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Mistletoe

SCIENTIFIC NAME(S): Viscum album L.
Family: Loranthaceae, Phoradendron serotinum (Raf.) M.C. Johnston, P. flavescens (Pursh) NuttaI, P. tomentosum (DC) Englem

COMMON NAME(S): Mistletoe, bird lime, all heal, devil's fuge, golden bough

Mistletoe is the common name for various parasitic plants of the families Santalaceae (in the section of the family formerly separated as Viscaceae ) and Loranthaceae.

The name was originally applied to Viscum album (European Mistletoe, Santalaceae; the only species native in Great Britain and much of Europe ), and subsequently to other related species, including Phoradendron leucarpum (the Eastern Mistletoe of eastern North America , also Santalaceae). In an example of convergent evolution , several less related but superficially very similar plants in the Loranthaceae are also so similar that they have also been called mistletoes.

History

An early pagan custom required hanging mistletoe to inspire passion during the pagan holiday of "Hoeul." Today's custom of kissing under the plant is a simpler version of this event. European mistletoe has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and gained wide popularity in the early 1900s as a cancer treatment.

Botany :- American mistletoe comprises the Phoradendron species and European mistletoes V. album, V. abietis, and V. austriacum. Mistletoes are semiparasitic woody perennials commonly found on oaks and other deciduous trees. These evergreen plants produce small white berries and are used as Christmas ornaments. Do not confuse these plants with the New Zealand mistletoe (lleostylus micranthus), which contains cytotoxic compounds that may be derived from the host tree (Podocarpus totara)

Uses of Mistletoe

Mistletoe has been used in traditional medicine and has been studied as a cancer treatment. It has been shown to be hyper- and hypotensive and to increase uterine and intestinal motility.

Side Effects of Mistletoe

Mistletoe is acutely toxic and may cause cardiac arrest.

Toxicology

All parts of mistletoe, including the berries and leaves, should be regarded as toxic. Institute symptomatic treatment rapidly. Symptoms of toxicity include nausea, bradycardia, gastroenteritis, hypertension, delirium, and hallucinations. Diarrhea and vomiting may lead to serious dehydration. Vasoconstriction and cardiac arrest may occur. Rapid gastric emptying has been suggested even if as few as 1 or 2 berries have been ingested. However, a comprehensive analysis of more than 300 reported cases of mistletoe ingestion in the US found that the majority of patients remained asymptomatic, and no deaths occurred. These data lead to the conclusion that ingestion of up to 3 berries or 2 leaves is unlikely to produce serious toxicity.

Hepatitis following the ingestion of an herbal compound containing mistletoe has been reported, but other investigators have suggested that, based on the lack of documented hepatic toxicity of the' components of mistletoe, the reported toxic effect was more likely caused by an adulterant. Death has been reported following the ingestion of teas brewed from these plants for use as a tonic or abortifacient. Allergic rhinitis has been reported in a subject handling commercial mistletoe tea (V. album).

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