- Phoradendron serotinum L.
- Phoradendron flavescens L.
- Viscum album
Phoradendron serotinum common names:
Viscum album common names:
Parts Usually Used
American mistletoe: Leaves
European mistletoe: Plant, berries, young twigs
Description of Plant(s) and Culture
American mistletoe: An evergreen, semi-parasitic plant that
grows on other trees, most commonly the poplar and the apple. It bears
small yellow flowers in early spring, but better known are its pearly
berries. The branching woody stem is swollen at the nodes and bears
opposite, leathery, yellowish-green, obovate to elliptic leaves which
are hairy when young but glabrous at maturity. The flowers grow in
jointed spikes, developing into mucilaginous, white berries.
European mistletoe: An evergreen, semiparasitic plant found
on the branches of deciduous trees. Roots growing from the yellowish-green,
forked stem penetrate through the bark into the wood of the host.
The leaves are opposite, leathery, yellow-green, and narrowly obovate.
Pale yellow or green flowers appear from March to May, the female
developing into sticky white berries which ripen from September to
The Chinese mistletoe (Loranthus yadoriki) Sang-chi-sheng;
or (Lorantus kempferi) Sung-lo.
American mistletoe: Eastern, southern and western United States.
European mistletoe: Found in Europe and northern Asia.
American mistletoe: Emetic, nervine.
European mistletoe: Cardiac, diuretic, stimulant, vasodilator,
narcotic, antispasmodic, nervine
Legends, Myths and Stories
Mistletoe is an evergreen shrub which clings to its host tree high
up among the branches and gains its nourishment by penetrating the
bark of its host with its roots and purloining what sap it requires.
It is peculiar in the manner of its growth. The branches turn always
toward the object to which the plant is attached, a curious habit
which made the ancients think of it as a visible god protecting its
sacred tree and which aroused in all early peoples so much of wonder.
Mistletoe (the "golden bough") was chief of the seven sacred herbs
of the Druids, and others being vervain, henbane, primrose, pulsatilla,
clover and wolf's bane. Readers keen to follow the Druidic example
should gather their mistletoe on the sixth day of the moon's waning.
Mistletoe appears in many Greek and Roman myths, and is reputed to
have been used to make Christ's cross (Viscum album).
Often of religious importance, mistletoe figured in folk lore tales
and mythology in every country where it grew.
The power of this herb is of renewing itself when cut, one reason
why it was held in mystic honor. In all countries it was worshipped
as the soul and embodiment of the holy forest. To the Norseman only
the "mistil" could inflict injury on the Sun God, Baldur; to the Roman
only the "viscuan" could unlock the door of Hades for Aeneas to enter;
to the English Druids only "Misleta" cut from an oak by the light
of the moon could give protection to man.
Culpeper spelled this herb as misselto.
American mistletoe: Used for cholera, epilepsy, convulsions,
hysteria, delirium, heart problems, and nervous debility. The Native
Americans used it to cause abortion. An extract of the plant is known
to increase uterine contractions and raise blood pressure when injected
into the blood. The plant has also been used medicinally to stop bleeding
after parturition (after childbirth). Also used as an oral contraceptive.
European mistletoe: In olden times, mistletoe was the accepted
treatment for dropsy and epilepsy, although nowadays its commonest
use is to strengthen the nerves and improve the circulation. A good
heart tonic and antisclerotic,
it also raises the blood pressure and speeds up the pulse, do
not take mistletoe if high blood pressure is present. Combined
with bear's garlic and hawthorn it will safely arrest, perhaps even
cure, the progress of hardening of the arteries and high blood pressure.
Has been used to treat epilepsy, convulsions, hysteria, delirium,
and St. Vitus dance.
The tea can be used as a wash for chilblains (inflammation, itching,
and swelling of the feet, toes, or fingers caused by mild frostbite),
and leg ulcers and made into
a compress for varicose veins.
Formulas or Dosages
Prepare an infusion of the leaves and young branches (diced), using
1 tsp. of herb to 1 pint of water. It is unnecessary to allow it to
steep more than 30 minutes. The dosage is 1 tbsp. daily, increasing
to 3 if no improvement is shown. Not recommended for children.
The juice from mistletoe berries dabbed on obstinate pimples
will cause them to disappear. And it will also loosen stiff
joints when massaged into the skin.
1. soak 1 tsp. young twigs in 1 cup of cold water for 24 hours. Take
1 cup per day, in 3 equal parts morning, noon, and night.
2. soak 6 tsp. leaves in 1 1/2 cups cold water for 6 to 8 hours.
Take 1 1/2 cups in the course of a day, a mouthful at a time.
Juice: Wet the leaves and young twigs. When the water has
been absorbed, press to extract the juice. Take 2 to 4 tsp. per day.
American mistletoe: The berries are poisonous, and children's
deaths have been attributed to eating them. Do not use without medical
supervision. May cause dermatitis. Do not use for blood pressure regulation
without medical supervision.
European mistletoe: Use with care, preferably under medical
direction. Large doses have a detrimental effect on heart action.
Also eating the berries can be dangerous, especially for children.
Do not use if Hypertensive or persons with heart trouble, particularly
in large doses. Consult a medical doctor.