The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

English Ivy

Scientific Names

English Ivy

  • Hedera helix L.
  • Araliaceae
  • Ginseng family

Common Names

  • Gum ivy
  • True ivy

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Parts Usually Used

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Description of Plant(s) and Culture

English ivy is a climbing evergreen vine; grows to the length of over 50 feet, bears air roots along its length which enable the plant to cling to smooth surfaces.  The leathery, glossy, dark-green leaves are variously 3 to 7 loved.  The small, green or yellowish-green flowers appear in umbels from August to October.  The fruit is a black berry; ripens in winter.

Another variety: American ivy, also known as woodbine, Virginia creeper, or wild wood vine (Vitis quinquefolia) is a common shrubby vine of the grape family.
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Where Found

Grows commonly in the temperate climates of Europe and Asia; introduced into the United States.  Found in woods and along walls, upon trees, climbing stone walls, houses, churches, etc.
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Medicinal Properties

Antispasmodic, exanthematous
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Legends, Myths and Stories

Ivy is dedicated to the Greek god of wine, Dionysus, who is often pictured crowned with an ivy wreath.  According to one myth, Dionysus when a youth used ivy to foil some sailors who abducted him in hopes of selling him as a slave in Egypt.  But their ship would not proceed toward Egypt, for Dionysus caused the ship to be bound and fastened with ivy and grape vines.  In Greece ivy is called “cissos”, after the nymph Cissos, who is said to have joyously danced herself to fatal exhaustion before Dionysus.  Feeling pity, he turned her to ivy.

Another myth states the maiden Cissos danced before Bacchus and kissed him often, making such mirth and joy, that being overcome with the same fell to the ground and killed herself.  But as soon as the earth knew her, she brought forth immediately the ivy vine, bearing still the name of the young damsel Cissus, which as soon as it grows up a little, comes to embrace the grape vine, in remembrance that the damsel wanted to love and embrace Bacchus the God of wine.
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English ivy is primarily for external use; as a wash for sores, burns, cuts, dandruff, and other skin problems.
In the right quantity, this herb will reduce swollen glands, calm fevers, and cure dropsy.

Ointment: for external use; the pulped leaf soothes stiff joints and aching muscles.  Also the fresh crushed leaves rubbed on the site are said to be effective against the pain of bee or wasp stings.
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Formulas or Dosages

The whole plant, including the berries, is poisonous.  Use only under medical supervision.

Cold extract: use 1 tsp. leaves with 1 cup cold water; let stand for 8 hours.  Use only externally.

Tincture: gather ivy leaves and cut off some of the green bark, then pass them all through a mincer.  Pour alcohol (not rubbing alcohol) over the mash and let it stand for a week or so.  When ready, press through a sieve, filter and bottle.  A few drops of this tincture rubbed lightly on a sting will quickly relieve the pain.

Compresses: made with salt water to which a few drops of ivy tincture is added.  Also good for poison ivy.
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The leaves may cause dermatitis in sensitive people.  Small doses taken internally are said to dilate the blood vessels and large doses to constrict them.  English ivy is also said to break down red blood corpuscles by releasing their hemoglobin.

The whole plant, including the berries, is poisonous.  Use only under medical supervision.
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Buy It! Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1988, fifth printing, 1994

Buy It!The Magic of Herbs, by David Conway, published by Jonathan Cape, Thirty Bedford Square, London, England. (Out of print)

Buy It! The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

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