You may have seen English ivy climbing up the side of a tree or building, but did you know this silent invader also has medicinal properties? Traditionally, herbalists have used it to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Read on to find out where it came from and what it can do for you.
1. English ivy is originally from Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa.
It was brought to the United States by European colonists around 1727, and is now also found on the East Coast, in Arizona, and Washington State. Many people like the plant because it stays green all year and makes an attractive ground cover for decorative gardens. In fact, it’s sold in many garden stores.
2. Like Darth Vader, it’s got a dark side.
English ivy is an invasive species, meaning it takes over other plant habitats and kills off local vegetation. The vine can attach to a tree trunk and climb its way all the way up the tree, covering leaves and branches, and preventing it from getting sunlight. It can also cause destruction to buildings, slowly tearing them down by finding its way into the cracks and prying them apart.
- English ivy grows in places that get lots of sun, and flowers from late summer to early fall.
- The tiny greenish-yellow flowers turn into small black berries.
3. The leaves are used to make medicine.
Ivy leaves are dark green and feel waxy to the touch. They’re often made into extract, but dried leaves can be used in teas as well. Ivy leaf extract is generally considered safe. However, it may cause nausea or vomiting in high doses. It’s also not recommended during pregnancy.
4. Experts believe that English ivy extract can reduce mucus buildup in the lungs.
This can help ease breathing for those with asthma or chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD).
A typical dose used to treat asthma and COPD is 25 drops twice a day for children and 50 drops twice a day for adults. While clinical proof is limited, one promising study found ivy extract effective in improving lung function in children with chronic bronchial asthma.
5. English ivy is also thought to be a powerful antioxidant.
During normal daily living, molecules called free radicals can build up in your cells. This causes oxidative stress, which has been linked to cancer, diabetes, and other health conditions. Antioxidants are chemicals found in plants, like English ivy, that help the body neutralize or even prevent this kind of cell damage.