Mistletoe help lower high blood pressure, but there is more to the herb than meets the eye.

Mistletoe might not just be that holiday decoration for kissing under. According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, the semiparasitic plant that grows on a variety of common trees including apple, oak, elm and pine, is used to treat hypertension as well cancer and hepatitis.

Large studies evaluating the effects of European mistletoe on blood pressure are few and far between, however, one laboratory study found that both a single administration and a 14-day consecutive administration of mistletoe extract significantly reduced blood pressure. The American mistletoe is unsafe for medicinal use.

Mistletoe extract enhances immune function, which increases the production of the immune cells. It also contains a number of active compounds including alkaloids and lectins. Interestingly, there is a class of anti-hypertensive drugs called Rauwolfia alkaloids. They work by controlling nerve impulses along certain nerve pathways. As a result, they act on the heart and blood vessels to lower blood pressure.

Lectins, on the other hand, are a carbohydrate binding protein present in many foods grains, legumes, tomatoes, and vegetables belonging to the nightshade family. If over present in the body, they may cause diseases, including high blood pressure. A study presented at the American Heart Association’s 2013 Scientific Session found that a diet high in lectins, can be detrimental to your health and can be “tied to hypertension, diabetes and septic shock.”

According to the U.S. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicines, the leafy shoots and berries of mistletoe are used to make extracts that can be taken orally. While in Europe, mistletoe extracts are prescription drugs that are given by injection, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved its use and mistletoe by injection is available only in clinical trials.

There are warnings against consuming raw, unprocessed European or American mistletoe, which are poisonous. Also, taking European mistletoe in combination with medications for high blood pressure might cause hypotension. Therefore, a doctor must be consulted regarding the use and dosage of the herb.

Mistletoe was regarded as a “cure all” by the Druids and the ancient Greeks, but whether it might be an alternative remedy for high blood pressure is worth further clinical investigation.

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