Mistletoe belongs to the Loranthaceae or Mistletoe family. There are two varieties of mistletoes, the one found in America is Phoradendron flavescens ( originally known as Viscum flavescens) and is the one that is used for Christmas decorations. Mistletoe is associated with the tradition of kissing during yule tide festivities. The plant is a native of the stretch of land from Florida up to New Jersey. The other variety, Viscum album is native to Europe and northern Asia.
The primary chemical constituents may vary according to the host plant, but typically include glycoproteins, polypeptides (viscotoxin), flavonoids, triterpene saponins, caffeic acid, lignans, choline, vitamin C, and histamine. Test tube and animal studies suggest that European Mistletoe extracts can stimulate insulin secretion from pancreas cells, and may improve blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Given both Mistletoe’s tradition around the world for helping people with diabetes, and these promising pre-clinical results, human clinical trials are certainly needed to establish Mistletoe’s potential for this condition. This herb is also known to relieve pain from headaches caused by high blood pressure. Mistletoe reduces the heart rate, and at the same time strengthens the capillary walls. Its cardiotonic action is thought to be due to the lignans, while the hypotensive action is believed to be due to a choline derivative related to acetylcholine. Choline derivatives bring about parasympathetic stimulation and vasodilatation.
Mistletoe is believed to lower blood pressure, improve circulation, and relax tight muscles, although these effects have not yet been scientifically validated. Other unverified uses included treatment of internal bleeding, convulsions, gout, hysteria, whooping cough, asthma, dizziness, loss of menstrual cycle, diarrhea, chorea (rapid, jerky movements), and rapid heartbeat. Because of its calming effect, Mistletoe is used as a tranquilizer for various nervous conditions and for the treatment of mental and physical exhaustion. It is also used as long-term therapy to prevent hardening of the arteries.