Ground Ivy

Glechoma hederacea

Herbs gallery - Ground Ivy

Common names

  • Alehoof
  • Cat's-foot
  • Creeping Charlie
  • Field Balm
  • Gill Run Over
  • Ground Ivy
  • Haymaids
  • Hedge Maid
  • Wild Snakeroot

Ground ivy is an herb-like plant that grows perennially up to a height of 8 inches to 20 inches (20 cm to 50 cm) and has a square stem that produces circular, having well serrated leaves. The flowers of this herb have a purple-blue hue, which has a propensity to become pale mauve. This is primarily owing to the fact because the blossoming may endure for three months or even more - which is basically extraordinary for any wildflower. The leaves emit a camphor smell having an essence of peppermint and citronella.

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There was a time when ground ivy was very well accepted for its therapeutic as well as culinary properties. However, currently, homeowners consider this plant bearing violet-blue blooms as a weed since it invades the lawns. Even herbalists practically neglect ground ivy, primarily recommending the herb in the form of a tea for curing chronic coughs. During the first century A.D., renowned Greek botanist and physician Pedanius Diocorides instructed that a tea prepared from the plant's leaf was an effective remedy for sciatica. Much later, in the 16th century, English herbalist John Gerard quoted Diocorides as his source and made the same recommendations.

John Gerard further noted that when boiled in a mutton broth, ground ivy is excellent for feeble backs. He, however, set aside his greatest praise for the effectiveness of ground ivy in curing eye problems, announcing that, blended with daisies, celandine, sugar as well as rose water, this herb gets rid of all eye troubles. In fact, Gerard described ground ivy as the most excellent remedy for eye ailments available anywhere in the world. "It has proved to be the best medicine in the world," Gerard observed.

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While ground ivy is native to Europe and western Asia, over the years it has been naturalized in North America, where it has become an element of the pharmacopoeia of the European settlers. Owing to the plant's elevated vitamin C content, herbalists as well as physicians have found ground ivy useful while curing scurvy. In the 19th century, physicians in America used this herb extensively for an assortment of therapeutic reasons. While the physicians employed the sap or a tea prepared from ground ivy to cure conditions, such as coughs, asthma, and lung ulcers, they also prescribed ground ivy for treating fever as well as intestinal gas. The physicians also recommended the use of the ground ivy tea to cure conditions like lead poisoning or painter's colic.

Parts used

Stems, flowers, leaves.

Uses

The herb ground ivy possesses stimulant, diuretic and decongestant properties and is employed to cure several health problems related to the mucous membranes of the throat, nose, ear and the digestive system. Ground ivy is generally a well-tolerated herb that may be administered even to children to dispel the persistent blockage and also to cure chronic conditions like sinusitis and glue ear. People suffering from throat and chest complaints, particularly owing to presence of too much mucus, would also benefit by using its different formulations prepared with ground ivy. In addition, ground ivy is an effective remedy for acid indigestion and gastritis. The binding attribute of ground ivy facilitates in combating diarrhea as well as to parch the runny plus mucoid discharges more down the gastrointestinal tract. Many physicians have used ground ivy to put off occurrence of scurvy and also in the form of a spring tonic. Moreover, this herb is also believed to be helpful in treating kidney ailments.

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Culinary uses

Besides therapeutic uses, ground ivy is also used for culinary purposes. The tender leaves of this herb may be consumed raw or after cooking. The leaves of ground ivy possess an astringent taste and they may be blended into salads to provide a somewhat aromatic essence. Alternately, the young leaves of ground ivy may also be cooked in the same manner in which we cook spinach, employed in the form of a flavouring and/ or added to soups, stews and others.

Ground ivy is available during the early part of the year. An herbal tea is prepared from the fresh or dried up leaves. Frequently, it is used to mix with verbena leaves. Ground ivy has been added to beer much in the same manner as hops with a view to make the product clearer as also to enhance its flavour, while retaining its properties. In effect, this species was the most commonly used flavouring agent in beer before the use of hops became prevalent from the 16th century and later.

