The species that is most commonly associated with Christmas is the European mistletoe, or Viscum album. 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. The berry, leaf, and stem of European mistletoe are used to make medicine. Most of the risk comes from the effect the proteins in the plan have on the cardiovascular system. The poisonous qualities of mistletoe have not been conclusively proven; only larger quantities are … The number for Poison Control is 1-800-222-1222. Branches are forked and break easily. Discover surprising insights and little-known facts about politics, literature, science, and the marvels of the natural world. 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 contain the highest concentration of toxic chemicals. But the other side of this botanical coin is all species of mistletoe are poisonous. Other species of mistletoe will have differing medical properties and may be dangerous. Mistletoe Is… Poisonous. Mistletoe is also used in veterinary herbal medicine. Locally common in the UK, European Mistletoe as it name suggests is the only Mistletoe species native to Great Britain and Europe. The plant originally named mistletoe, Viscum … The European variety is Viscum album and the common mistletoe in the US is Phoradendron serotinum. There is only one species of mistletoe in Europe: European or Common Mistletoe (Viscum album). Do remember that this site is mostly about European Mistletoe, Viscum album, and any medical issues described relate to that species only. They are common holiday symbols sold frequently during the winter holiday season. It can grow on deciduous or coniferous trees, dependent on the subspecies. 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 … Mistletoe, however, is more commonly found growing as a parasitic pla… Some studies indicate mistletoe may be useful in treating cancer, although further evidence is needed. 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. Avoid consuming raw mistletoe of any variety, as it can be poisonous and induce vomiting, seizures, slowed heart rate and even death. 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. Mistletoe plants, both American and European, contain toxins that are damaging to the cell structure. 1 Phoratoxins and ligatoxin A found in mistletoe are small proteins that can act as cardiac depressants, causing hypotension, bradycardia, and decreased … Species of mistletoe are present in both North America and Europe. All are hemiparasitic plants that grow on host trees, such as oak and pine. It may also decrease side effects of radiation and chemotherapy. The Viscum species of mistletoe contain a slightly different cocktail of chemicals, including the poisonous alkaloid tyramine, which produce essentially the same symptoms. While kissing under the mistletoe is perfectly acceptable, eating the plant or its berries is not a good idea. 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. Eating one or a few berries is unlikely to cause sickness or death. It is even used to kill cancer cells and help recovery from chemotherapy treatments. The European variety has a documented history of being highly poisonous to humans and pets. There are several species of mistletoe, including Viscum album (European mistletoe) and Viscum album coloratum (Korean […] But the plant also is important to … This plant is poisonous. The plant is known to be mildly toxic in nature. 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. There is only one species of mistletoe in Europe: European or Common Mistletoe (Viscum album). The pods are tiny, irregular berries, white to yellow in color. The Phoradendron species contain a toxin called phoratoxin, which can cause blurred vision, nausea, abdominal pain, diarrhea, blood pressure changes, and even death. For the most part, mistletoe therapies are used in healthy adults, although there are reports of successful use in pediatric patients. 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. Most adults can eat a few berries without harm, but children and pets are at risk of poisoning. Mistletoe IS poisonous, although it is doubtful as to whether it will actually cause death. Isn’t mistletoe poisonous? In the wild, the two varieties of mistletoe most often hung at Christmas both parasitize deciduous trees. There is particular confusion sometimes in North America, where local mistletoe species (especially Phoradendron) may be significantly more poisonous than our European variety. This entry only refers to poisoning from the ingestion of plant material from Viscum album and not Phoradendron tomentosum. As opposed to true parasites, it also uses photosynthesis to create its own organic substances. 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. 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. 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. Berries from this holiday plant contain polysaccharides, alkaloids, and lectins. Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. Aside from its parasitic nature, every part of the plant is poisonous when ingested, particularly that of the European variant of the plant. Often used as a symbol of renewal because it stays green all winter, mistletoe is famed for its stolen-kisses power. The plant has been used medicinally in Europe for hundreds of years to treat arthritis, high blood pressure, epilepsy, and infertility. The irony of this is not lost on us at all. ...mistletoe is one of the symbols of Christmas, and tradition states that it brings fortune and blessings to a home? It is popular at Christmas due to its association with kissing under the mistletoe. In the fall and winter, the plant bears clusters of white berries that have a waxy appearance. However, it's important to remember the species in Europe (Viscum album) is less toxic than the species found in America (Phoradendron serotinum). The plant is not recommended for patients who have leukemia, brain tumors, or malignant lymphoma or for lactating or pregnant women. In folk medicine, it has been used for its cardiovascular properties. Check your species! Were they just lucky or is it okay to eat a few berries? Mistletoe is used to treat high blood pressure and cancer. In one case, a child suffered a seizure, but researchers were unable to definitively link it to mistletoe consumption. Pretty poison. V. album is not native to or sold in the US, but it could be privately imported. 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. But mistletoe is also capable for growing on its own; like other plants it can produce its own food by photosynthesis. The leaves and berries contain the highest concentration of dangerous chemicals. 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. Class – eudicots (Rosopsida) These are the most common, the mistletoe family contains over 900 species. 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. Enter Phoradendron serotinum, otherwise known as Eastern Mistletoe — which does grow wild in North America. They have different toxic ingredients but both can do harm. Type of poison – polypeptides. The Viscum species of mistletoe contain a slightly different cocktail of chemicals, including the poisonous alkaloid tyramine, which produce essentially the same symptoms. Ingesting the leaves or berries of European mistletoe can cause vomiting, difficulty breathing, shock and even death . Mistletoe Toxic Components Both mistletoe species are toxic to horses. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Viscum album (European mistletoe) should not to be confused with American mistletoe (Phoradendron tomentosum). 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. Further study is needed. A study of 1754 American mistletoe exposures revealed none resulted in death, even though 92% of the cases involved children. ...mistletoe contains the poison lectin, which strengthens the body's immune reaction against cancer and even slows tumor growth? The European mistletoe is most abundant on apple trees, poplars, willows, lindens, and hawthorns. It can grow on deciduous or coniferous trees, dependent on the subspecies. The European variety of mistletoe has oval leaves and small clumps of 2-5 white berries. Distribution – Europe, Asia (Viscum album) Another study of 92 cases reported to poison control centers revealed no cases of death, even though up to 20 berries and 5 leaves were eaten. When accidentally ingested by our pets, mistletoe poisoning can result in mild signs of gastrointestinal … With over 1500 varieties of Mistletoe in the world, some are more toxic than others. Is Mistletoe Poisonous? However, anaphylactic reactions are known, so it's important to watch for indications of a reaction to the plant. European mistletoe, like man… Only European mistletoe can be used therapeutically, as American mistletoe is unsafe. Because of its vampiric tendencies, … ...Celtic druids regarded mistletoe as sacred, believed that it was capable of curing all ailments, and used it as a cure for infertility? Jacky Parker Photography/Moment/Getty Images. Overview Information European mistletoe is a plant that grows on several different trees. ...the custom of kissing under mistletoe was brought to Germany by British mercenaries? 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