The plant is not recommended for patients who have leukemia, brain tumors, or malignant lymphoma or for lactating or pregnant women. The European mistletoe is most abundant on apple trees, poplars, willows, lindens, and hawthorns. The plant is known to be mildly toxic in nature. Mistletoe is also used in veterinary herbal medicine. Division – angiosperms (Magnoliophyta) ...the custom of kissing under mistletoe was brought to Germany by British mercenaries? It uses its special root-like organs (haustoria) to steal nutrients, water and minerals from its host. The white berries of mistletoe plants are poisonous to humans but valuable food to many other species. A well known parasitic evergreens for its supposed medicinal and perceived magical properties. Pretty poison. But the other side of this botanical coin is all species of mistletoe are poisonous. The risk of poisoning is higher for children and particularly for pets. These are the most common, the mistletoe family contains over 900 species. Check your species! European mistletoe (Viscum album) as well as American mistletoe (Phoradendron serotinum) are both evergreen parasitic perennials with white or translucent berries, that grow on the trunks and branches of deciduous trees. Aside from its parasitic nature, every part of the plant is poisonous when ingested, particularly that of the European variant of the plant. Only in nursing infants can poisoning have more severe consequences. Many of the other mistletoe species live in tropical and subtropical climates in different parts of the world. The European variety has a documented history of being highly poisonous to humans and pets. Basic information: Their parasitic lifestyle has led to some dramatic changes in their metabolism. While kissing under the mistletoe is perfectly acceptable, eating the plant or its berries is not a good idea. The irony of this is not lost on us at all. Yes it is, but only in excess. ...mistletoe is a hemi-parasitic plant, living on various kinds of trees? There are several species of mistletoe. It is native to Europe and western and southern Asia.. Viscum album is a hemiparasite on several species of trees, from which it draws water and nutrients. They are common holiday symbols sold frequently during the winter holiday season. The Mistletoe plant contains Phoratoxin and Viscotoxin, which are both poisonous proteins when ingested. Often used as a symbol of renewal because it stays green all winter, mistletoe is famed for its stolen-kisses power. Mistletoe plants, both American and European, contain toxins that are damaging to the cell structure. By using ThoughtCo, you accept our, How the Sixth Mass Extinction Affects the U.S. Economy, Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville, B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College. This plant has paired, oval leaves and yellow-green flowers. As opposed to true parasites, it also uses photosynthesis to create its own organic substances. Type of poison – polypeptides. Mistletoes contain glycoprotein lectins that can inhibit protein synthesis, leading to cell death; although these lectins are of the same class as the very toxic ricin found in castor beans (Ricinus communis), the lectins in Phoradendron are much less toxic. The pods are tiny, irregular berries, white to yellow in color. Isn’t mistletoe poisonous? ...mistletoe is one of the symbols of Christmas, and tradition states that it brings fortune and blessings to a home? Mistletoe tea and berries made in tea may be used to treat hypertension at a dose of 10 g/day. For the most part, mistletoe therapies are used in healthy adults, although there are reports of successful use in pediatric patients. Is mistletoe really poisonous? However, anaphylactic reactions are known, so it's important to watch for indications of a reaction to the plant. The number for Poison Control is 1-800-222-1222. There are several types of mistletoe which can be poisonous to pets: Phoradendron serotinum (American variety) and Viscum album (European variety). The leaves and berries of European mistletoe are poisonous. The Viscum species of mistletoe contain a slightly different cocktail of chemicals, including the poisonous alkaloid tyramine, which produce essentially the same symptoms. Mistletoe, however, is more commonly found growing as a parasitic pla… The plant so associated with love is actually a hermiparasite that feeds off other plants as well as the sun. However, American mistletoe isn't as toxic. When accidentally ingested by our pets, mistletoe poisoning can result in mild signs of gastrointestinal … American mistletoe (Phoradendron flavescen) is the type that grows in the United States and is used as a romantic holiday decoration, while European mistletoe (Viscum album) is the species that has been used for centuries in traditional herbal medicine. As a parasitic plant, it grows on the branches or trunk of a tree and actually sends out roots that penetrate into the tree and take up nutrients. ...Celtic druids regarded mistletoe as sacred, believed that it was capable of curing all ailments, and used it as a cure for infertility? The species that is most commonly associated with Christmas is the European mistletoe, or Viscum album. It is popular at Christmas due to its association with kissing under the mistletoe. The berry, leaf, and stem of European mistletoe are used to make medicine. Do remember that this site is mostly about European Mistletoe, Viscum album, and any medical issues described relate to that species only. A study of 1754 American mistletoe exposures revealed none resulted in death, even though 92% of the cases involved children. Other species of mistletoe will have differing medical properties and may be dangerous. Mistletoe Toxic Components Both