Is mistletoe the plant good for anything other than "getting
caught" under? Visions of Christmas cheer, festivities, and
kisses pop into our heads when we think of mistletoe. The
tradition of kissing under the mistletoe started long ago...
where a berry would be taken off the sprig every time a kiss was
exchanged. But there's much more to this green, leathery sprig
than you might think.
Mistletoe is the name for a group of parasitic plants. They
have no true roots, and attach themselves to trees for survival.
Mistletoe lives off the host tree - without it, the plant would
Mistletoe the plant is quite the vagabond. It is
spread around by birds that eat the mistletoe's red and white
berries. A sticky pulp within each berry contains the mistletoe
seed. The pulp oozes from the bird's beak and fastens to a
tree's branches. Seeds can also be transported from one tree
branch to another by the bird's droppings.
The Notorious Plant
The mistletoe plant has had an
interesting bout with its reputation, both good and bad. Many
people, usually those having trees that are burdened by this
plant, think of mistletoe as a destructive nuisance. The plants
draw water and minerals from the trees, and during a drought
this can be quite devastating. Mistletoe infestation often
results in deformities of the tree's branches.
the infested tree is helpful, if the amount of mistletoe is
small. For an overwhelming infestation, the only real remedy is
to remove the tree. At the very least, cutting out the parasite
itself will reduce its spread somewhat. The mistletoe will
eventually grow back. Unfortunately, the chemicals that will
destroy mistletoe are harmful to the host trees.
mistletoe a hazard? Yes, in varying degrees. Contact with the
berries can cause a rash very much like poison ivy to people who
are sensitive to it. Many mistletoe plants are also poisonous to
small children and pets. Typically, ingestion of enough
mistletoe causes stomach and intestinal irritation with diarrhea.
Slow pulse and lowered blood pressure can also occur.
Mistletoe - The Honorable Plant
mistletoe has enjoyed a high reputation of bringing about good
luck and prosperity. The ancient Europeans considered mistletoe
to be a sacred plant. Scandinavian countries believed that if
armies were at war where mistletoe was overhead, the fighting
would stop. In Greece, it was believed mistletoe would bring
fertility and abundant life to newlyweds. The Druids used the
plant for sacrifice, and Celts thought mistletoe had great
Mistletoe has been a long-time favorite
of herbalists and natural healers in Asia and Europe. The
extract from mistletoe the plant (not its berries) has been used
for treating conditions such as cancer, respiratory ailments,
circulatory problems and epilepsy. The parts of the mistletoe
plant used for therapy are the leaves and developing twigs.
According to the National Cancer Institute, laboratory and
animal studies have been conducted with mistletoe. The findings
suggest that mistletoe may enhance the immune system. However,
few studies on humans have been done.
Although there is a
good deal of information about mistletoe's ability to affect the
immune system, there is no scientific evidence yet stating that
this heightened immunity leads to increased destruction of
All in all, the mistletoe plant has emerged victorious from
such a diverse background. Today, the Christmas tradition of the
mistletoe plant has sparked its market value and popularity.
Just remember to keep it out of reach of pets and little ones...
and when the mistletoe berries run out, so do the kisses.
Copyright 2006 Robert Mosse
About the Author:
Robert Mosse is a gardening and lawn care specialist and
author of the "Easy" Lawn and Gardening Book Series. Visit
Lawn And Gardening Tips for great gardening info... and get
the free Guide for 101 Gardening Tips.