Mistletoe was used in ancient times by the Romans, Greeks and Druids not only as a symbol of peace and fertility, but as a panacea - or cure-all of sorts. Modern interest in mistletoe extracts began in the 1920's and it's been one of the most studied plants of all times.
Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant that grows on other plants and trees including apple, oak, maple, elm, pine and birch. Extracts differ depending on which type of tree serves as the host. It requires a temperate to warm climate to survive.
Mistletoe extracts are said to stimulate the immune system, fight inflammation and fever as well as protect healthy cells against the ravages of chemotherapy and radiation. Mistletoe is one of the most widely prescribed alternative medicines in Europe for cancer patients. It is not an FDA approved alternative treatment and extracts for any purpose other than clinical trials are banned in the US. There are currently 2 active clinical trials in the US for Iscador Qu (name brand mistletoe extract grown on oak) for colorectal cancer and pancreatic cancer patients in an attempt to prove reduction in adverse chemotherapeutic side effects, reduction in dosage and increased disease-free survival.
Here is a great link from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center's herb information:
Warning: Mistletoe leaves and berries are extremely poisonous. Two berries or three leaves can produce highly toxic effects.
We all wonder how kissing under the mistletoe came to be.
Here's the answer :
Baldur's mother was the Norse goddess, Frigga. When Baldur was born, Frigga made each and every plant, animal and inanimate object promise not to harm Baldur. But Frigga overlooked the mistletoe plant -- and the mischievous god of the Norse myths, Loki, took advantage of this oversight. Ever the prankster, Loki tricked one of the other gods into killing Baldur with a spear fashioned from mistletoe. The demise of Baldur, a vegetation deity in the Norse myths, brought winter into the world, although the gods did eventually restore Baldur to life. After which Frigga pronounced the mistletoe sacred, ordering that from now on it should bring love rather than death into the world. Happily complying with Frigga's wishes, any two people passing under the plant from now on would celebrate Baldur's resurrection by kissing under the mistletoe.