Mistletoe isn't just good for stealing a cheeky Christmas kiss, the festive foliage could also help beat colon cancer.

Australian researchers found a certain species of mistletoe - called fraxini - can effectively destroy cancer cells and is easier on healthy intestinal cells than chemotherapy.

"This might mean fraxini is a potential candidate for increased toxicity against cancer, while also reducing potential side effects," lead researcher Zahra Lotfollahi said in a statement.

The latest research is important because chemo comes with a bunch of side-effects and kills healthy cells along with the cancerous ones, Medical Daily reports.


Scientists tested three types of mistletoe and found only fraxini had a reduced impact on healthy cells. This species contains a protein that targets and kills cancer cells, they said.

Fraxini mistletoe extract is "highly effective" at reducing viability of colon cancer cells and could sometimes increase the potency of chemo on cancer cells. This means it has the potential to be used alongside chemotherapy, or as a substitute.

"Mistletoe extract has been considered a viable alternative therapy overseas for many years, but it's important for us to understand the science behind it," said Professor Gordon Howarth from the University of Adelaide.

Prof Howarth hopes this research will lead to clinical trails of the extract in Australia.

- www.nzherald.co.nz