Andres de Laguna, a Spanish humanist physician, pharmacologist, and botanist, said that drinking and smelling the juice of the ivy plant has a similar effect on you as wine. Perhaps this is why the priests of Bacchus, the Roman god of wine, were crowned with an ivy wreath.
Ivy Plant Scientific Facts
- Other names: English ivy, true ivy, gum ivy.
- French: Lierre.
- Spanish: Hiedra.
- Environment: The ivy plant grows in rocky soils all over Europe and has been naturalized to America.
- Description: Climbing plant of the Araliaceae family, growing up to 50 cm high. It has a woody stem and palm-shaped, dark-green leaves. Its fruit is globe-like berries, black in color, and with an aromatic scent.
- Parts of the plant used medicinally: The young fresh leaves.
Healing Properties and Warnings
The whole plant contains triterpenic saponins, among which the most outstanding is hederine. These saponins are the active components of ivy. When externally applied, ivy leaves have cicatrizant and analgesic properties. They are recommended in the following cases:
- Torpid wounds, ulcers, and skin cracks: They are applied as compresses or poultices.
- Neuralgia and rheumatic aches: Ivy leaves produce a relaxing effect on the muscles and joints. They ease pain and reduce inflammation, whether applied in compresses, baths with their decoction, or poultices.
- Cellulitis: Baths with an ivy decoction help reduce the inflammation of tissues beneath the skin. Compresses and poultices are also recommended.
Whenever internally used, the leaves have been applied as an antitussive and emmenagogue substance. However, they are not recommended because of their toxicity.
WARNING! The berry fruit of the ivy plant is incredibly toxic: only two or three of them are enough to result in severe poisoning to a child. Ivy leaves can produce allergic reactions as well.
How to use Ivy
- Compresses soaked in the liquid of a decoction made with 30g of leaves per liter of water, then applied to the affected area.
- Baths: The same decoction can be added to the bathwater to achieve a relaxing, analgesic effect.
- Poultices: The leaves can be used directly, fixed on the affected area with a gauze dressing.
REFERENCES George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants. Ed. Francesc X. Gelabert. vols. 2 San Fernando de Henares: Editorial Safeliz, 2000. 712. Print.