Viscus album

Mistletoe – Gui

We are all familiar with ‘kissing under the mistletoe’ at Christmas, but few of us know where the custom comes from.  The Scandinavians started the custom of ‘kissing under the mistletoe’.  It is all based on a legend.  The goddess, ‘Frigg’, wanted to make sure that no plant could harm her son, ‘Balder’.  Unfortunately, she forgot the Mistletoe.  Balder was killed by an arrow made out of Mistletoe.  He was then resurrected.  His mother, ‘Frigg,’ declared that the Mistletoe would be a symbol of love, not death.  People kissed under the Mistletoe to obey the goddess Frigg.
The Druids considered Mistletoe grown on an oak tree to be the best.  It took so much effort for the mistletoe to penetrate the bark of an oak tree, that they thought it must be the best.  They were quite right, the constituents of Mistletoe can vary depending on which tree it uses as host.  


Mistletoe flowers
Misteltoe is a parasite.  The roots of the Mistletoe can penetrate up to 1.5 m into the wood of a tree to obtain water and food.  It grows mostly on deciduous trees, rarely on conifers, often on apple trees and sometimes on an oak.  If there are too many mistletoe plants on a tree, they will kill the tree.  It is a woody, evergreen perennial with lots of branches. Leaves are leathery, light-green, narrow to obovate (8 cm).  The flowers appear in mid-spring, followed by sticky white fruits in autumn.  The berries are very poisonous and should never be used.  Mistletoe gets established through bird faeces that lands on a tree, the seeds in the faeces start germinating and then penetrating the branches of the tree.  
The leaves are harvested in spring, then dried.  Mistletoe lowers blood pressure and stimulates the immune system, slows down the heart beat and relaxes spasms.  It is a sedative, a diuretic.  It contains substances called lectins that are currently being examined for a possible anti-cancer drug.  It should only be used under guidance of medically qualified herbalists or homeopaths.  
Bibilography:  The RHS Encyclopedia of Herbs and their uses – Deni Bown; Herbs & Herbalism;

About seasonalforaging

We are a group of friends who enjoy walking in the countryside in Provence searching for plants and herbs to identify and use.
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