Viscum albumSantalaceae Family

The classic image of the druid is that of a bearded man in a white robe cutting mistletoe out of an oak tree with a golden scythe. The druids revered mistletoe as the most sacred of plants. They noted it was the exception to almost every rule in the plant family. This was a plant that commanded the attention of mortals by defying order set down by the gods.

 Mistletoe is in the sandalwood family, which is made up parasitic or semi-parasitic plants. It develops flower buds in spring that do not open until the following winter and take another year to turn into berries. It can parasitize other trees or, since it has its own chlorophyll, it can live on its own. It requires darkness, not light to germinate. It also seems to ignore the laws of gravity by growing upside down, sideways or any other direction the seed happened to have come in contact with a viable tree branch.

The druids appreciated the effect mistletoe has on the body. In small doses, it stimulates the heart and nervous system. This makes it dangerous for small children sampling handfuls of the berries but the leaves are very helpful for stabilizing heart palpitations, heavy bleeding and high blood pressure.

What the druids may not have known was how effective mistletoe is for treating certain forms of cancer. This plant contains alkaloids that are used in conjunction with other cancer treatments in Europe since 1917. Research is being conducted to confirm findings that show mistletoe not only killing cancer cells in the body but strengthening the human immune system. Should these studies gain further confirmation, mistletoe may find itself climbing back into its comfortable position as revered plant, this time without the golden scythes.