Viscum: European vs American mistletoe

Medical Herbalism (3)1:7

Can American mistletoe (Phoradendron spp., Viscum favescens) and European misteltoe (Viscum album) be used interchangeably? Phoradendron is reputed to raise blood pressure, and viscum to lower it.

    The literature on the two species is full of contradictions. Phoradendron was listed by the eclectics as an antispasmodic, and was used to restrain postpartum and other uterine hemorrhages. Yet it was said to produce intermittent contractions as opposed to ergotís spastic contraction, and was also used in congestive heart failure, to strengthen feeble pulse (Felter, Lloyd).

    Modern writers mention the view that phoradendron stimulates smooth muscle, raises blood pressure, and increases uterine and intestinal motility, and that viscum reduces blood pressure, and is antispasmodic and calming. Yet research shows that the two genuses have similar constituents. Animal studies of these isolated constituents have been found to either lower or raise the blood pressure (Der Marderosian).

    A naturopathic writer suggests that the effects in phoradendron are dose dependentósmall doses reducing cerebral circulation, and large doses elevating the blood pressure (Sherman).

    While it is tempting because of the similar names and constituents to use the herbs interchangeably, it may be unwise to completely disregard the experience of the eclectics with American mistletoe. An herb which strengthens the pulse in CHF is not the kind of herb you would want to use in hypertension.

    We invite your comments and clinical experiences with these herbs.


Der Marderosian A., Liberti LE. Natural Products Medicine A scientific guide to foods, drugs, and cosmetics. George F Stockley and Co. Philadelphia. 1988.

Felter HW, Lloyd HU.m Kingís American Dispensatory. 1898. Reprinted 1983. Eclectic Medical Publications. Portland, OR.

Sherman J. Complete Botanical Prescriber National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, OR. 1979

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