One of the most iconic herbs of the festive season, mistletoe is as infamous as the holly that it often accompanies in decorations at this time of year.
Herbalists use the leaves and twigs both as a tincture and as a tea to relax the nerves and reduce blood pressure. On an emotional level, mistletoe helps us breathe through emotional problems and deal with difficult endings.
Rudolf Steiner introduced the idea of using mistletoe to support a person with cancer. His inspiration was the fact that mistletoe is a parasitic plant growing bigger while weakening the host tree. Homeopathic injections of mistletoe are still used today as a treatment adjunct and modern research shows that when mistletoe is put together with cancer cells, it punctures the cell walls.
Mistletoe was revered by the Druids as a holy plant. It is thought to be the origin of the Golden Bough often written about in that time because the berries take on a golden hue when ripe. It was a sacred plant because of how it grows – in globes high up in trees – so it was said to be ‘not of the earth’ and to come from ‘the place between places. Mistletoe was cut down in a great ceremony with a golden sickle and fell onto the pure white cloth so that it wouldn’t touch the ground. It has links to finding love which is why we kiss underneath it in December.
Mistletoe is more commonly used in decorative festive items rather than in edible recipes. However, the twigs and leaves can be gathered in spring and dried to make a really pleasant, calming herbal tea that mixes well with hawthorn blossoms or berries. It is commonly drunk in mainland Europe.
Care must be taken with mistletoe if you are pregnant as it has an oxytocic action that can cause the uterine muscle to contract. While this is unlikely to affect a healthy pregnancy, it is best never to take the risk.
At this time of year, it’s traditional to make wreaths with evergreens and berries to hang in your home, or on your front door. Each part of the wreath holds a significance that helps to connect us to our ancestral traditions.
Bend some pliable ivy, willow, or pine branches into a circle wrapping the ends in and out so that it holds itself together. Secure the circle at the top with some garden twine and anywhere else around the circle that you feel needs extra support.
Then simply thread in other branches, berries, and of course mistletoe as you wish. When your wreath is done, cut a length of ribbon and loop it through the top of the circle so you can hang your wreath and enjoy.