The common ivy belongs to the aralia. Although it is poisonous, it was voted 2010 Medicinal Plant of the Year for a reason. The dose makes the poison, or the cure. The effects of ivy and the risks associated with its use are discussed in detail in the following paragraphs. Here are the most important facts about ivy:
The active ingredients of ivy are in its leaves. These include triterpene saponins, hederacoside C and B as well as alpha-hederin. In addition, there are caffeic acid derivatives, flavonoids and essential oil, as well as glycosides and chlorogenic acid.
The triterpene saponins are toxic. They are found in high concentrations in the ivy berries and even a few berries trigger poisoning symptoms such as headaches, high pulse and cramps. Higher doses lead to shock and cessation of breath.
The ingredients in ivy are also antifungal (against fungi such as skin fungi), antiviral (e.g. against influenza agents) and antibiotic (against bacteria). The plant compounds also kill parasites, including various worms.
In low doses, the poisonous effects of the leaves have been shown to be effective against diseases of the bronchi, against cramping and irritable cough. The toxic triterpene saponins cause the bronchial mucosa to produce thin mucus. This makes it easier to cough up the mucus. An extract from ivy leaves also ensures that the mucus is better removed. Alpha-hederin relaxes the bronchial muscles and thus loosens cramped airways.
The Herbal Medicinal Product Committee has recognized ivy leaves as a phlegm remedy, and Commission E of the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices sees ivy leaves as effective in "respiratory catarrh and symptomatic treatment of chronic inflammatory bronchial diseases."
Juice, tea, tablets
In pharmacies there are various agents based on ivy leaves, for example cough drops, cough syrup or tablets. Tea can only be prepared with caution from ivy, since only small amounts of the plant can be used as a remedy due to its poisonous effect. Ivy is compatible with other expectorants such as thyme, primrose and eucalyptus.
There is no danger when used externally. Ivy leaves have a numbing effect and against nerve inflammation, rheumatic pain, sciatica pain and arthritis. Ivy also helps against cellulite, because it can be anesthetized on the one hand and thus massaged more vigorously, and on the other hand the narrowing of the vessels caused by ivy removes the water stored in the tissue.
Make your own ivy extract
You boil a handful of ivy leaves with 0.75 liters of water for about 10 to 12 minutes. This results in a concentrated infusion. Dip them in these, squeeze them out and place the wet envelopes on the desired spots - once a week.
You use much less ivy leaves for a tea to drink. You just take half a teaspoon of it and pour boiling water over it, let the brew steep for about 10 minutes and then pour it through a tea strainer. For colds, coughs and inflammation of the mucous membranes in the nose, mouth, throat and respiratory tract, drink 2 cups of it daily. Ivy has a bitter taste, and honey can be added to soften this taste.
An ivy ointment tightens the skin, promotes blood circulation and wound healing and inhibits inflammation. To make such an ointment, take:
- Some ivy leaves, best grown,
- 20 g beeswax
- and 100 ml of vegetable oil, for example olive, rapeseed or sunflower.
You melt the beeswax and the oil in a water bath, crush the ivy leaves and stir them in, ideally with a mixing stick.
For an ivy tincture, wash ivy leaves, shred them and fill them into a container with an airtight lid. You also add high-proof, clear schnapps like grappa, vodka or gin and let everything steep for a month. Then fill the tincture into dark bottles. If you have a juice mixer, you can also mix the ivy with the alcohol, the tincture will then get a dark green color like absinthe.
If you are allergic to ivy, you should not consume ivy products. Avoid the fruits, because the concentration of saponins is high here, and instead of healing, you are probably poisoning yourself, because even small amounts are toxic. With dried ivy leaves, the daily dose should never be higher than 3 grams.
Ivy as a garden plant
In nature, ivy winds mainly around trees or covers the ground, the plants reach up to 20 m into the tree. The roots only stick to the wood, but do not remove any nutrients from it. Meanwhile, old ivy plants can harm trees by covering them with a kind of "external scaffold". This sometimes leads to the tree dying.
Today we find ivy everywhere: on public buildings, in gardens, on trees. It is popular with gardeners because the dense foliage is considered beautiful, the plant covers wide, otherwise bare areas and is always green. In addition, most types of ivy are undemanding, even like shade and can withstand wetness as well as drought.
In Germany it is so popular that it bears many synonyms: evergreen, Mauerefeu, Eppich, Mauerewig, wintergreen and dead tendril. Ivy is easily grown in the garden. All you have to do is pull cuttings into the ground and water them.
The name ivy is probably derived from the Saxon ebah, and that meant climbing, ep-hou in Old High German meant "climbing grass".
The wreaths of Dionysus
The Greek goddess of fertility, Demeter, the Greek god of the forest and shepherds, Pan and the Greek god of wine, ecstasy, becoming and decaying in nature and sensual joy (Dionysus) have one thing in common: They were all Consecrated ivy.
Ivy was depicted with ivy tendrils and grapes, and Dionysus's staff was wrapped with ivy. His followers, the maenads, also wreathed themselves with ivy, and they also wore animal skins and ivy-wrapped sticks. The Greeks wore ivy wreaths to drink, on the one hand to pay homage to Dionysus and on the other hand to cool their heads. They also covered their wine cups with ivy.
For the Greeks, ivy had a sacred meaning: if it grew abundantly, then Dionysus was nearby. The plant also belonged to the god Apollo, which is why the poets adorned it with it.
In Germany there is evidence of ivy in gardens in 1561 by the naturalist Conrad Gessner. The geometrically laid out parks of the Baroque, however, ran towards the lush growing ivy. It only became popular in the landscaped gardens of England in the 18th century, and English gardeners grew more and more varieties. In the early modern period, it was considered a remedy for plague, gout, jaundice and poor hearing.
Ivy as a symbol
Mauerewig and the tendril show that the ivy is symbolically charged - as a symbol of loyalty and immortality. So in the saga Tristan and Isolde were buried separately, but ivy grew on their graves, which joined in the air and brought the lovers back together. With the Christians he stood for eternal life after death. This is also why ivy is so popular on graves. Ivy can be found on Christian graves already in the first centuries of our era.
The heart symbol is also thought to have its roots in ivy leaves, it comes from a time when opening the human body was considered a crime against God, and therefore nobody knew what our heart looked like. The "heart-shaped" ivy leaf stood for infinite love and loyalty. The ivy stood for loyalty because it stuck with its adhesive roots.
Ivy in cemeteries
As a symbol of eternal life, ivy dates back to early Christianity, but it only became fashionable as cemetery decorations in the early 19th century. Previously, the tombs in Central Europe were kept simple, now they have been transformed into urban gardens with the core color dark green. Evergreen cemetery plants such as rosemary or boxwood, and above all ivy, thus spread, which is not only symbolically but practically the number one plant for dead calm. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
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