Also known as common ivy or Hedera helix, English ivy can thrive in cold and low light situations. Many people like the plant because it stays green all year and makes an attractive ground cover for decorative gardens. It’s also popular as an ornament, especially during Christmas and winter seasons.
This evergreen plant climbs up the side of trees and buildings, adding color wherever it goes.
But it’s actually not native to the United States. Around 1727, European colonists brought the plant over. You can now find English ivies everywhere, from the east coast to Arizona and Washington state. They grow in shady areas in forest openings, cliffs, and slopes where the soil is fertile and moist.
Other than ornamentation, the English ivy also has medicinal properties. In ancient Greece, Hippocrates used ivy to prevent intoxication, reduce swelling, and as an anesthetic. Now herbalists use it to treat respiratory conditions, such as:
Anti-inflammatory, antiarthritic, and antioxidant
Triterpenoid saponins and flavonoids are the two key components of this plant that have been researched the most. Triterpenoid saponins help improve gut absorption and fight against bacteria. Flavonoids help:
Helps with asthma, bronchitis, and COPD symptoms
Research shows that ivy can help relax the airways and reduce coughs. This is especially helpful for people with:
The saponin components in ivy leaf extracts can make breathing easier by:
What are the causes of painful breathing? »
A typical dose used to treat asthma and COPD is 25 drops of extract twice a day for children and 50 drops twice a day for adults. While clinical proof is limited, one promising study Trusted Source found ivy extract effective in improving lung function in children with chronic bronchial asthma.
The anti-inflammatory effects of ivy leaves can help with allergies by blocking histamines. Your body releases histamines in response to allergens.
Reduce mold and improve air quality
English ivies are one of the top 10 air-purifying plants, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). English ivies can remove toxins like:
These toxins can cause sick building syndrome. Sick building syndrome is when people feel ill when spending time in a particular building or room.
One study also found that English ivies could reduce particles of fecal matter and mold. Researchers found that the amount of fecal matter dropped by more than 94 percent in 12 hours. Mold went down by 78.5 percent.
But these studies were done in a small enclosed space or container. In your home, an English ivy probably isn’t as effective as an air purifier.
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A new cost-effective treatment
English ivy extract may be beneficial for people with arthritis and inflammation. Inflammation may speed cancer. One study Trusted Source involving mice found that English ivy extract may be a useful treatment for arthritis. Inflammation, paw, and joint swelling steadily decreased over seven days of treatment. This suggests that English ivy may be a potential cost-effective treatment for inflammation and arthritis. More research and human trials are needed to confirm this treatment suggestion.
English Ivy – Side Effects and Health Benefits
It climbs using fibrous shoots resembling roots which grow along the length of the stem and attaches to surfaces with small disks which cling to the roughness a bark or wall where the ivy climbs. If these shoots find soil, they become true roots.
The English ivy may injure trees upon which it grows by taking nutrients from the trees. At the summit of the tree or wall, the ivy will branch out in a bushy form; the leaves change from their usual five-lobed and angular leaves, becoming ovate with entire margins.
The flowers only appear where the branches grow above their support and the ivy takes its branching form projecting a foot or two from the climbing stems with flowers at the end of every shoot.
The flowers of English ivy are small clusters of yellowish-green nearly globular umbels. The five petals are broad and short with five stamens. There is little scent, but the flowers have abundant nectar which provides food for bees in late autumn.
The black or deep purple pea-sized berries are smooth and succulent, ripening the following spring, providing birds with food. The evergreen leaves provide winter shelter for birds, and many birds prefer ivy for a nest-building site.
English ivy is very hardy, withstanding frost, as well as urban smoke and the air pollution of manufacturing regions.
It lives to a great age, and its stems become woody and may reach considerable size. Ivy trunks often reach a diameter of a foot or more where the plant has climbed over rocks or old buildings
Therapeutic and Traditional Uses, Benefits and Claims of English Ivy
English ivy is a member of the ginseng family and has been used in traditional herbal medicine both in Europe and Asia since ancient times.
Historically, English ivy was held in high esteem; its leaves formed the poet’s crown, as well as the wreath of Bacchus. Ivy was probably dedicated to Bacchus because it was believed that binding the brow with ivy leaves would prevent intoxication.
