Around the world, approximately 38.4% of people will be diagnosed with cancer within their lifetime. The universality of cancer is staggering, making research for treatments and cures a well-recognized priority. Among the many drugs and alternative treatments undergoing clinical trial is a surprising plant most commonly known for its decorative use: mistletoe.
In Europe, mistletoe has been used since the 1920’s to treat various cancers. For cancer treatment, the plant is distilled into an extract and administered via injections underneath the skin. Mistletoe treatment has been known to increase rates of survival, improve quality of life, reduce unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy, and boost the immune system in cancer patients. Because of these positive results, mistletoe injections are now one of the most widely studied complementary and alternative cancer therapies. In Europe, results are so favorable that mistletoe is among the most frequently prescribed cancer treatments.
The trend has finally reached the U.S., garnering attention from respected institutions including Johns Hopkins Medicine, which is conducting a clinical trial on the effectiveness of mistletoe injections for cancer patients. While studies work to quantify the benefits of mistletoe, many practitioners have anecdotal evidence of the power of this plant, specifically in patients with breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer. A few years ago, Dr. Luis Diaz, an oncologist at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, worked with a breast cancer patient who opted for mistletoe injections. Dr. Diaz reported that, soon after starting the treatment, his patient felt better and saw an increase in energy. This patient’s positive results, and the encouraging results of other cancer patients who have received mistletoe injections, may be due to a boost in the immune system. By stimulating the body’s natural disease-fighting mechanisms, mistletoe can inhibit the growth of cancer cells and generally improve the quality of life for those undergoing intense treatments such as chemotherapy.
While chemo can be a very effective treatment for fighting cancer, the side effects are often serious to the point of severely affecting everyday life. Many patients undergoing chemotherapy experience nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal issues, numbness, extreme fatigue, hair loss, infection, anemia, susceptibility to bruising and bleeding, and more. Not every patient experiences all of these side effects, and the degree of severity varies depending on several factors, but chemo is certainly unpleasant for most patients who undergo treatment.
The possibility that mistletoe injections mitigate some of these side effects is its primary benefit. Some studies have found that patients receiving mistletoe alongside their chemotherapy experienced reduced side effects, including a decrease in nausea, numbness, fatigue, and even hair loss.
Denver Holistic Medicine is excited to now offer this therapy to its patients undergoing cancer treatments. After a detailed consultation, Dr. Sturm may prescribe mistletoe injections as part of a comprehensive treatment plan that may also include herbal supplements, nutritional consultation, acupuncture, and lifestyle changes. Though each individual patient is unique, she typically recommends that patients receive mistletoe injections 2-3 times per week.
Like any treatment, mistletoe injections do have potential side effects of their own including vomiting, diarrhea, and cramping. From the research conducted so far, these side effects appear to be minimal and are not life-threatening.
If you are experiencing breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer (or any other type of cancer), and want to learn more about mistletoe injections, contact Denver Holistic Medicine. By considering your health and lifestyle as a whole, Dr. Sturm and her team will evaluate the best course of treatment for you, starting you on the path to wellness.