English Ivy (Hedera helix L.)
English ivy is also known as common ivy.
It is perennial semi parasitic plant that grows over tree trunks, walls, fences, old graveyards and other places that can be climbed by its branches.
All branches have its own small root system, that can attach to any coarse surface and go deeper, where any moisture can be leeched into the plant.
The Hedera helix and other ivy species are genus of the rare plants that have green leaf mass for the whole year.
The Ivy plant is successfully spawning itself with its branches and in some age, even if part of the plant is cut from the main shrub - it starts living on it's own.
This is of course NOT the way Hedera helix is procreating. After June, small yellow flowers bloom and later fruit small black or blue round berries. Their seeds are dropped to the soil, when the berry dries in Autumn. Berries are toxic to the liver, so you better be careful when gathering the herb, not to gather the fruits too.
Hedera helix as a herb
- is used for treating inflammations on mucous tissues in the body (e.g. cough)
- In small doses it acts as a vasodilator (widens blood vessels)
- In bigger doses it acts as vasoconstrictor (shrinks blood vessels)
- For external use, a decoction can be helpful to regenerate burned skin.
- Infusion is helpful reduce too abundant bleeding in female period.
- Diluted decoction is also good for rinsing tired running eyes.
Gathering and drying
Hedera helix leaf mass is gathered in blooming period. June to August. Drying is done in shadow, outdoors.
Dried leaf mass remains green, without aroma and with very bitter taste. The dried herb has pectin, malic acid, formic acid, alkaloids, falcarinol and inositol.
Warning: Because of the formic acid and falcarinol, some people are allergic to English ivy. Most often the same people are also allergic to carrots. So, precautions in using this herb must be taken. If you don't know you can have an allergy - apply the decoction on a small area of the skin. If there is irritation (red skin) - don't use this herb.
1 tablespoon of the herb (dry and finely chopped) is boiled in 1 pint of water for 10 minutes. Cooled and then sifted.
1 small glass of this decoction 3 times a day before meals will help cough, bronchitis wheezing and will ease stomach discomfort in gastritis.
Diluted 1:5 decoction can be used for rinsing tired watery eyes.