Keith Stelling, MNIMH
Ground ivy was given to us by early English and Welsh settlers. It was used by the early Saxons to clarify their beers, before hops had been introduced.
Ground ivy was given to us by early English and Welsh settlers. It was used by the early Saxons to clarify their beers, before hops had been introduced. Until the reign of Henry VIII, ground ivy leaves had been steeped in the hot liquor during ale making.
The plant was known in those days as "alehoof," because the leaves looked like the hoofs of a pony. When many of the immigrant families came to Canada in the 19th century from the English Midlands, they brought their ale-making tradition with them–including the rooted plants of this important medicinal plant which soon adapted to its new country. Ivy ran rampant over people’s vegetable plots and flower gardens, becoming an annoyance for gardeners.
But this amazing medicinal plant can extract lead from human tissues; unblock congested upper respiratory passages; and curtail diarrhea, gastritis and even bronchitis.
Modern herbal clinical practitioners have great respect for this always reliable, nontoxic, readily obtainable and cheap remedy. Its astringency is exploited in the ability to improve the tonicity of the respiratory mucus membranes. Herbalists often point out that improving the tone of mucus membranes makes good preventative sense because it protects against the entry of allergens, viruses and bacterial infection.
Additionally, ground ivy is a mild expectorant, suitable for removing viscid mucus plugs from the bronchi. More powerful expectorants would be inappropriate in the delicate bronchial area during bronchitis.
This plant is further suited for its traditional role in treating bronchitis because it can heal the tiny blood vessel breakages which often lead to blood in the sputum after vigorous, nonproductive coughing. But it is the anticatarrhal properties which render it most useful in upper respiratory infections, especially when there is thick mucus blockage, even in the eustachian tubes of the ear.
Ground ivy was once used by house painters in North America as a preventative of, and remedy for, lead colic-the stomach pains caused by the fumes from lead-based paints.
An excellent cooling beverage, known as "gill tea," can be made from ground ivy. Infuse one ounce (28 g) of the herb with a pint (500 mL) of boiling water. Sweeten with honey or licorice and drink, when cool, in wineglassful doses, three or four times a day. This used to be a favorite remedy with the poor for coughs of long standing. It is a wholesome drink and still considered serviceable in pectoral complaints and, in cases of weakness of the digestive organs, as a stimulating tonic.
Clinical experience has taught us that ground ivy is one of the most dependable and effective herbal remedies. The small purplish blue labiate flowers are among the first to burst into bloom in the spring. Ground ivy tea can be made from the fresh or dried leaves. The plant should be collected for drying in the spring just as it begins to flower. Make the tea by soaking 40-50 g of the dried leaves and flowers in one litre of cold water for a few minutes and then bringing it to a simmer. Just before it’s really boiling, take it off the heat and allow it to infuse for 15 minutes. Drink three or four cups. Two to four millilitres of the tincture can be used three times daily.