Updated: Dec 4, 2022
New month, new holiday to mentally, emotionally, physically, and financially to prepare for. We have made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas is bursting through the backdoor. For today's article, we will expand our knowledge with useless facts about mistletoe. Yes, you read that correctly, mistletoe. Why? When we think of the symbolism behind mistletoe (love, fertility, and smooches) it is little wonder why this page, which has built its entire platform on themes of self-nurturing; stress management; self-care; and wellness, would focus on the "love plant" or "smooch plant" as an opener for our December blog article. If you need an additional argument for why open with useless facts about mistletoe, look no further than our article, Dimensions of Wellness: Intellectual Wellness which states in part:
"The brain is just like a muscle. If you do not exercise it, it won't grow but will atrophy (wasting away or degeneration of cells). The way to combat this is to continue learning, yes just for the sake of learning."
It was around the 18th century that mistletoe became widely incorporated into Christmas celebrations. But just what is mistletoe and how did it find its way into Christmas lore? Believe it or not, the facts surrounding this plant doesn't match the holiday for which it ultimately became widely celebrated for. Afterall, mistletoe is a poisonous parasitic plant that would probably be more appropriately associated with Halloween. Here are 5 random facts about mistletoe that you did not see coming.
Fact #1: Mistletoe's original name means dung twig
Mistletoe was initially called misteltan which gets its meaning from the Anglo-Saxon words mistel (dung) and tan (twig). It was at one time believed that it was planted by birds who ate its berries and pooped them out onto tree branches. Is it true? Yes, for some species they are born from birds pooping the berries. However, with some other species of mistletoe, the mistletoes will projectile vomit their seeds at almost 60 mph across the landscape and infect whatever trees happen to be in their path.
Fact #2: Mistletoe is a parasite
There are about 1,400 species of mistletoe around the world. The plant germinates on tree branches later attaching itself to the circulatory system of the host and sucks the life out of it, often killing the host tree. According to the National Wildlife Federation, these infestations are sometimes called a "witch's broom" because the branches of mature parasitic mistletoe growing on a tree can sometimes take the shape of a basket and grow as much as 5 feet wide and weigh up to 50 pounds.
Fact #3: Mistletoe is often poisonous
The species found in the U.S. might give you stomach distress if ingested. However, its European counterpart is poisonous. All parts of the plant are poisonous, but the berries are the most dangerous. The berries contain a toxic compound called phoratoxin, which can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain and in severe cases can cause seizures, coma, and death.
Fact #4: Mistletoe was hung to ward off evil spirits
Ancient Druids hung mistletoe over their doorways to ward off evil spirits during the festivities of the winter solstice.
Poop twigs. Projectile vomit. Parasite. Witch's basket. Poisonous. These facts alone make a solid argument for incorporation of mistletoe into Halloween festivities rather than Christmas. So how did the ancients miss the mark on this one?
How mistletoe in the words of the great Missy Elliot "put that thang down flipped it and reversed it." Ancient Scandinavians mythology holds that the mistletoe plant symbolizes love and that no harm should come to those who stand underneath it. Around the 1500s in Europe, there was the "kissing custom" in which was first popular among the serving class of England and later adopted by the upper class. The custom provided unfair advantage to men as they were given the privilege to kiss any woman that he wanted that was caught standing under the mistletoe. Women could say no but the prevailing thought was that she would have to endure a lifetime of bad luck. This kissing tradition became popularized in the early United States and solidified in our lexicon when author Washington Irving referred to it in “Christmas Eve,” from his 1820 collection of essays and stories, The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent. In Irving’s day, each time a couple kissed under a mistletoe sprig, they removed one of the white berries. That my dears, is how a potential horror story was flipped, reversed and morphed into a love ritual. But wait, there's more.
Fun fact #5: Mistletoe can kill cancer cells
So far this has only been proven in test tubes, but research is definitely under way. For decades, doctors in the UK and Europe have been prescribing mistletoe extract to help combat colon cancer. There are some clinical trials at John Hopkins University, but to date, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved this remedy.
So how did we do with feeding your intellectual wellness? How many of these mistletoe facts were you aware of? Do you know of any mistletoe facts we may have missed? Please feel free to share your knowledge in the comments below. Please remember, that wherever you are on this wellness journey, do not worry about getting it perfect; just get it going. Until next time. Happy reading!
And before we forget, the Let's Grow Together Giveaway:
Congratulations Whitney Healing!!
"As I get older I notice the years less and the seasons more. ~John Hubbard
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