mistletoe species are toxic to horses. Mistletoe is the common name for obligate hemiparasitic plants in the order Santalales. The leaves and berries contain the highest concentration of dangerous chemicals. Mistletoe isn’t known to kill humans, but it can cause drowsiness, blurred vision, vomiting, and even seizures. Viscum album is a species of mistletoe in the family Santalaceae, commonly known as European mistletoe, common mistletoe or simply as mistletoe (Old English mistle). Mistletoe is an angiosperm, living as a hemi-parasite on other plants. ...some Christians believe that mistletoe was originally a tree, but withered into a small bush, because the cross on which Jesus was executed was cut from mistletoe wood? Most adults can eat a few berries without harm, but children and pets are at risk of poisoning. Branches are forked and break easily. Is Mistletoe Poisonous? The literature on the European variety includes reports of serious poisonings and deaths, usually due to excessive concentrated herbal use such as brewing mistletoe in tea. All are hemiparasitic plants that grow on host trees, such as oak and pine. The European variety of mistletoe has oval leaves and small clumps of 2-5 white berries. All parts of the plant are toxic (that’s berries, stem and leaves). There is only one species of mistletoe in Europe: European or Common Mistletoe (Viscum album). Mistletoe IS poisonous, although it is doubtful as to whether it will actually cause death. For the purists out there, most of what you can buy in the way of live mistletoe is the European species (Viscum album) which would have been the species favored by those dancing Druids. European mistletoe is missing crucial components of its electron transport chain, leading researchers to conclude that mistletoe steals sugar from its host plants instead of making the energy molecule ATP from scratch. It can grow on deciduous or coniferous trees, dependent on the subspecies. Injectable mistletoe extract is widely used in Europe but is n… There are two general types of poisonous mistletoe that are sold for Christmas. They have different toxic ingredients but both can do harm. A liquid extract containing key medicinal components of the mistletoe plant has also been used for decades to treat cancer, mainly in Europe and parts of Asia. These berries, and those of other mistletoes, contain toxic compounds poisonous to many animals and to humans. European mistletoe ingestion has caused cases of poisonings and sometimes deaths. Mistletoe is poisonous Eating any part of the plant can cause drowsiness, blurred vision, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weakness and seizures. There is particular confusion sometimes in North America, where local mistletoe species (especially Phoradendron) may be significantly more poisonous than our European variety. According to the National Cancer Institute, mistletoe extract has been demonstrated to affect the immune system and kill cancer cells in the laboratory. The leaves and berries contain the highest concentration of toxic chemicals. In fact, although until recently American mistletoe was widely considered to be as poisonous as the European species, downing a few berries is likely to lead to no more than a stomachache. The symptoms are caused by a … Jacky Parker Photography/Moment/Getty Images. There are multiple species of mistletoe. There is only one species of mistletoe in Europe: European or Common Mistletoe (Viscum album). Most of the risk comes from the effect the proteins in the plan have on the cardiovascular system. Locally common in the UK, European Mistletoe as it name suggests is the only Mistletoe species native to Great Britain and Europe. European mistletoe ingestion has caused cases of poisonings and sometimes deaths. The plant grows as a semi-spherical tuft on trees. (The plants aren’t poisonous to chickens, of course.) Some studies indicate mistletoe may be useful in treating cancer, although further evidence is needed. That being said, the average healthy adult can tolerate a few berries. Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. The toxins responsible can be found in the leaves and berries of the plant. Overview Information European mistletoe is a plant that grows on several different trees. In the fall and winter, the plant bears clusters of white berries that have a waxy appearance. Further study is needed. ...mistletoe contains the poison lectin, which strengthens the body's immune reaction against cancer and even slows tumor growth? The leaves and berries contain the highest concentration of toxic chemicals. Ingesting the leaves or berries of European mistletoe can cause vomiting, difficulty breathing, shock and even death . European mistletoe, like man… It appears that American Phoradendron mistletoe is less toxic than the European species Viscum album. Enter Phoradendron serotinum, otherwise known as Eastern Mistletoe — which does grow wild in North America. This plant is poisonous. The answer is that the risk of poisoning depends on the type of mistletoe and what part of the plant is eaten. Clinical efficacy has not been established. The poisonous qualities of mistletoe have not been conclusively proven; only larger quantities are known to cause diarrhea and stomachaches. Several species of mistletoe contain poisonous ingredients called phoratoxin and viscotoxin which, if consumed, can cause drowsiness, blurred vision, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, weakness and even seizures — a bit like eggnog, only worse. Mistletoe Is… Poisonous. However, its use is not approved by the FDA. According to the National Capital Poison Center’s recent studies describing American mistletoe exposures (mainly by young children at Christmas), you’d have to eat a whole