Supplement Forms/Alternate Names:

  • Iscador, European mistletoe, Viscum album


Mistletoe is a spiky green plant with small white berries. The leaves have been used with cancer therapies to help a person live a longer, better quality life. It can be taken as a pill, powder, or extract. Mistletoe can also be made into a tea. It is often injected under the skin. This should only be done by a doctor.


There aren’t any advised doses for mistletoe.

What Research Shows

May Be Effective

  • Cancer —may improve quality of life when used with standard treatment A1-A13

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Editorial process and description of evidence categories can be found at EBSCO NAT Editorial Process.

Safety Notes

It is likely safe to take mistletoe in small amounts and use it on the skin for a short time, but it can cause the body to make too many white blood cells. Not enough studies have been done to say whether it is safe to use for a long period. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not use mistletoe.


Talk to your doctor about any supplements or therapy you would like to use. Some can interfere with treatment or make conditions worse, such as: B1-B6

  • People taking blood thinners should talk to their doctors before taking mistletoe. It may increase the risk of bleeding.


REFA Cancer

REFA1 Melzer J, Iten F, et al. Efficacy and safety of mistletoe preparations (Viscum album) for patients with cancer diseases. A systematic review. Forsch Komplementmed. 2009;16(4):217-226.

REFA2 Kienle GS, Glockmann A, et al. Viscum album L. extracts in breast and gynaecological cancers: a systematic review of clinical and preclinical research. J Exp Clin Cancer Res. 2009 Jun 11;28:79.

REFA3 Ostermann T, Raak C, et al. Survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extract (Iscador): a systematic literature review. BMC Cancer. 2009 Dec 18;9:451.

REFA4 Kienle GS, Kiene H. Review article: Influence of Viscum album L (European mistletoe) extracts on quality of life in cancer patients: a systematic review of controlled clinical studies. Integr Cancer Ther. 2010 Jun;9(2):142-57.

REFA5 Huber R, Lüdtke H, et al. Safety and effects of two mistletoe preparations on production of Interleukin-6 and other immune parameters – a placebo controlled clinical trial in healthy subjects. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011;11:116.

REFA6 Ostermann T, Büssing A. Retrolective studies on the survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extracts: a meta-analysis. Explore (NY). 2012;8(5):277-281.

REFA7 Kim KC, Yook JH, et al. Quality of life, immunomodulation and safety of adjuvant mistletoe treatment in patients with gastric carcinoma - a randomized, controlled pilot study. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Oct 3;12:172.

REFA8 Bar-Sela G, Wollner M, et al. Mistletoe as complementary treatment in patients with advanced non-small-cell lung cancer treated with carboplatin-based combinations: a randomised phase II study. Eur J Cancer. 2013 Mar;49(5):1058-1064.

REFA9 Tröger W, Galun D, et al. Viscum album [L.] extract therapy in patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer: a randomised clinical trial on overall survival. Eur J Cancer. 2013 Dec;49(18):3788-3797.

REFA10 Tröger W, Galun D, et al. Quality of life in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer during treatment with mistletoe: a randomized controlled trial. Dtsch Arztabl Int. 2014;111(29-30):493-502.

REFA11 Pelzer F, Tröger W, et al. Complementary Treatment with Mistletoe Extracts During Chemotherapy: Safety, Neutropenia, Fever, and Quality of Life Assessed in a Randomized Study. J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Sep/Oct;24(9-10):954-961.

REFA12 Freuding M, Keinki C, et al. Mistletoe in oncological treatment: a systematic review : Part 2: quality of life and toxicity of cancer treatment. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2019 Apr;145(4):927-939.

REFA13 Freuding M, Keinki C, et al. Mistletoe in oncological treatment: a systematic review: Part 1: survival and safety. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2019 Mar;145(3):695-707.

REFB Safety

REFB1 Kienle GS, Grugel R, et al. Safety of higher dosages of Viscum album L. in animals and humans--systematic review of immune changes and safety parameters. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2011 Aug 28;11:72. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-11-72. Review. PubMed PMID: 21871125; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC3180269.

REFB2 Izzo AA. Interactions between herbs and conventional drugs: overview of the clinical data. Med Princ Pract. 2012;21(5):404-428.

REFB3 Teschke R, Wolff A, et al. Herbal hepatotoxicity: a tabular compilation of reported cases. Liver Int. 2012 Nov;32(10):1543-1556.

REFB4 Posadzki P, Watson LK, et al. Adverse effects of herbal medicines: an overview of systematic reviews. Clin Med (Lond). 2013 Feb;13(1):7-12.

REFB5 Posadzki P, Watson L, et al. Herb-drug interactions: an overview of systematic reviews. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2013 Mar;75(3):603-618.

REFB6 Huber R, Schlodder D, et al. Safety of intravenously applied mistletoe extract - results from a phase I dose escalation study in patients with advanced cancer. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2017 Sep 18;17(1):465.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO NAT Review Board Eric Hurwitz, DC
  • Review Date: 03/2020
  • Update Date: 06/29/2020