Chinese: 槲寄生

Pinyin: Hú Jì Shēng

Parts used: Dried stems and branches with leaves

TCM category: Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness

TCM nature: Neutral

TCM taste(s): Bitter

Meridian affinity: KidneyLiver

Scientific name: Viscum coloratum

Other names: Mulberry Mistletoe, Coloured Mistletoe

Use of mistletoe (Hú Jì Shēng) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitionner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash slightly, cut in thick pieces and dry

Dosage: 9 - 30 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Tonifies Liver and Kidneys. Expels Wind and Dampness. Nourishes the Blood. Calms the womb. Treats dry skin. Relieves hypertension.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which mistletoe may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Rheumatism Rheumatoid arthritis Miscarriage Eczema Hypertension

Common TCM formulas in which mistletoe are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind mistletoe's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), mistletoe are plants that belong to the 'Herbs that dispel Wind and Dampness' category. These herbs typically help treat what's called 'bi pain' (i.e. painful obstruction) in TCM. This roughly corresponds to arthritic and rheumatic conditions with pain, stiffness and numbness of the bones, joints and muscles.

Furthermore mistletoe are plants that are Neutral in nature. This means that mistletoe typically don't affect the balance in your body. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Eating too many "Hot" (Yang) ingredients can lead to an imbalance whereby one has a Yang excess. The inverse is true as well: too many "Cold" (Yin) ingredients can lead to a Yin excess. The Neutral nature of mistletoe means that you don't have to worry about that!

Mistletoe also taste Bitter. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Bitter ingredients like mistletoe tend to have a cleansing action on the body by clearing heat, drying dampness and promoting elimination via urination or bowel movements.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what organs and meridians they target. As such mistletoe are thought to target the Kidney and the Liver. According to TCM, the Kidneys do not only regulate the urinary system but also play a key role in the reproductive system and the growth and aging process of the body. The Liver on the other hand is often referred as the body's "general" because it is in charge of regulating the movements of Qi and body fluids. It also takes a leading role in balancing our emotions.

Research on mistletoe

Viscum coloratum might be useful for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other inflammatory diseases because it contains viscolin which inhibits phosphodiesterase activity.1

Extracts from Viscum coloratum attenuate airway inflammation and eosinophil infiltration in mice and might therefore be helpful in treating asthma.2


1. TL Hwang, YL Leu, SH Kao, MC Tang et al. (2006).Viscolin, a new chalcone from Viscum coloratum, inhibits human neutrophil superoxide anion and elastase release via a cAMP-dependent pathway. Free Radical Biology and Medicine, 41(9), p. 1433-1441. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.freeradbiomed.2006.08.001

2. JJ Shen, MS Chiang, ML Kuo, YL Leu et al. (2011). Partially purified extract and viscolin from Viscum coloratum attenuate airway inflammation and eosinophil infiltration in ovalbumin-sensitized mice. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 135(3), p. 646-653. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2011.03.065