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:
Read on to find out more about English ivy and what it can do for you.
Ivy has properties that are:
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:
- remove toxins from the body
- tighten and strengthen blood vessels
- reduce allergies
- modulate enzymes to help your body
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:
- loosening up mucus so it clears out faster
- increasing production and secretion liquid film for oxygen exchange
- making airway muscles relax
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 found ivy extract effective in improving lung function in children with chronic bronchial asthma.
- eat it as an herb, fresh leaves, or make into a tea
- make it into a wash for cleaning wounds or mold from the drain
- apply it topically as a diluted essential oil for the skin
The anti-inflammatory effects of ivy leaves can help with allergies by blocking histamines. Your body releases histamines in response to allergens.
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.
English ivy extract may be beneficial for people with arthritis and inflammation. Inflammation may speed cancer. One study 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.
As an herb, English ivy is safe for children and adults. Less than 1 in 10,000 people are allergic to ivy. Side effects that do occur may include:
- shortness of breath
- reddening of skin
- English ivy is mildly toxic when taken orally.
- Animals and children may vomit, have diarrhea, or develop neurological conditions.
- The leaves can cause an allergic skin reaction, if you touch them.
In high doses, it may also cause nausea and vomiting. You should avoid taking ivy extract if you’re pregnant.