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Habitat and cultivation

Ground ivy is indigenous to Europe as well as the regions in west Asia, but has now been naturalized in various regions having temperate climatic conditions, counting North America. Ground ivy succeeds well on the outer periphery of woodlands as well as the length of the hedges and paths. This herb is harvested during the spring/summer period - especially between April and June.

Ground ivy has a preference for heavy (clay) soil and speckled shade. It also has a preference for damp, but properly drained soil and has the aptitude to flourish both in sunlight as well as shade. Ground ivy is an extremely invasive plant, considered as a weed by many, and spreads unconstrained at the roots. However, ground ivy is an excellent bee plant.

Ground ivy is generally propagated by its seeds, which are ideally sown in situ immediately when they ripen, or during the spring. Alternately, this herb may also be propagated by means of root division undertaken in spring or autumn. It is extremely trouble-free to propagate ground ivy by division, as thickets may be re-planted directly into their permanent positions outdoors. However, it is most excellent to grow the smaller clusters in pots in a cold frame till the new plants have rooted properly. It is advisable that you plant the young plants outdoors during the next spring.

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Constituents

Usual dosage

The application of ground ivy is in two forms - infusion and tincture.

Infusion: To prepare the infusion add one teaspoonful of dried out leaves of the herb in a cup (250 ml) of steaming water and allow it to infuse for about 10 to 15 minutes. For best results, this infusion needs to be drunk thrice every day.

Tincture: The normal dosage of the tincture prepared from ground ivy leaves is taking 1 ml to 4 ml thrice every day.

Side effects and cautions

People using ground ivy or planning to use it for therapeutic reasons ought to do so while exercising great caution. According to a number of reports, the herb may result in toxicity among horses. Pregnant women should never use this herb or formulations prepared with it, since it possesses abortifacient (causing abortion) attributes. Its use is also contraindicated or prohibited by patients enduring epilepsy.

Applications

The flowers of ground ivy may be consumed or utilized in the form of an attractive dressing for salads. In effect, the entire ground ivy herb may be employed to prepare a mother tincture - 50 per cent saturated in 100 per cent alcohol and it ought to be taken in dosage of 15 drops thrice every day. The herb can be dried out without much effort and it takes about a week to dry an entire plant. A decoction as well as a herbal tea prepared with this herb is particularly effective to treat nasal, ear and throat infections by means of disinfecting the mucous membranes as well as melting the mucous right through the lungs. In addition, ground ivy also facilitates in cleansing the lungs owing to its expectorant properties. Moreover, ground ivy also fortifies the bronchial tubes as well as provides energy to all the gastrointestinal organs, the genitals and the urinary system.

Ground ivy is among the most effective healing herbs. Compresses prepared from an intensified decoction of the herb are employed to heal wounds, bruises, cuts and abscesses. An herbal tea cure, prepared by adding three plants to one cup (250 ml) of water, helps to purify the blood as well as the tissues affected by any toxic heavy metal, for instance, zinc, copper, lead and cadmium. The dosage of the herbal tea cure is drinking about 30 ounce (1 litre) every day for 10 consecutive days or for a maximum period of three months, conditional on the severity of the poisoning by the metal. The dehydrated ground ivy plant, pulverized into a powdered form, is a sternutator (a chemical agent that results in nasal irritation, coughing and others), which is an appropriate remedy for sinusitis and headaches.

Collection and harvesting

The flowering stems of ground ivy ought to be harvested during the period between April and June.

Combinations

Ground ivy is known to be an effective remedy for coughs and it is used in conjugation with other herb, such as coltsfoot, elecampane and horehound to cure this condition. In order to treat sinus catarrh it is best to combine ground ivy with goldenrod.

Healing oil

The ingredients required to prepare healing oil from ground ivy include 1 3/4 ounce (50 grams) of freshly dried ground ivy, and four cups (one litre) of olive oil.

To prepare the oil, pound the dried ground ivy using a blender or a mortar. Subsequently, add the olive oil and blend it. Allow the mixture to macerate for a period of about one month and then filter the liquid with caution. Pour the healing oil in many small bottles, as this will make it easy to use the oil when needed and also prevent it from decomposition. This healing oil is known to be a wonderful topical remedy for bruises, wounds and even muscle aches.

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