lot of berries to … While mistletoe is not used in the United States, an injectable form of the plant is available in Europe as an adjuvant cancer therapy. With over 1500 varieties of Mistletoe in the world, some are more toxic than others. It has a significant role in European mythology, legends, and customs. Eating one or a few berries is unlikely to cause sickness or death. Mistletoe has been used to treat cancer, although there is a lack of quality clinical trials and little evidence of an effect. It’s been known to cause blurred vision, nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting. Distinguishing marks: European Mistletoe - Viscum album - image is under CC-BY-SA, from The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Mistletoe in crown of tree - image is under CC-BY-NC-SA, from Malcolm Storey. Were they just lucky or is it okay to eat a few berries? Mistletoe is especially interesting botanically because it is a partial parasite (a \"hemiparasite\"). They are attached to their host tree or shrub by a structure called the haustorium, through which they extract water and nutrients from the host plant. However, it's important to remember the species in Europe (Viscum album) is less toxic than the species found in America (Phoradendron serotinum). But, the European mistletoe is more poisonous than its American counterpart Mistletoe Poisoning is the accidental or intentional intake of the leaves of the plant All of them produce toxic compounds. Avoid consuming raw mistletoe of any variety, as it can be poisonous and induce vomiting, seizures, slowed heart rate and even death. Mistletoe is used to treat high blood pressure and cancer. V. album is not native to or sold in the US, but it could be privately imported. But the plant also is important to … However, American mistletoe isn't as toxic. It is even used to kill cancer cells and help recovery from chemotherapy treatments. Consumption of a large number of berries is extremely dangerous and warrants a call to Poison Control. The poisonous qualities of mistletoe have not been conclusively proven; only larger quantities are … It can grow on deciduous or coniferous trees, dependent on the subspecies. In folk medicine, it has been used for its cardiovascular properties. The American mistletoe is less toxic than the European varieties of it. The Phoradendron species contain a toxin called phoratoxin, which can cause blurred vision, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood pressure changes, and even death. European Mistletoe. Maximum height – 1 m Discover surprising insights and little-known facts about politics, literature, science, and the marvels of the natural world. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Although mistletoe can be dangerous, it also has therapeutic uses. Class – eudicots (Rosopsida) Berries from this holiday plant contain polysaccharides, alkaloids, and lectins. But mistletoe is also capable for growing on its own; like other plants it can produce its own food by photosynthesis. 1 Phoratoxins and ligatoxin A found in mistletoe are small proteins that can act as cardiac depressants, causing hypotension, bradycardia, and decreased … In the wild, the two varieties of mistletoe most often hung at Christmas both parasitize deciduous trees. Distribution – Europe, Asia (Viscum album) The Viscum species of mistletoe contain a slightly different cocktail of chemicals, including the poisonous alkaloid tyramine, which produce essentially the same symptoms. There are several species of mistletoe, including Viscum album (European mistletoe) and Viscum album coloratum (Korean […] Toxic parts: Berries are the most dangerous but all parts are toxic Mistletoe is a group of hemiparasitic plants that live on trees with a worldwide distribution. This entry only refers to poisoning from the ingestion of plant material from Viscum album and not Phoradendron tomentosum. Viscum album (European mistletoe) should not to be confused with American mistletoe (Phoradendron tomentosum). Mistletoe toxicity is unusual in cattle. ...the substance viscin, extracted from mistletoe sap was used to trap birds, due to its sticky property (birdlime). In humans, the poisoning symptoms also include hallucinations, which may account for the erratic behavior in other animals as well. Because of its vampiric tendencies, … In one case, a child suffered a seizure, but researchers were unable to definitively link it to mistletoe consumption. The plant has been used medicinally in Europe for hundreds of years to treat arthritis, high blood pressure, epilepsy, and infertility. Alternatively, drinking a tea from the plant can result in sickness and possibly death. It may also decrease side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. Many of us know someone who ate a berry or two as a kid and lived to tell the tale. Out of the two most common varieties of mistletoe, it’s the European (Viscum album) that is actually a poisonous plant. Species of mistletoe are present in both North America and Europe. The European mistletoe (Viscum album), which has oval-shaped leaves and white berries, is the “original” mistletoe plant of European mythology and reverence, and it’s the only mistletoe species throughout most of Europe. The European variety is Viscum album and the common mistletoe in the US is Phoradendron serotinum. The plant originally named mistletoe, Viscum … She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. A study of 1754 American mistletoe exposures revealed none resulted in death, even though 92% of the cases involved children. Only European mistletoe can be used therapeutically, as American mistletoe is unsafe. In the USA, the FDA has not approved the use of mistletoe. 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