Greek priests presented an ivy wreath to newly married couples, as a symbol of fidelity.
The plant was sacred to the Druids and considered the female counterpart to the masculine holly. Together with mistletoe and holly, ivy is a traditional herb used to decorate houses for the Christmas season.
Traditional folk medicine used English ivy internally for liver, spleen and gallbladder disorders, and for gout, arthritis, rheumatism and dysentery.
Externally it was used for burn wounds, calluses, cellulitis, inflammations, neuralgia, parasitic disorders, ulcers, rheumatic complaints and phlebitis.
English ivy is most widely used today as a natural treatment for respiratory tract congestion; it is a respiratory catarrh used for symptomatic treatment of chronic inflammatory bronchial conditions.
The herb contains saponins which appear to be responsible for preventing spasms in the bronchial area.
It has been shown that ivy leaf extracts helps to increase oxygen in the lungs, and is an effective anti-inflammatory for bronchial conditions such as asthma and bronchitis
Commission E, a prestigious medical group in Germany approved ivy leaf extract as an herbal decongestant as well as treatment for inflammation-related lung (bronchial) conditions.
English ivy exhibits antiviral, antimycotic, and anthelmintic and effects and some studies indicate that the leaf extract may have anti-cancer and antioxidant properties.
Folk medicine used ivy leaf poultices externally as a treatment for swollen glands and chronic leg ulcers and topical defections have been used as a natural treatment for scabies, lice, and sunburn.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Ivy leaves were held in high regard by the ancients. They formed not only the poet’s crown but also the wreath of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. The ancient Greeks believed that binding the forehead with ivy leaves would prevent the effects of inebriation.2 Greek priests presented a wreath of ivy to newlyweds, and ivy has been traditionally regarded as a symbol of fidelity. Romans regarded ivy as excellent feed for their cattle.3 Traditional herbalists have used ivy for a wide number of complaints, including bronchitis , whooping cough, arthritis, rheumatism, and dysentery. Decoctions of the herb were applied externally against lice, scabies, and sunburn.
The information presented by Health notes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2019.
This well-known evergreen climber, with its dark-green, glossy, angular leaves is too familiar to need detailed description. It climbs by means of curious fibres resembling roots, which shoot out from every part of the stem, and are furnished with small disks at the end, which adapt themselves to the roughness of the bark or wall against which the plant grows and to which it clings firmly. These fibres on meeting with soil or deep crevices become true roots, obtaining nourishment for the plant, but when dilated at the extremity, they merely serve to attach the stems and do not absorb nourishment from the substance to which they adhere. The Ivy is therefore liable to injure the trees around which it twines by abstracting the juices of the stem.
When it attains the summit of a tree or wall, it grows out in a bushy form, and the leaves instead of being five-lobed and angular, as they are below, become ovate, with entire margins. Ivy only produces flowers when the branches get above their support, the flowering branches being bushy and projecting a foot or two from the climbing stems, with flowers at the end of every shoot. Professor Hen-slow has an interesting note on the Ivy and its shoots, in his Floral Rambles in Highways and Byways: ‘The shoots turn to the darker side, as may be seen when Ivy reaches the top of a wall, from both sides; wherever the sun may be the shoots lie flat upon the top. The roots themselves only come out from the darker side of the shoots, so that both of these acquired habits have their purposes. When the Ivy is going to flower, the shoots now turn to the light and stand out freely into the air; moreover the form of the leaf changes from a fine pointed one to a much smaller oval type. As the shoot now has to support itself, if a section be made and compared with one of the same diameter which is supported by the adhesive roots, it will be found that it has put on more wood with less pith, than in that of the supported stem. It at once, so to speak, feels the strain and makes wood sufficient to meet it.’ The form of Ivy which creeps over the ground on banks and in woods, etc., never blossoms. The branches root into the soil, but they are of the ordinary kind deriving nourishment from it. On endeavouring to train this kind on a wall, it was found to have practically lost the power of climbing; for it kept continually falling away from the wall instead of adhering to it; just as cucumbers refuse to climb by their tendrils, if the stem and branches are supported artificially.
The flowers of Common Ivy are small, in clusters of nearly globular umbels and of a yellowish-green, with five broad and short petals and five stamens. They seldom open before the latter end of October, and often continue to expand till late in December. Though they have little or no scent, they yield abundance of nectar and afford food to bees late in the autumn, when they can get no other.
