The Hidden Beauty Benefits of Mistletoe

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Mistletoe may be hung and a few kisses may already be checked off your list—but there are year-round perks to this holiday staple. The decorative greenery, once reserved for doorways and dropping hints for your crush, actually contains a potent extract that when applied topically, helps keep skin soft and supple. The liquid form of it has even been used in Europe for close to a century to improve quality of life for cancer patients. So before winter gets the best of your skin and immune system, here’s why you should add this evergreen to your arsenal, now and beyond the holidays.

There’s Power in the Leaves

The little red berries that grow on the winter version of mistletoe are purely aesthetic—the real power is in the leaves and stems. The liquid extract that comes from these parts has been used in Europe for ages as an herbal remedy to treat everything from delirium to insomnia.

In skin and hair products, there’s evidence that it works as an anti-inflammatory and helps make our exteriors softer and more resilient. “It works as a stimulant and vasodilator,” says cosmetic chemist, Perry Romanowski. This means that it helps with the dilation of blood vessels within the skin. This could be why it’s been said to help treat varicose veins, but Romanowski says that there isn’t good enough evidence to prove it.

How It Works

If your goal with using mistletoe is to to help boost the softness and elasticity of your skin, Romanowski says that it needs to be in a leave-on formula like a body cream instead of a body wash, where any smoothing benefits will just run down the drain. Also keep in mind before you start rubbing just any mistletoe across your skin, that not all species of the plant are safe. Some are poisonous and can even raise blood pressure. The more commonly used variation is a European mistletoe that goes by the name Viscum album. This version isn’t poisonous and is said to actually help lower blood pressure, amongst other things. Most extracts that you’ll find online will be labeled European mistletoe, but just keep that note in the back of your mind as you shop.

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