Mistletoe (Viscum album) is a beautiful parasitic herb found frequently on old apple trees and occasionally on oak trees. It is in great demand as part of the greenery brought inside to celebrate Yule and kissing under the mistletoe is the remnants of its use as a Druidical fertility enhancing herb. The white berries were considered to resemble semen.
For magical purposes the Druids especially revered mistletoe found growing on oak trees. It had to be cut with a golden sickle and not be allowed to touch the ground when it fell. Traditionally it should be cut on Midsummer’s day or when the moon is six days old. In the South West of England you will still find keepers of old mistletoe orchards who will not allow it to be cut unless it is the right time.
A sprig carried was believed to protect the bearer against lightning strike and other misfortunes. If placed in a baby’s cradle it was believed to prevent the baby being stolen away by fairies and replaced by a changling. Wearing a ring of mistletoe wood would protect the bearer from all sickness.
Mistletoe is a medicinal herb too, a nervine and a narcotic which has been historically used to treat convulsions and epilepsy. Most often nowadays it is used to help treat hypertension. It’s a powerful herb and should not be used to self medicate. If you are keen to try mistletoe for high blood pressure then please consult a registered medical herbalist.
Mistletoe has also been used for cancer treatments for 90 years. At my clinic I always prefer to deal with whole plant medicines but it is worth mentioning that there has been a great deal of interest recently in the use of Mistletoe extract as a complementary treatment in cancer therapy. Research has shown that it increases quality of life, improves the immune response and protects healthy cells against the harmful effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Fortunately much work has been done to research ways of cultivating this plant to fulfil the demand. I would hate to see all the old West Country orchards cleared of mistletoe.
So next time you’re kissing under the Mistletoe, spare a thought for its rich magical and therapeutic heritage!
To find out more about Myrobalan Clinic please visit www.myrobalanclinic.com