Mistletoe was a sacred plant of the Celtic peoples; the Celts and Gauls called it “all-heal” or “cure-all”.
Shakespeare called mistletoe ‘baleful Mistletoe’, a reference to the Nordic mythology when Baldur, the god of peace and beauty, was slain by an arrow made from mistletoe and then brought back to life by the other Nordic gods.
Mistletoe is used by traditional herbalists as a nervine, antispasmodic, tonic and narcotic and European herbalists considered it to be a specific remedy for St. Vitus’s Dance, epilepsy and other convulsive nervous disorders.
It has a long history as an herbal treatment for delirium, hysteria, neuralgia, and nervous debility and mistletoe tincture was used as a heart tonic in typhoid fever.
Herbal practitioners have used this herb as a treatment for urinary disorders, heart disease, and other symptoms arising from a weakened or disordered state of the nervous system.
The herb was traditionally used throughout Europe as a remedy for headaches, dizziness, loss of energy and irritability.
Numerous studies have reported that the plant lectins, in Viscum album possess toxic, cytotoxic, antitumor, and anticarcinogenic properties.
Research is currently being done in Europe to determine their potential in cancer chemotherapy and in Germany, extracts of European mistletoe is sometimes used as a treatment for certain types of cancer.
In Europe, the plant is used in oncology therapies under the trade names Iscador® and Helixor®.
The German Commission E has approved it as a treatment for degenerative and inflamed joints and as a palliative therapy for malignant tumors.
The closely related species American mistletoe (Phoradendron leucarpum) is rarely used medicinally. Some herbalists believe that it has an opposite effect from the European mistletoe (Viscum album).