Mistletoe: Holiday Decoration and Great Skin and Hair Care Ingredient!

Botanical names: Viscum album and Phoradendron leucarpum

European mistletoe attached to a silver birch
As you deck the halls with holly or duck a  kiss from your relatives under the mistletoe, you’ll be pleased to know that these holiday decorations also are a  great skincare and haircare ingredient!

 Mistletoe is a powerful antioxidant and it can also help to soften and melt the sebaceous oils and dirt that cause blackheads.

Excerpt from Notulae Botanicae Horti AgrobotaniciCluj-Napoca:

 

The antioxidant potential of European mistletoe components (leaves and stems) is due to their content in phenolic derivatives (phenolic acids and flavonoids) and carotenoids, and their specific hydrophilic (having an affinity for water; readily absorbing or dissolving in water) and lipophilic (having an affinity for, tending to combine with, or capable of dissolving in lipids) character. Lipids are a broad group of naturally occurring molecules that include fats, waxes, sterols, fat-soluble vitamins (such as vitamins A, D, E, and K), monoglycerides, diglycerides, triglycerides, phospholipids, and others.

A phenolic acid is a type of phytochemical called a polyphenol. Other types of polyphenols include flavonoids and stilbenes. Phenolic acids are found in a variety of the plant-based foods you eat. The seeds and skins of fruits and the leaves of vegetables contain the highest concentrations. They may be beneficial to your health because they work as antioxidants that prevent cellular damage due to free-radical oxidation reactions.

In humans, four carotenoids (beta-carotene, alpha-carotene, gamma-carotene, and beta-cryptoxanthin) have vitamin A activity (meaning they can be converted to retinal), and these and other carotenoids can also act as antioxidants.

A few products that contain Mistletoe are:

L’uvalla’s Orange Toner

Anne Semonin Gentle Mistletoe Shampoo

Christine Valmy Lotion X

Dr. Hauschka Lemon Lemongrass Body Oil

3LAB ‘Perfect’ Cleansing Foam

Aubrey Organics Island Naturals Replenishing Conditioner

The parasitic plant has yellowish flowers; small, yellowish green leaves; and waxy, white berries.   Mistletoe is a poisonous plant that causes acute gastrointestinal problems including stomach pain, and diarrhea along with low pulse. However, both European Mistletoe and the North American species, Phoradendron serotinum, are commercially harvested for Christmas decorations.  The Navajo name for mistletoe is “basket on high.” Mistletoe is also known as mystyldene, all-heal, bird lime, golden bough, and devil’s fuge.

Viscum album, fleurs mâles de Gui

Viscum album, fleurs mâles de Gui (Photo credit: Ombrosoparacloucycle)

 

 

 

 

 

History & Mythology
The word ‘mistletoe’ (Old English mistiltan) is of uncertain etymology; it may be related to German Mist, for dung and Tang for branch, since mistletoe can be spread in the feces of birds moving from tree to tree. However, Old English mistel was also used for basil.

European mistletoe, Viscum album, figured prominently in Greek mythology, and is believed to be The Golden Bough of Aeneas, ancestor of the Romans.

In the 13th century Prose Edda, due to the scheming of Loki, the god Baldr is killed by his brother, the blind god Höðr, by way of a mistletoe projectile, despite the attempts of Baldr’s mother, the goddess Frigg, to have all living things and inanimate objects swear an oath not to hurt Baldr after Baldr had troubling dreams of his death. Frigg was unable to get an oath from mistletoe, because “it seemed too young” to demand an oath from.  In the Gesta Danorum version of the story, Baldr and Höðr are rival suitors, and Höðr kills Baldr with a sword named Mistilteinn (Old Norse “mistletoe”). In addition, a sword by the same name appears in various other Norse legends.

English: "Each arrow overshot his head&qu...

English: “Each arrow overshot his head” by Elmer Boyd Smith. Allowing his fellow gods to test his new found invincibility, the shining god Baldr is attacked by his fellow gods who make a game of it. In the background, the god Odin and his wife, the goddess Frigg, sit enthroned. In the foreground, the disguised Loki gives Baldr’s blind brother Höðr an arrow affixed with mistletoe (the one thing that can harm Baldr), which results in Baldr’s death. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In cultures across pre-Christian Europe, mistletoe was seen as a representation of divine male essence (and thus romance, fertility and vitality), possibly due to a resemblance between the berries and semen.

According to Pliny the Elder, the Celts considered it a remedy for barrenness in animals and an antidote to poison.

When Christianity became widespread in Europe after the 3rd century AD, the religious or mystical respect for the mistletoe plant was integrated to an extent into the new religion.  Did you know that kissing under the mistletoe is a winter tradition that began with the Greek festival of Saturnalia, celebrated in late December. The earliest documented case of kissing under the mistletoe dates from 16th century England, a custom that was apparently very popular at that time.  A Cornish tradition that mistletoe was originally a fine tree from which the wood of the Cross was made, but afterwards it was been condemned to live on only as a parasite.

 

Woman standing under mistletoe. Viscum album

Woman standing under mistletoe. Viscum album (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“The mistletoe is still hung up in farm-houses and kitchens at Christmas, and the young men have the privilege of kissing the girls under it, plucking each time a berry from the bush. When the berries are all plucked the privilege ceases.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mistletoe is commonly used as a Christmas decoration, though such use was rarely alluded to until the 18th century. Viscum album is used in Europe whereas Phoradendron serotinum is used in North America. According to custom, the mistletoe must not touch the ground between its cutting and its removal as the last of Christmas greens at Candlemas; it may remain hanging through the year, often to preserve the house from lightning or fire, until it is replaced the following Christmas Eve. The tradition has spread throughout the English-speaking world but is largely unknown in the rest of Europe.

Christmas throughout Christendom, Viscum album...

Christmas throughout Christendom, Viscum album Under the Mistletoe (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The type of Mistletoe used during Christmas celebrations is of the same type as that believed to be sacred by ancient druids, but, outside northern Europe, the plant used is not the same species. The mistletoe that is commonly used as a Christmas decoration in North America (Phoradendron flavescens) grows as a parasite on trees in the west as also in those growing in a line down the east from New Jersey to Florida. In Europe, where the custom originates, the ‘original’ mistletoe, Viscum album, is still used.  Ancient druids considered the Viscum album plant holy. Modern druids focus on the parasitic habitat on oak (where it is very rarely found) as being the definer of a sacred mistletoe, and use Phoradendron flavescens as well as other mistletoe species.

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