XXI: mistletoe

Mistletoe has been tested extensively as a treatment for cancer, but the most reliable randomised controlled trials fail to show benefit, and some reports show considerable potential for harm. The costs of regular mistletoe injections are high. I therefore recommend mistletoe as a Christmas decoration and for kissing under but not as an anticancer drug.At the risk of upsetting many proponents of alternative medicine, I also contend that intuition is no substitute for evidence. (Edzard Ernst.)

That’s Edzard Ernst’s summary on the popular christmas decoration. But it isn’t that of an anthroposophist. Not that there’s anything to be surprised about. Steiner said, and this is still the most important explanation for why anthroposophists still use mistletoe (although the ‘official’ justifications have been manifold):

Mistletoe provides, beyond question, a means which — when given in potencies — should enable us to dispense with the surgical removal of tumours. The point is only to find out how to treat the mistletoe fruit in combining it with other forces of the mistletoe plant, in order to arrive at a remedy. The peculiar “madness” of this plant is shown in its method of fertilisation, which depends on transport by birds from one tree to another. The plant would become extinct were it not for this service of the birds. In a curious way, the fertilising elements of the mistletoe choose the path through the birds, and are excreted on another tree trunk or branch, where they “take root” anew. All these peculiarities illuminate the whole formative process of the mistletoe. The task is to blend the glutinous substance of the mistletoe in the right way with the triturating medium, and so increase gradually the potency of the viscum substance to a very high degree. Having ascertained the main formula, we should vary it, specialising according to the requirements of this or that organ; and also bearing in mind the particular tree on which the mistletoe grew …

Mistletoe, Steiner said, is a plant with an aristocratic attitude. Read more about the properties of mistletoe here, where you’ll learn more about its etheric organisation, and so forth. He also spoke about mistletoe in non-medical contexts. For example this time, when he talked about the Baldur myth.

This myth indicates that that which is invulnerable upon the Earth can only suffer harm through that which has remained behind from another existence as something evil. In the mistletoe people saw something which had entered the present state of existence from an earlier one. All the beings now living upon the earth can only suffer harm through that which has remained behind from an earlier one. All the beings now living upon the Earth are connected with Baldur. But it was otherwise upon the Moon; consequently that being which had remained behind from the Moon was able to kill Baldur. All the various customs connected with the mistletoe arise out of this foundation. [Source.]

And here he also talks about how mistletoe has preserved the conditions of the old Moon. I’d go with Ernst though and say that today the strange parasitic plant is best used for decorative purposes. And mr Dog is carrying a couple of branches of mistletoe with him on the walks. So that the fur-girls cannot resist his kisses.

mistletoe in nature, april 2011