The Introspective Patient Experience of Mistletoe Therapy in Cancer: A Qualitative Study

Annika Mascher, Florian Pelzer, Lorna Jane Duncan, David Dominique Martin, Stephan Baumgartner, Bettina Berger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


INTRODUCTION: The introspective experience of cancer patients using mistletoe therapy has received little scientific interest, although it is crucial for a holistic understanding of this therapy. This study contributes to patient-centered research and treatment by documenting the subjective experiences of individuals undergoing mistletoe therapy.

METHODS: In this qualitative, explorative study, 20 outpatients with a history of various cancer types were recruited from Arlesheim Hospital (Arlesheim, Switzerland). All patients received subcutaneous mistletoe therapy for at least 2 years (median 7.5 years). Data was collected through 2 semi-structured, in-depth interviews per patient. Qualitative content analysis was applied to examine the data. The individual experience of mistletoe therapy was analyzed in relation to 6 predefined levels of human experience: physical, vital, emotional, mental, spiritual and social. In addition, 3 further aspects, considered as cross-dimensional perspectives, emerged out of the material: warmth, immune strengthening, and general wellbeing.

RESULTS: Data analysis revealed considerable heterogeneity among patients' experiences with mistletoe therapy. The importance of specific aspects became apparent, such as increased vitality to manage daily life, greater emotional and mental stability, warmth as a multidimensional phenomenon, feelings of safety and protection through mistletoe therapy, heightened self-awareness and improved self-care, as well as sensations of spiritual connectedness.

CONCLUSIONS: Prior to this study it had not been shown that cancer patients using mistletoe therapy do have observations on different levels of experience. These results may lead to a deeper understanding of patients receiving mistletoe therapy, enabling them to be supported in a more holistic way both during mistletoe treatment and on their life path. Further investigations into the effects of mistletoe therapy on the emotional, mental, and spiritual level are warranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalIntegrative cancer therapies
Publication statusPublished - 21 Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The study was funded by institutional resources of the Society for Cancer Research.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.


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