Parasitic Mistletoes of the Genera Scurrula and Viscum: From Bench to Bedside

Molecules. 2016 Aug 17;21(8):1048. doi: 10.3390/molecules21081048.


The mistletoes, stem hemiparasites of Asia and Europe, have been used as medicinal herbs for many years and possess sophisticated systems to obtain nutrients from their host plants. Although knowledge about ethnomedicinal uses of mistletoes is prevalent in Asia, systematic scientific study of these plants is still lacking, unlike its European counterparts. This review aims to evaluate the literature on Scurrula and Viscum mistletoes. Both mistletoes were found to have anticancer, antimicrobial, antioxidant and antihypertensive properties. Plants from the genus Scurrula were found to inhibit cancer growth due to presence of phytoconstituents such as quercetin and fatty acid chains. Similar to plants from the genus Viscum, Scurrula also possesses TNFα activity to strengthen the immune system to combat cancer. In line with its anticancer activity, both mistletoes are rich in antioxidants that confer protection against cancer as well as neurodegeneration. Extracts from plants of both genera showed evidence of vasodilation and thus, antihypertensive effects. Other therapeutic effects such as weight loss, postpartum and gastrointestinal healing from different plants of the genus Scurrula are documented. As the therapeutic effects of plants from Scurrula are still in exploration stage, there is currently no known clinical trial on these plants. However, there are few on-going clinical trials for Viscum album that demonstrate the functionalities of these mistletoes. Future work required for exploring the benefits of these plants and ways to develop both parasitic plants as a source of pharmacological drug are explained in this article.

Keywords: Loranthus; Santalales; antioxidant; cancer; clinical trials; complementary medicine; ethnomedicinal uses; hemiparasite; polyphenol; solid tumor.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Infective Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Antihypertensive Agents / chemistry
  • Antihypertensive Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Antioxidants / chemistry
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • China
  • Ethnopharmacology
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Mistletoe / chemistry
  • Mistletoe / physiology*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plants, Medicinal / chemistry
  • Plants, Medicinal / physiology*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Antioxidants
  • Plant Extracts