Background and objectives: Mistletoe preparations, which are widely used among patients with cancer in Germany, have immunomodulating properties in vitro and in vivo. The aim of this evaluation was to determine and compare the effects of a lectin-rich (Iscador Qu [IQ] special, Weleda Company, Schwäbisch, Gmünd, Germany.) and a lectin-poor but viscotoxin-rich (Iscador Pini [IP] Weleda Company) mistletoe preparation on clinical and hematologic parameters in healthy subjects.
Design: In a double-blinded study, 48 volunteers were randomized to one of three groups: 16 received IQ or IP in increasing doses or placebo twice per week subcutaneously for 12 weeks. The differential blood count and the acute phase markers haptoglobin and C-reactive protein were examined weekly and the symptoms were scored using standardized questionnaires.
Results: IQ resulted in significant eosinophilia (315 +/- 109) beginning at week 5 (until week 12) compared to IP (183 +/- 120) or placebo (200 +/- 179). Furthermore, the acute phase marker haptoglobin was significantly increased in the IQ group during week 4. Dose-dependent local reactions (LRs) at the injection site occurred in all subjects who received mistletoe preparations but were stronger in the IQ-treated subjects than in the IP-treated group. The LRs observed in the IQ-treated group were characterized by stronger itching and longer latency than LRs in the IP-treated group (p < 0.05). Severe side-effects did not occur in any of the probands.
Conclusions: IQ but not IP can induce eosinophilia in healthy individuals, and this may be related to its content of mistletoe lectins. In contrast, exposure to the viscotoxin-enriched extract IP did not result in specific changes of hematologic parameters. Furthermore, intensity and time course of local reactions seemed to depend on the concentration of mistletoe lectins in those extracts.