Mistletoe Therapy for Cancer Treatment
By Lucas Tims, ND, FABNO
Did you know that the liquid extract of the Mistletoe plant has been used as an alternative method to treat cancer for close to a century?
Did you know that Mistletoe is one of the most widely studied and evidence-based, naturopathic medicines prescribed for cancer patients in Europe?
Did you know that numerous studies have shown Mistletoe Therapy can enhance cancer patient survival rates, improve quality of life and reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation?
Mistletoe, or Viscum Album is a plant that attaches itself to trees, such as apple, oak, maple, elm, pine, and birch. It is native to Europe and Western Asia, with medicinal uses dating back to ancient civilizations. The biologic extracts from this plant have broad applications in the field of oncology that have demonstrated consistent safety and effectiveness when used with the established treatment protocols.
Mistletoe Therapy can be used in malignant and non-malignant tumors for stimulation of bone marrow activity along with conventional treatments to offset the side-effects of chemotherapy and radiation, such as nausea, vomiting, and lack of appetite. It can also be used to diminish tumor-related pain and to reduce the risk of tumor recurrence.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can Mistletoe Therapy be a beneficial therapy for the type of cancer I have?
Mistletoe is indicated for all sites and histological cancer types, including all cancer stages, any point in the course of cancer and as an after-cancer prophylaxis for relapse or for secondary cancer.
Is Mistletoe Therapy offered by my oncologist?
Despite mistletoe’s long track record of clinical use in Europe and several Asian countries, the FDA continues to consider it in a category of unproven biologic therapies, and it has yet to be fully adopted by Western medicine. However, in 2016 Mistletoe was approved for a large study at the Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, where a large cohort of cancer patients is enrolled and given mistletoe alongside conventional treatments. Hopefully, published results of this study will bring awareness and acceptance of the benefits of this therapy and its broad application across the field of oncology.
Although traditional oncologists cannot currently offer this treatment for cancer patients, naturopathic oncology practitioners, including The Riordan Clinic’s providers can administer this cancer care.
What can I expect when I am treated?
Mistletoe is injected under the skin on the abdomen for most patients. It typically causes some harmless localized inflammation, including swelling, redness, tenderness and itching, up to the size of a silver dollar. Other side-effects can include a temporary rise in body temperature and fatigue. Overall, patients tolerate the treatment very well.
The maintenance treatment is given three times each week. Your first mistletoe injection will be done at The Riordan Clinic so we can demonstrate safe and proper injection technique, as well as observe you for any allergic reaction. Allergic reaction to subcutaneous mistletoe is extremely rare. All subsequent injections can be administered at home by you or a trained caregiver.
The therapy can also be provided via IV, when appropriate. IV therapy is administered at the Riordan Clinic.
Should I be concerned about any interactions with other drugs I take?
There are no known interactions, including chemotherapy drugs.
What benefits can I expect from Mistletoe Therapy?
Activation of the immune system and the production of defense cells
Stimulation of programmed cell death (apoptosis) in cancer cells and blockage of angiogenesis (new blood supply)
Protection and stabilization of the DNA of healthy cells against damage caused by cytostatic drugs, such as chemotherapy
Improvement in general well-being
Reduced fatigue, particularly during and after chemotherapy
Reduced nausea during chemotherapy
Slight increase in body temperature (many cancer patients have a lower than average body temperature and often feel cold)
Less sensitivity to pain, so fewer painkillers and sedatives are needed
Patients often report a more positive outlook, more courage and initiative, less fear
Are there any special populations that cannot use Mistletoe Therapy?
Yes. This therapy is not recommended for anyone with an allergy to Mistletoe, or anyone with acute inflammatory disease, autoimmune disease, high fever, pregnancy, Myasthenia gravis, multiple sclerosis, or uncontrolled hyperthyroidism.
Can I receive Mistletoe Therapy while receiving other treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy?
Yes. Mistletoe can actually help alleviate some of the common side-effects of radiation and chemotherapy, such as fatigue, nausea and difficulty sleeping. Read the above detailed list of benefits of Mistletoe Therapy.
Have there been clinical studies done on Mistletoe Therapy?
Many of the clinical studies examining mistletoe use in cancer patients have shown improved outcomes, both in conjunction with conventional treatments and as a stand-alone adjuvant therapy. Another compelling benefit, which has been observed in a multitude of clinical trials, is improved quality of life. Among those are fewer or less severe side effects from chemotherapy such as fatigue, depression, nausea and vomiting as well as improved emotional well-being and concentration.
How much does it cost? Is Mistletoe Therapy covered by health insurance?
The initial kit costs $685. Monthly treatments thereafter cost $200-$400 each.
Health insurance does not currently cover this treatment because it is considered alternative medicine. We do accept cash, personal check, money orders, Visa, Master Card, American Express and Discover.
There is also a program called the Advance Care Card that allows you to apply for credit that you can use for medical expenses at any of our three Riordan Clinic locations. Although this program is not managed by the Riordan Clinic, we have worked closely with their team to make sure that the program is a viable option for co-learners. There are several options for financing that includes an interest free repayment period. Learn more at www.AdvanceCareCard.com.
PDQ® Integrative, Alternative, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. PDQ Mistletoe Extracts. Bethesda, MD: National Cancer Institute. Available at: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/mistletoe-pdq. Accessed 12/15/2020. [PMID: 26389415]
Dr. Lucas Tims is an expert on naturopathic oncology and integrative cancer care and specializes in IV vitamin C, mistletoe, ozone therapy, the immune system, and more. He serves as the Medical Director of our Overland Park, Kansas location.
Dr. Lucas is accepting new patients in our Overland Park office. Call to schedule: 800-447-7276