The berries, which do not become ripe till the following spring, provide many birds, especially wood pigeons, thrushes and blackbirds with food during severe winters. When ripe, they are about the size of a pea, black or deep purple, smooth and succulent, and contain two to five seeds. They have a bitter and nauseous taste, and when rubbed, an aromatic and slightly resinous odour.
Useful information about the plant
The evergreen ivy is native to Europe and grows as a vine on trees and shrubs in forests and parks. In the big city as in the villages it covers walls and shady corners. Ivy is easy to recognition through its characteristically shaped leaves. It is present in numerous farmed and garden forms. The genus Hedera name probably comes from the Greek ‘hedra’ (sitting), referring to the adhesion of the plant to the walls and trees. The epithet helix, from Greek ‘helix’ (= spiral), describes the winding of the ivy around trees. Thanks to its roots, it can establish itself firmly on the surface. The word ‘ivy’ comes from Old English word: ‘ifig’.
Ivy is a creeping or climbing, very woody and branched plant. It clings to its support with adventitious roots. The leaves of the non-flowering shoots characteristically have 3 to 5 lobes with a heart-shaped base, they are leathery and dark green, glossy, often with lighter venation. The leaves on the flowering shoots are rhombic to lanceolate and tapered at the end. The brown flowers are inconspicuous and are in semi-globular clusters, like grapes. Flowering time is September / October. The following year, the fruits ripen. The blue-black berries are then in decorative, spherical umbels. They go well in flower bouquets and flower arrangements. Caution: the berries can cause cases of poisoning to children!
Ground Ivy Herb Use
Other Names: Ale-hoof, Cat’s foot, Creeping Charlie, Gill-over-the-ground, Gill run, Hay maids, hedge maids
Ground ivy is used in alternative medicine and is an excellent spring tonic. It is used as an appetite stimulant. Ground Ivy contains a volatile oil which aids in relieving congestion and inflammation of mucous membranes associated with colds, flu, and sinusitis. Ground ivy tea or juice is well tolerated and can be given to small children.
Ground-Ivy is being studied for use in preventing Leukemia, Bronchitis, Hepatitis, many kinds of cancer, and HIV. The fresh juice or a herbal tea is used to treat digestive disorders, gastritis, acid indigestion, and diarrhea. It is also beneficial for liver and kidney function, said to relieve gravel and stones. Although results are not conclusive, it is being used as an antidote for lead poisoning. Ground Ive can be added to bath as an emollient to soften skin and has a sedative effect. It is used in Italian bath spas as a soak for backache.
Ground Ivy Habitat and Description
Ground ivy is a creeping European perennial evergreen, naturalized in North America and found in moist shady areas, along paths, around hedges, and roadsides from Ontario to deep south, west to Kansas, and along the Pacific Coast. A member of the mint family, it is finely haired all over and has a square creeping stem which grows from a few inches up to two feet long. The leaves are heart shaped, opposite, scalloped, and dark green, sometimes tinted purple. The main root is thick and matted. It sends out runners as long as 36 inches. Ground Ivy flowers appear in march and are purplish to blue, two lipped and grow in axillary whorls of six.
How to Grow Ground Ivy
It is easily cultivated through root division and thrives in moist shady areas. As it is considered an invasive weed by many who are not aware of its uses, you may not want to grow it. Ground Ivy is a great herb for wild crafting, due to its abundance.
How to use Ground Ivy
Gather leaves, flowers and stems year round. Can be dried for later herbal use.
Ground ivy has a long history of use in alternative medicine and as an edible herb, dating back to the first century A.D. it was long considered a panacea (cure-all). Known for its high vitamin C content, it is said to be one of the first herb and edible plants brought to the North American continent by early settlers.
Ground Ivy Herb Recipes
Spring Tonic: Steep 2 tsp. of fresh or dried herb in 1 cup water for 10 min. flavor with peppermint or honey to taste take in half cup doses twice a day.
Colds and flu: Express fresh juice with press. Take in 1 tsp. doses 3 times a day, ? tsp. for children. Use 2 or 3 drops in nose twice a day for sinusitis.