Learn about the mythology and medicinal uses of mistletoe.
The most traditional holiday herb wasn't always an invitation to a kiss. According to Norse legend, Balder, the god of peace, was slain with an arrow made of mistletoe wood. Other gods later restored Balder to life and put mistletoe under the auspices of Freya, the goddess of love. Freya ordained that whoever passed under it should receive a kiss to show that the plant had ceased to be an emblem of hate. Hippocrates and Pliny recommended medicinal uses of mistletoe for vertigo, epilepsy and tremors and mistletoe tea has been a traditional folk remedy for convulsions, hysteria, kidney problems, neuralgia, heart disease and even sterility. Since in even small amounts, mistletoe can be extremely toxic, we can't help but wonder if death wound up being the unintentional cure for these conditions.