GROUND IVY, GLECHOMA HEDERACEAE
GROUND IVY - USE THIS WEED FOR HEALTH: HISTORY, USES AND HEALTH BENEFITS OF GROUND IVY
GROUND IVY, GLECHOMA HEDERACEAE
Ground ivy is no relation to true ivy (Hedera helix) although it is a creeper and provides ground cover as the name suggests. Rather ground ivy is a member of the Labiatae or Lamiaceae family which makes it a relative of mint and oregano. Like its relatives it can be added to stews for its mild peppery flavour or eaten raw in salads or cooked as you would spinach. A tisane can be made with it mixed with vervain and then with added honey. It is a native of
Europe including the British Isles and Asia, spreading through western Asia to . Japan
It is also known by other names such as Alehoof, which is an allusion to its use in brewing beer as it was used to make this beverage clear until the 16th century when hops were introduced into
. It is also called Gill-in-the-ground, and this comes from the French guiller meaning to ferment beer. Because of the name Gill it also became known as Hedgemaids as Gill was a name for a woman or girl. A tisane called Gill tea (no tea involved) can be made with one ounce of the chopped whole herb (above-ground parts including the flowers) to one pint of boiling water. This can be left to infuse until cool and drunk in small cupfuls throughout the day if flavoured with honey, sugar or liquorice, if you have a cough or cold, as it contains vitamin C. Britain
The whole herb is best gathered in early may when the flowers are new, and then it can be dried for later use. The leaves are said to have some resemblance to a cat’s paw and this has given rise to the name Catsfoot for this plant with its flowers that look rather like violets.
In the past the expressed juice of the plant was sniffed through the nose and used for headaches when all other remedies had failed. The dried leaves were also powdered and used as snuff to clear the sinuses. The essential oil of this plant contains both rosmarinic and ursolic acid; the latter is believed to have anti-viral properties. In the limited clinical trials that have been conducted with extracts of ground ivy, it is thought that it might have anti-inflammatory properties.
It has been used for chest complaints and with yarrow or chamomile flowers as a poultice for abscesses tumours and other skin problems.
John Gerard the 16th century English herbalist had this to say about ground ivy: -
“it is commended against the humming noise and ringing sound of the ears, being put into them, and for them that are hard of hearing. Matthiolus writeth that the juice being tempered with Verdergrease is good against fistulas and hollow ulcers. Dioscorides teacheth that "half a dram of the leaves being drunk in foure ounces and a half of faire water for 40 or 50 days together is a remedy against sciatica or ache in the huckle-bone (hip)."
Culpepper writing in his “Complete Herbal” in the 17th century agreed with John Gerard on the whole but added the following information about this herb: -
The Welsh Physicians of Myddfai used ground ivy in this remedy for intermittent fevers:
“The following is a good medicine for this class of diseases: take moss, ground ivy, or elder, if obtainable, (if not obtainable, caraway,) and boil these two vegetable substances well together. Then take the mallow, fennel, pimpernel, butcher's broom, borage, and the young leaves of the earth nut, and bruise them as well as possible, putting them on the fire with the two herbs before mentioned, and boiling them well. This being done, let elder bark be taken from that portion of the tree which is in the ground, - let it be scraped and washed thoroughly, and bruised well in a mortar. Then take the liquor prepared from the fore-mentioned herbs, and mix the said bark therein assiduously between both hands, and set it to drain into a vessel to acidify, fermenting it with goat's whey, or cow's whey. Let a good cupful thereof be drank every morning as long as it lasts, a portion of raw honey, apple or wood sorrel, being taken subsequently in order to remove the taste from the mouth, after the draught. This liquor is beneficial to every man who requires to purge his body.
“For an opacity of the eye. Let some ground ivy juice be put therein, and the opacity will be removed, the eye becoming spotless and clear.”
Another remedy was this one: - “For a speck in the eye, put therein the juice of the ground ivy.”
For fevers they recommended the following treatment: -
“But if a man has indeed an obstinate ague, cause him to go into a bath, and let him avoid touching the water with his arms. Let him also take ground ivy, boiling it briskly, and apply hot to his head. He must also be bled in his arm, and he will be cured by the help of God.”
Ground ivy has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, but few clinical trials have been conducted with it.