Can Mistletoe be a natural chemotherapy alternative?

Radical claims are being made for the power of mistletoe in treating cancer. It has been a favoured complementary treatment for cancer in Europe for many years, but has not yet gained acceptance in the U.S.A. and Australia, due to a purported lack of evidence. It is interesting to take a quick survey of the studies completed so far in assessing how far we should believe these claims.

Debate on this topic has been inspired by a recent study at the University of Adelaide, Australia. The results prompted them to claim that mistletoe extracts are more effective at treating colon cancer than chemotherapy. Not only that, but the use of mistletoe means fewer side effects for the patient, a chief advantage of all complementary medicine.

Zahra Lotfollahi led the Australian study, and her research aim was to show that uncertainty over the use of mistletoe in cancer treatment comes from the fact that each variety of mistletoe has its own specific properties. She chose three different kinds of extract for her study, and exposed them to both healthy and cancerous cells. One of the extracts, Fraxini was proven to be more effective at killing cancer cells than chemotherapy, and left no toxic residue, unlike its chemical counterpart.

Fraxini is a compound found in mistletoe from the ash tree. Since the full range of mistletoe species has not been tested, scientists hold out hope that there may be an extract even more effective than this! Lotfollahi’s trial has spurred researchers in Australia to plan bigger trials, with an aim of incorporating mistletoe extract into mainstream cancer treatment. It may end up being a support to chemotherapy, or ideally a complete replacement, which gives all the benefits in the fight against cancer, while maintaining patient wellbeing.

The results of this trial are comparable to a large medical trial in Germany, where cancer patients who took mistletoe extract lived 40% longer than patients in the control group. Similar studies have claimed that mistletoe extract ensures a higher quality of life and wellness than chemical cancer treatment. The news is inspiring, and gives us hope that the natural world will continue to provide cures that maintain our wellness in the fight against cancer.

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