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The Ground Ivy past and present medicinal uses.

Updated on August 1, 2015

Ground ivy flowers

Photograph taken in Hamburg
Photograph taken in Hamburg | Source


Ground Ivy belongs to the order of plants known as the Lamiales and the family Lamiaceae { Mint family} and are placed in the genus Glechoma and allocated the specific name of hederaceae. It is a native to Europe and South western Asia and it has been introduced to North America. It was once a common plant in cottage gardens, in pots and in borders as a ground cover.However, this member of the mint family can become invasive, especially if it gets into a lawn or other grassy situations.

The common name for the plant Ground Ivy alludes to the foliage and its supposed resemblance to the true ivy. Glechoma derives from the Greek glekon, meaning a kind of mint, refers to the scent of the flowers. hederaceae the specific name derives from hedera the Latin name for the Ivy.

Here we look at the Ground Ivy and its past and present medicinal always we commence with a description of the subject under review.

Illustration of Ground ivy

Elements of Science {1812}
Elements of Science {1812} | Source

Description of Ground ivy

The root of this plant is perennial, throwing out long,creeping, trailing,unbranched square stems, which root at intervals. They rise up to attain the height of twelve inches { 30 cm }.

The leaves which are arranged opposite to each other are stalked and downy, kidney shaped or almost round with the under sides paler and dotted with glands. The lower leaves are long stalked and spreading.

The flowers are arranged three or four together in the axils of the upper leaves, they are borne on short stalks. At the base of each individual flower are small bracteae. The calyx { sepals etc} is short and tubular, striated and hairy with five nearly equal acuminate teeth. The corolla { petals etc} is purplish blue with small white spots on the lower of the two lips, or they may be more rarely white or pink. The lower lip is three lobed, the middle lobe being large , emarginate, and variegated. The side lobes are narrower and shorter. The stamens are covered by the upper lip and the whitish anthers form the shape of a cross.

The fruits {seed capsules} consists of four small nutlets enclosed with in the persistent calyx.

The plant is very variable in size, as well as a degree of colour, in the flower according to the situation it finds itself in. However, like the true ivy it remains green throughout the year unless the frost is very severe.

Flower and foliage of Ground Ivy

Taken at Radnor Lake Nashville.
Taken at Radnor Lake Nashville. | Source

General information

The former Latin name for this species was Nepeta glechoma, a plant which is common under hedges, by old stone walls and waste places. It is a native of Europe which flowers from April until May. Another even older Latin title for the plant was Hedera terrestris translating as ground Ivy. Country titles for the plant include Alehoof { see text below}, Tunhoof, Gill-go-by-the-ground and Cat'sfoot.

Anne Pratt states , " Although ornamental as this plant is, yet it is very injurious to pasture lands, its long trailing stems occupying much room, and gradually exterminating the sweet grasses and other plants that form the food of cattle"

" And there upon the sod below,

Ground ivy's purple blossom's show,

Like helmet of crusader knight,

Its anther's cross-like form of white" { Bishop Mant.}

Sometimes even in the first month of the year the young trailing shoots of the Ground ivy, creep in abundance on the bank among some older ones which have lived through the winter and we should welcome the early herald of spring.

Ground ivy has been employed to clarify and reserve malt liquours, for which purpose it was formerlu much used. hence the country title of Alehoof and tunhoof, and the house at which such medicated beverage was sold was referred to as the gill-house. One old writer relates " It is good to 'tun' up with new drink, for it will clarify it in any night that will be the fitter to be drunk in the morning. If any drink should be thick with removing or any other accident, it will do the like in a few hours"

Close up of the flowers .uk .uk | Source

Historical Medicinal Uses and Observations.

Ground ivy ranks among the plants that have been at one time extravagantly lauded and at another unduly neglected. Its properties have been described by different authors as being tonic, stomachic, aperient, diuretic, expectorant, vulnerary, errhine etc etc. Thus it was considered a potent remedy in pulmonary and nephritic complaints, dropsy, dyspepsia, hyochondriasis and colic.

The plant has a strong and aromatic odour when bruised and is slightly acrid , warm and bitter to taste. It contains a small quantity of volatile oil contained in the small glands on the underside of the leaves, which rises in distillation with water. according to the Lewis Mat. Med. page 300 " water extracts all its virtues by infusion, and on inspissatating the filtered liquor only the unpleasant smell of the herb exhales, its more valuable part remaining concentrated in the extract, which to the taste is at first sweetish then bitter, and subsequently very pungent"

It was until relatively recently ,commonly used by the poor for the cure of obstinate coughs. It was used in the form of a tea, sweetened with honey,liquorice or sugar and they frequently experienced its beneficial effects.

