December 2014
The Herb Lady

Mistletoe

More than a Holiday Decoration

Mistletoe – "An evergreen plant having white berries that grows as a parasite on various trees. Used in Christmas decorations." That’s what my dictionary has to say about mistletoe.

Mistletoe – "(Phoradendron flovescens) Plants in round clumps on tree branches; leaves: leathery and spoon shaped; flowers: greenish; berries: white; habitat: tree branches; in bloom: May-June." That’s what "North American Wildlife"(a Reader’s Digest publication) has to say about mistletoe.

Also according to "North American Wildlife,"this plant grows everywhere in the United States, in Canada and south of the border. Evidently it grows over a large part of the world.

The following is a quote from "World Book": "Mistletoe is associated with many traditions and holidays. Especially Christmas. Historians say the Druids, or ancient priests of the Celts, cut the mistletoe which grew on the sacred oak, and gave it to the people for charms. In Northern mythology, an arrow made of mistletoe killed Balder, son of the goddess, Frigg. Early European peoples used mistletoe as a ceremonial plant. The custom of using mistletoe at Christmas time probably comes from this practice. In many countries, a person caught standing under the mistletoe must forfeit a kiss."

(I’ve handled much mistletoe. However, none that I handled appeared to be good arrow material. This makes me wonder how a mistletoe arrow could kill anyone.)

This is not the only pagan practice we Christians have incorporated into our Christmas celebration. I wonder if the plant grew or grows in the Jerusalem area. Research didn’t answer that question.

When I was young, we always used mistletoe in our Christmas decorations. Of course, gathering it from the wild was quite a chore since it grew primarily in the upper reaches of the trees. We solved this problem by shooting the main stem with a .22 rifle.

Mistletoe berries are poisonous; therefore, we must be very careful that none are available for young children to accidentally consume. Poison plants can have a useful place in medicine, though. You’ll find mistletoe in some alternatives or homeopathy medicine. Better yet, it is now being used in the treatment of cancer.

Research reveals that mistletoe is a symbol of peace. Perhaps we should hang a sprig in all homes, public and government buildings at this time.

Nadine Johnson can be reached at PO Box 7425, Spanish Fort, AL 36577, by calling 866-570-7302, or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..