Macroscopic Description of the Drug

Viscum album is also used in homeopathic practice. For this purpose, the shoot bearing leaves and fruits are harvested in autumn. The German Homoeopathic Pharmacopoiea (HAB) gives a detailed description of the drug. The following comments are mainly based on that source.

The drug is derived from plants that grow mostly on hardwoods (ssp. album), in rare cases also on fir (ssp. abietis) and on pine (ssp. austriacum). The shoots have no significant odour and a slightly tart taste. The viscous fruits are of a sweetish, slightly bitter taste. The bushes easily break at the nodes. The shoots repeatedly ramified in form of a dichasium are round or slightly flattened. The internodes reach a length of up to 80 mm and are up to 4 mm in diameter in the middle. The surface is smooth, bare and of dark green colour; twigs of ssp. austriacum are often yellow green. They emerge in the axil of a pair of two oppositely inserted scale leaves with a narrow, reddish border and whitish, fringed leaf margin. The terminal shoots culminate in an inflorescence head of up to 7 mm length usually with three male or of female flower buds, which are surrounded by thick scaled leaves.

The leaves are inserted in twos, rarely in threes or more. They are oblong, obovate, maximally three times as long than broad (ssp. album, ssp. abietes) or linear lanceolate and four to five times as long than broad (ssp. austriacum). They are entire, dark green (ssp. album, ssp. abietis) or slightly yellow-green (ssp. austriacum) and bare. There are three distinct veins and two less distinct veins running parallel to the leaf margin. In young leaves, the veins are visible on both sides, while in older leaves they are mainly seen on the underside.

The pseudofruits derived from the terminal shoots of female plants are solitary, or are borne in twos or threes or in rare cases multiples. Initially, they are globose or pyriform and green, the ripe fruits are shiny-white (ssp. album) and longer then broad or milky white (ssp. abietis) or yellow-white (ssp. austriacum) with fine, bright, longitudinal stripes. As epigynous fruits they show the remain of stigma and the four petals at the tip of the fruit. The fruit pulp is tough and mucilaginous, and surrounds one, in rare cases two pseudo-seeds. The latter are peltate shield-shaped to triangular and with one to four embryos. These are dark-green and consist of a haustorium which emerges from the endosperm, a hypocotyl and two rudimentary cotyledons.

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