Medicinal plants

Common Ivy – Application & Treatment for Health

Common Ivy

Ivy belongs to the genus Ivy and the Araliaceae family . It is an evergreen plant with very variable life forms. As a medicinal plant, it only plays a minor role today, but in November 2009 it was named medicinal plant of the year 2010.

Occurrence & Cultivation of Common Ivy

The name ivy is short for the scientific name common ivy ( Hedera helix ). Ivy is a very perennial plant that can adopt different growth forms depending on the environmental conditions. Initially it is a herbaceous plant, which after a certain time takes up very large areas. It initially grows creeping and climbs up obstacles such as fences, trees or walls with its adhesive roots. It can grow up to 30 meters in height.

In Central Europe, the common ivy is the only root climber. After a few years, its stems begin to lignify and develop into subshrubs, shrubs and lianas (climbing plants). In rare cases, the lignification can go so far that the ivy appears as a tree. The woody trunks sometimes reach a diameter of 10 to 30 centimeters. In the course of its development, the ivy develops two different leaf shapes. This phenomenon is called leaf diphormism.

The creeping young shoots have angular-lobed leaves, while the leaves have a smooth edge when the plant is fully grown. The leaves then grow in a pear shape, the stems of which stand freely in the air. Spherical flowers form in late summer. Black, poisonous berries develop from these flowers in winter. The ivy is native to western, central and southern Europe. In the course of European colonization, common ivy reached North America, Australia and New Zealand.

Effect & Application

All parts of the ivy plant are poisonous. However, the toxicity also depends on the dose of the active ingredients. Therefore, ivy can also be used as a medicinal plant. For example, preparations made from ivy leaves have an expectorant and antispasmodic effect at low concentrations. Therefore, they are used for bronchial diseases as well as irritation and spasmodic coughs. At higher doses, however, irritation of the skin and mucous membranes occurs . This effect is caused by alpha hederin.

Alpha-hederin is formed when saponins are broken down, which are found in the leaves, wood and berries of ivy. This substance accounts for 80 percent of the toxins contained in ivy. Another toxic substance is falcarinol. Various plant species, including ivy, produce falcarinol to ward off pests and fungi. In low concentrations, this substance has been found to have anticancer, antibacterial, antifungal, and analgesic properties.

In larger quantities, however, it is toxic and can lead to allergies and skin irritation. That is why light protective measures are also recommended when cutting ivy. The toxicity of ivy is also the reason why it is rarely used as a medicinal plant today. It used to be a popular medicinal plant and was even considered a sacred plant in antiquity. It was used for diarrheal diseases , diseases of the spleen and diseases of the respiratory tract .

At that time, people also trusted in the healing power of ivy for rheumatism , gout , jaundice and even the plague . Today, only the leaves and flowers may be used in its application. The black berries have too high a concentration of poison. For internal use, the concentration must not be too high. Therefore mixed teas with ivy are suitable as bronchial teas. Externally, however, the application is harmless. It is used in the form of baths, poultices and compresses for wounds , ulcers and pain . Ivy can also be used as an ointment or oil extract.

Importance for health, treatment & prevention

Ivy has a healing effect on various respiratory diseases, ulcers, gout, rheumatism and various pains. It is also antipyretic, heals wounds and is even used to treat cellulite . An ivy poultice is also recommended for nerve pain , so-called neuralgia.

In November 2009 it was proclaimed medicinal plant of the year 2010. Because ivy extracts are used today as cough syrup or medicinal teas to treat stubborn mucus in the bronchi. However, due to the toxicity of the active ingredients, these extracts can only be considered medicinal products. The dosage must not be too high. Only the leaves can be used to make them. They contain up to 6 percent triterpene saponins.

In addition to alpha-hederin, the substances hederacoside B and C also play a role in its effectiveness. These active ingredients liquefy the mucus, relax the bronchial muscles and thus relax the airways. These extracts are also very effective for chronic inflammatory bronchial diseases and whooping cough . In addition to cough syrups and teas, the ivy extracts are also used as drops.

In higher doses, however, there are unpleasant side effects or even severe poisoning. Especially in the pulp of the black ivy berries, the content of alpha-hederin is so high that their consumption is very dangerous. The first signs of poisoning can already appear when ingesting 2 to 3 berries. Nausea , vomiting , rapid pulse , irritation of the stomach and intestines and headaches occur . Consuming a large amount of berries even leads to severe vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions and respiratory arrest. Fatal forms of these poisonings have also been observed. Even external contact with ivy can cause severe skin irritation and allergies due to the influence of the same active ingredient.

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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.