Mistletoe – Viscum album


“Holly and mistletoe
Candles and bells,
I know the message
That each of you tells.”
–  Leland B. Jacobs

Mistletoe is a parasite that grows on trees, usually soft wood trees like apple, very rarely oak. Although rarely growing on oak, the most valued Mistletoe of old grew on the oak, and when harvested great care was given to never let the Mistletoe hit the ground. Today in the Willamette Valley of Oregon misteltoe grows in oaks in what I am told is common occurance…Thanks Margi for the information!!

Ancient myths surround the Mistletoe. The Vikings believed it could resurrect the dead, a belief based on a legend about the resurrection of Balder, God of Light and Goodness, who was killed by a mistletoe arrow but resurrected when tears of his mother Frigga turned the red mistletoe berries white.

“In ancient times, both Druids and Romans hung sprigs of mistletoe in their homes and places of celebration to bring good fortune, peace and love.”

Today the tradition of hanging Mistletoe in the home is most often done using plastic imitation mistletoe, what a sad loss!

Historically it has been used to treat hypertension, epilepsy, exhaustion, anxiety, arthritis, vertigo, and degenerative inflammation of the joints. Although Mistletoe leaves are reputed to be an effective remedy for high blood pressure, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has labeled this herb “unsafe” and does not approve of its use in treating any illnesses.

The Holly and the Mistletoe

By Katherine L Sparrow

Shiny leaves and berries red
Bringing season’s cheer
Festive in a Christmas wreath
At this time of the year

Deepest green and berries white
Meaning love is pure
Stand beneath a pretty sprig
And get a kiss for sure!

The holly and the mistletoe
Both joyous to behold
Amid the winter dark and drear
Still growing, bright and bold

Warning: The juice and berries of the plant are poisonous. The symptoms of poisoning are slow and weaken of the heartbeat and constrictionof the blood vessels, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, chills, fever, headaches, angina and hypotension, fixed and dilated pupils, irritated conjunctiva, bradycardia, vasoconstriction, hypo- or hypertension, seizures, delirium and hallucinations. Cardiac arrest may occur.

3 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by MargiW on December 19, 2010 at 3:14 pm

    I enjoy looking up at the branches of oaks here in Western Oregon and noticing the lovely mistletoe! Thanks for the interesting blog post and for the mention!


  2. Yay, I was hoping you would feature Mistletoe in your blog! And I enjoy the poems associated with it. What about the tradition of kissing under the mistletoe – find anything on the origins of that? 🙂


  3. Rebecca…I didn’t realize I had left it out!

    “Mistletoe has always been considered a magical, good luck plant. Lovers who kiss beneath it will have lasting happiness and carrying a sprig on your person will ensure good luck, protection and fertility. Hanging it in the home was supposed to protect it(the home) from disease, lightening, werewolves and having your children switched with faerie changelings.”

    The tradition of kissing beneath the mistletoe began back in ancient Rome, when it was done during the feast of Saturnalia. It was believed to bring good luck.

    In old England everytime someone kissed under the mistletoe a white, sticky berry would be plucked from the bunch. Once the berries were all gone the kissing was done! On the twelfth night the mistletoe would then be burned to ensure that all the couple kissing under it would be married that year!

    There are all sorts of myths associated with Mistletoe…One deals with the Goddess Frigga and her son Balder…to read it go to http://www.theholidayspot.com/christmas/history/mistletoe.htm
    Check towards the bottom of the page!


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