually a parasite which attaches itself to a host plant or tree and sucks out all their nutrients and water. Eaten raw, mistletoes are actually poisonous and cause a range of symptoms from diarrhea and weakness to seizures.

Mistletoe Use for Cancer treatment

However, mistletoe extracts are commonly taken around the globe due to their numerous believed medicinal properties. In fact, in Europe, mistletoe is available by prescription for the treatment of cancer as well. This has caused significant controversy among the scientific community on whether mistletoe supplements can really help with cancer treatment.

Use of Mistletoe in Cancer

To test this out, a group of scientific researchers from Germany did a systematic review this year on any oncological benefits that mistletoe could have. In their review, the researchers looked at 28 publications with 2639 patients who faced a variety of different cancer types and mistletoe was added to supplement the conventional therapy of a specific cancer type. They found no substantial evidence for increased patient survival and concluded that “with respect to survival, a thorough review of the literature does not provide any indication to prescribe mistletoe to patients with cancer” (Freuding M et al, J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2019). However, even if a natural supplement is not able to improve survival rates, they are still taken if the supplement can improve a patient’s quality of life by decreasing the negative toxicities of the chemo drugs.

But in part 2 of the same study looking at mistletoe supplements in terms of quality of life, researchers found that most of the studies showed either less or no impact/improvement in cancer patient’s quality of life.

What is Personalized Nutrition for Cancer? | What foods/supplements are recommended?


In summary, Mistletoe is not beneficial in improving the overall survival or quality of life of the patients and may not be prescribed for cancer patients. This goes to show that just because something is natural, it does not mean that it will definitely benefit a patient’s health, especially when it comes to cancer. Natural supplements are a powerful tool for cancer treatment but only if scientifically paired and personalized based on a person’s genes and cancer type. The popularity in advertising of a product will not help a patient but a personalized and individual plan will.

Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.