Mistletoe: legends, grandmother’s remedies and how to grow it.
Mistletoe is an evergreen plant that grows mainly in temperate areas of North America, Europe, and Asia.
Mistletoe belongs to the Santalaceae family and is known for its small white berries that ripen in winter and its adherent branches, which easily attach themselves to other plants and objects.
The name derives from the Latin word “viscum” and is of uncertain origin, perhaps from an Indo-European root (‘is or vis) which means “strength” (the Latin “vis” means precisely “strength”, understood as physical strength), the name suggests “album” for the white color of the berries. It, therefore, seems that the derivation of viscous (property of the berries) has nothing to do with the origin of the name.
This plant has long been considered a symbol of good luck and peace , and is traditionally used to decorate homes during the Christmas season. According to legend, mistletoe only grew where the Virgin Mary’s drop of milk had fallen, and therefore was considered sacred.
There are many legends about mistletoe, some of which are very old. For the Celtic peoples, who called it oloaiacet, it was a gift from the gods and therefore considered a sacred plant, so much so as to ward off misfortunes and illnesses.
The strangest legend is the one that created the sweet tradition of kissing under the mistletoe during the Christmas holidays . This custom actually comes from Norway . According to legend, Odin’s wife, the goddess Freya, had two sons – Loki and Baldur. Jealous and greedy, Loki tried to kill Baldur, but his mother summoned the four elements to protect him. There was nothing they could do and Loki used the magical mistletoe to create a weapon to kill his brother.
The goddess Freya wept and her tears fell on the mistletoe used in the murder. Her tears became the characteristic white berries of this plant, and Baldur rose from the dead. In gratitude , since that day, Freya has given peace and love to all those who kiss under the mistletoe.
The medicinal properties
In addition to its symbolic importance, mistletoe also has some medicinal properties .Its berries are rich in vitamin C and have traditionally been used to treat colds and other respiratory ailments . Additionally, mistletoe also contains compounds called tanins, which have astringent and anti-inflammatory properties.
Thanks to these properties, mistletoe can help strengthen the immune system and fight cold symptoms. Additionally, mistletoe can also be used to treat other conditions, such as ulcers, urinary tract infections, and digestive problems .
Mistletoe can be consumed in tea, extract or capsule form, and can easily be found in many health food stores or online. However, it’s important to remember that mistletoe can cause skin irritation in some people, so it’s always best to consult a doctor before using it as a remedy.
We are talking about an interesting plant both for its symbolic meaning and for its medicinal properties . However, as with any other medicinal plant, it is important to use it with caution and respect.
How to grow mistletoe
Mistletoe grows best in cool, moist locations , so choose a shady, well-drained location in your garden. It should absolutely be avoided to plant mistletoe in full sun, as this can cause the leaves to dry out and the plant to die.
Mistletoe needs acidic soil to grow best, so be sure to add some humic acid or peat moss to the soil before planting. Also, mistletoe prefers well-drained soils, so be sure to provide the soil with good drainage.
When planting mistletoe, choose a young, healthy plant. Make sure you plant it as deep as its original pot and pack the soil tightly around the plant to prevent it from drying out. Water the plant after you plant it and continue to keep the soil moist, especially during dry spells.
This plant can be susceptible to pests and diseases , so be sure to check the plant regularly for problems. If you notice signs of pests or diseases, promptly treat the plant with specific products to solve the problem.
Growing mistletoe can be a challenge, but with a little patience and proper care, you can have a healthy, thriving plant in your garden. Remember to provide the plant with the right conditions to grow at its best and to pay attention to any pest or disease problems.
It is important to remember that mistletoe is considered a semi-parasitic species , i.e. a plant which, despite its photosynthetic leaves, shines in the host through its root system, in fact it feeds on mineral solutions (raw sap) brought by the diseased plant, which takes root in its branches thanks to some organs (called “haustoria”) that penetrate the bark up to the “nucleus” (xylem).
Although mistletoe is a parasite, it must not kill the parasitic plant or it will die as well. The problem caused by mistletoe is exacerbated, in fact the parasitic plant, which has fewer nutrients, spends more energy to make up for the deficiencies and can be subjected to various stresses. This can lead to structural damage (fall) and health (illness).