A mention of mistletoe
conjures up thoughts of the holiday
season. This parasitic evergreen’s
seasonal association probably relates to its branches being used by
cultures to usher in the New Year.
Mistletoe was held in reverence by the
Druids who gathered it with great
ceremony and used it as a protector from all evil.
In Scandinavian legend Balder, the god
of peace, was slain with
an arrow made from mistletoe. When his
parents, Odin and Frigga, restored him to life, they gave mistletoe to
goddess of love and decreed that everyone who passed beneath it should
a kiss to show that mistletoe was now the symbol of love, not hate.
Previously thought to be a
cure for sterility and an
antidote for poison, mistletoe was used by some American Indian tribes
induce abortion and stimulate contractions during childbirth. Some cultures fed the stems and foliage to
sheep in the winter when fodder was scarce.
Found mostly on soft-barked trees such
as apple, ash, hawthorn and poplar,
strongest when it grows on oak. There
are two varieties – American and European mistletoe.
According to some herbalists, the two
varieties have opposite
results. Although it can be potentially
toxic, mistletoe has been widely used by Europeans, especially in the
of high blood pressure and cancer. The
Chinese use it as a laxative, digestive aid and sedative, while Koreans
found it useful for colds, arthritis and muscle weakness.
The berries, applied topically, have
remedy for ulcers and sores.
Besides its properties as
a nervine, tonic and
antispasmodic, mistletoe has also been noted to be helpful for: