Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Mistletoe Extract Potential Colon Cancer Cure

Photo: Wikipedia
When I think of mistletoe, I think of Christmas, and songs like "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (underneath the mistletoe)", because that's all it's good for, right? Snatching a loving kiss from your sweetie underneath a hanging piece of Mistletoe. Wrong. I wasn't aware that Mistletoe actually had any medicinal properties, but it does, and it's a biggie.

Australian scientists at the University of Adelaide have been experimenting with Mistletoe extract and have found that it has huge potential for helping with colon cancer, either as a complementary holistic treatment along with chemotherapy, or even as an alternative healing modality.

What's amazing is that it was a student, Zahra Lotfollahi, who discovered the efficacy of Mistletoe extract while working on her Honours research project at the University of Adelaide. Comparing three different extracts in conjunction with chemotherapy on both colon cancer cells and healthy cells, she discovered that one in particular from the Fraxini species- grown on ash trees- was able to kill cancer cells better than chemo, and without the harsh side effects.  Lotfollahi said:

"This is an important result because we know that chemotherapy is effective at killing healthy cells as well as cancer cells. This can result in severe side effects for the patient, such as oral mucositis (ulcers in the mouth) and hair loss."

"Our laboratory studies have shown Fraxini mistletoe extract by itself to be highly effective at reducing the viability of colon cancer cells. At certain concentrations, Fraxini also increased the potency of chemotherapy against the cancer cells.

"Of the three extracts tested, and compared with chemotherapy, Fraxini was the only one that showed a reduced impact on healthy intestinal cells. This might mean that Fraxini is a potential candidate for increased toxicity against cancer, while also reducing potential side effects. However, more laboratory testing is needed to further validate this work."

According to her supervisor, Professor Gordon Howarth:

"Although mistletoe grown on the ash tree was the most effective of the three extracts tested, there is a possibility that mistletoe grown on other, as yet untested, trees or plants could be even more effective.

"This is just the first important step in what we hope will lead to further research, and eventually clinical trials, of mistletoe extract in Australia,"

Howarth claims the extract has been available in Europe and other countries overseas, but not in the the United States or Australia, hence the need for research. I'm sure much has to do with big pharma, since there's not any money to be made with natural alternatives, but hopefully something will come of this.

Although lung and bronchial cancer is the number one cancer killer in the West, colon cancer comes in second.

Some fun facts on Mistletoe that I had no clue about:

1. It's parasitic. Like a fungus, it grows on trees and shrubs. "As it grows, it burrows into its host, and draws nutrients from the tree", a little like a vampire.

2.  It can be slightly toxic to humans, so not something you'd want to munch on.

3.  Using Mistletoe as a holiday decoration pre-dates Christianity, and was considered  a fertility symbol.
According to legend, Baldur, the god of light, began to have terrible nightmares that he would soon be killed. To ease his mind, Baldur’s mother, Frigga, undertook a journey to make everything in heaven or Earth – plants, animals, weapons, and so on – swear an oath not to harm Baldur. Because her son was so universally loved, everything she asked gladly made this promise. Unfortunately, the goddess overlooked the humble mistletoe. Realizing Frigga’s mistake, Loki, the god of mischief and fire, fashioned a spear of mistletoe and tricked Baldur’s blind twin brother, Hodur, into throwing it at the light god. The mistletoe pierced Baldur’s heart, killing him and bringing darkness to the world. Being magical, the gods were eventually able to resurrect Baldur. To celebrate his return, Frigga declared that mistletoe would be a symbol of love, and commanded gods and humans to kiss beneath its leaves in memory of her son. Some versions of the myth, though, say Loki foiled the gods’ attempt to restore Baldur to life. In this case, it is prophesied that the light god will return at Ragnarok, the destruction and rebirth of the world, and the mistletoe kiss is a foretaste of the joy that is yet to come.

And more fun facts.

This is good news, now we just need the FDA to approve it. Of course that means it will be available, if at all, when I'm dead and gone.

Sources: Newswise

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