In the early stages of consumption the free use of the infusion was strongly recommended, and for its sedative qualities it was likewise employed in cases of insanity and melancholy with decided benefit. Mead { Monita et 97} speaks of its being usefully joined with fermenting ale, in gravel and other diseases of the kidneys. Ray { Hist.Plant.tom i page 567} asserts that he expressed the juice snuffed up the nostrils, has cured the most violent and inveterate headaches.

It was given in substance in the form of a powder or in pills, or suspended in any convenient liquid, in the amount of two to three scruples of the expressed juice and clarified juice { which was regarded as the best form} , a wine glassful was administered two or three times daily.

The Dutch, by repeated infusions of the plant in gin, made a kind of tincture which they esteemed very efficacious in treatment of gravel. The infusion in water, either alone or with the addition of Elecampane leaves and liquorice root, was taken at pleasure. The conserve and syrup have not much efficacy, but the extract was regarded as a substitute for the expressed juice.

It was also customary in days gone by to drop the juice of ground ivy into the ear, to stop the 'singing tones' which sometimes troubled the invalid. Country farmers up until the late 1900's still used the juice of ground ivy as an application to the eyes of horses, and all the old writers assure us that " It helpeth beasts as well as man"

The above information is for historical interest only and not meant as a guide to self medication.

Beautiful blue flowers


Modern day uses.

A infusion may be produced called Gill tea, by using an ounce of the whole above ground parts to one part of water. Pour boiling water over the herb and leave to stand until it is cool. Drink in small cupfuls throughout the day, for coughs and colds. It may be sweetened with honey, it contains vitamin C

It is recommended that the whole herb is gathered in early May or when the flowers are new, it can then be dried for later use. It is thought that ground ivy possesses stimulant, diuretic and decongestent properties and is employed to cure several health problems related to the mucous membranes of the throat, nose , ear and digestive system.

People suffering from throat and chest complaints,particularly those owing to too much mucous would also benefit by using its different formulations prepared from ground ivy. It is also said to effective against acid indigestion and gastritis.

They are employed in commercial products in water relief tablets that available to buy in health shops and drug stores. One or two fresh leaves in one cup of boiling water, sweetened with honey is recommended for the treatment of colds , and its astringent properties are useful against diarrhea . However, it is also recommended that you drink only half to one cup daily as over dosing on ground ivy could lead to mild toxic symptoms.

For the Forager--- Like many of its relatives it can be used to flavour stews for its mild peppery flavour. It can also be eaten raw in salads or cooked in the manner of spinach.

If you are trying a herb for the first time take only a little, to test your body tolerance.

Common Carder bee visiting ground ivy


Ground ivy growing in the countryside | Source


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hello,nice to meet you. They can become a pain in the lawn as they spread so easily. Thank you for visiting and taking the time to comment ,it is appreciated. Best wishes to you.

    • profile image

      Alise- Evon 

      6 years ago

      We have this growing, and spreading!, in our lawn. We call it Creeping Charlie. I dried some earlier this spring for tea, after deciding I did not care for the taste of it in my salad. I should try steaming it.

      Thanks for the great information.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Nadine May,

      Thank you for visiting and leaving your appreciated comment. I hope that they will grow in your part of the world although they may need some shade. Best wishes to you.

    • Nadine May profile image

      Nadine May 

      6 years ago from Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

      I'm always looking for flowering plants that are easy to grow and have several uses. Your photos made me read this post with interest and i will find out if this type of ivy will grow in our part of the world, Cape town

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Deb, glad to have been of help. They are beautiful flowers and would do well in the shade. Best wishes to you.

    • aviannovice profile image

      Deb Hirt 

      6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

      These really are beautiful wildflowers, and I have always favored an ivy for ground cover where grass would not grow, like under easily shaded trees. I think that this really would be fabulous with the aded vitamin C in stews. Well done, always.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      hello Eddy, you are so kind with your appreciated comments. Thank , too, for your share and vote up. Best wishes to you.

      Lisa Luv,Thank you too, so much for your visit and your very encouraging comments. Best wishes to you.

    • Lisa Luv profile image

      Lisa J Warner AKA Lisa Luv 

      6 years ago from Conneticut, USA

      WOW!!!! You are so diverse!!! WONDERFUL!!!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      6 years ago from Wales

      You are so knowledgeable my friend and how I am to be able to learn from you. Again I vote up and share onto my Facebook pages. wishing you a wonderful day as always.


    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Lancashire north west England


      Hi Devika is the plant you mean the common ivy. This species can grow to the height of 60 feet or more by means of sucker like pads that stick to the trees bark. this ivy has two types of leaves the familiar triangular three lobed leaf and those higher up which are more egg shaped and not lobed. Thank you for your visit and kind comment. Best wishes to you.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      6 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      We have a similar kind of Ivy in Croatia and creeps up onto trees and that can actually stop the tree from growing. It is not good for the growth of other plants from wrapping itself around trees. This Ivy does not have any flowers just a green wild plant.

      An interesting insight to ground Ivy.


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