A woody climber up to 100 ft (30 m) with leathery, dark green leaves, clusters of greenish-yellow flowers and black or orange berries.
Habitat & Cultivation
Native to Europe and northern and central Asia, ivy has been introduced, often as a garden climber, in many parts of the world. In the wild, it typically grows on trees and in hedges.
Ivy contains saponins, sterols, polyacetylenes, a volatile oil, and flavonoids. The saponins are expectorant, amebicidal, and antifungal, and kill liver flukes.
History & Folklore
In the classical world, common ivy was dedicated to Dionysus, the god of wine making and intoxication. Ivy was thought to be able to prevent or undo drunkenness. The leaf was traditionally used in England to treat corns and warts—it was soaked in vinegar and bound on as a poultice, or placed inside a sock, overlying the corn.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Ivy is chiefly used for congestion of the ear, nose, and throat, as well as for bronchitis. It acts as an expectorant, stimulating the coughing up and clearance of phlegm. It has a beneficial effect on mucous membranes and is generally combined with tonic herbs, especially thyme (Thymus vulgaris). Ivy extracts are common ingredients in cosmetic formulations for cellulite.
Fresh leaves can irritate the skin.