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ivy leaf

 

What Is It?
Health Benefits
Forms

Dosage Information

Guidelines for Use

General Interaction

Possible Side Effects

Cautions

References

Evidence Based Rating Scale
 

What Is It?

Many North Americans probably do not realize that the climbing ivy plant (Hedera helix), so often found in their gardens and yards, has a long history in folk healing. A member of the ginseng family (Araliaceae), it is also known as English ivy, common ivy, and true ivy. Ivy is native to Europe, north and central Asia, and Africa, and is cultivated in the United States. In folk medicine, the plant's shiny, dark evergreen leaves have traditionally been used for colds and congestion, for fighting fever (by inducing sweating), and for controlling parasites. (1) Legend has it that Bacchus, the ancient Greek god of wine, wore an ivy wreath around his head because the plant was supposed to help someone stay sober while enjoying the taste of the wine. The leaves were bruised and actually simmered in the wine for this purpose. It is not clear whether this worked.

Health Benefits

Several decades ago, researchers identified high concentrations of substances called glycosidic saponins in the ivy leaf, which helps to explain the herb's effectiveness for cough. Specifically, saponins are compounds that can help clear cough and congestion; they are bitter tasting and just irritating enough to trigger a cough that aids in removing Mucus from the lungs, throat, and other areas. This kind of remedy is called an "expectorant." Laboratory studies indicate ivy leaf Extract has antibacterial, antiparasitic, antifungal, antispasmodic, and anti-inflammatory properties. Whether the Herb has similar effects in humans is less clear, however. (2)

Today the herb is most widely used for treating respiratory tract congestion, such as that associated with a cold. Germany's prestigious Commission e approves of ivy leaf for this purpose, as well as for Inflammation-related bronchial (lung) conditions.

Specifically, ivy leaf may help to:

  • Relieve symptoms of bronchitis. Several studies indicate ivy leaf alone and in conjunction with thyme relieves symptoms of bronchitis including coughing and respiratory pain. In one large after-market study, 9657 children and adults with bronchitis were given syrup containing dried ivy leaf extract for seven days. The response rates in 1234 children ranging in ages from less than 2 to 17 years of age for whom data were available were 92.0% to 96.5% in the various age groups.   Coughing improved with an average reduction in coughing fits of 81.3%. The safety of the syrup was good with only 2.1% of the patients reporting adverse effects, mostly gastrointestinal. (3-6) It should be noted that a 2011 review of studies suggests there were flaws and a lack of placebos in earlier studies of ivy leaf's effect on upper respiratory tract infections. The combination of ivy and thyme may have some benefit; however, more studies are needed to confirm these results. (7)
  • Relieve the pain of leg sores in chronic venous insufficiency. Chronic venous disease is a condition where the valves in the veins of the legs sometimes allow blood to flow backwards and pool in the veins of the legs. This pooled blood increases pressure in the veins and causes problems including leg heaviness, varicose veins, and chronic leg ulcers. When these signs and symptoms develop, the person is said to have chronic venous insufficiency. One study of eighty patients with leg ulcers showed a cream containing ivy leaf relieved the pain caused by these ulcers and should be used in conjunction with conventional compression therapy. (8)

Forms

  • Tincture
  • liquid extract
  • dried herb/tea
  • capsule

Dosage Information

For respiratory tract congestion, take 300-800 mg of the standardized extract each day. (9, 10) Alternatively, drink a cup (8 ounces) of ivy leaf tea three or four times a day. To make the tea, steep one heaping teaspoon of the dried leaf in a quarter cup of boiling water for ten minutes then strain. The tea will be bitter and may be sweetened with honey. Always remember that honey is not recommended in children under 1 year of age.  For chronic obstructive bronchitis in children, 35 mg of dried leaf extract three times per day or 14 mg dried leaf alcohol-based extract three times per day has been administered. (11)

Guidelines for Use

Ivy leaf is safe when used orally and appropriately.

General Interaction

There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with ivy leaf.

Possible Side Effects

Fresh ivy leaf can cause mild skin irritation. (Note that this is not the same as a reaction to poison ivy, which is an altogether different plant.) However, allergic reactions to ivy leaf, as with any plant, are always a possibility. Stop using this herb if there are any signs of allergy, including a rash, itching, or gastrointestinal upset. Some components of ivy leaf may have a bitter taste.

Cautions

Do not pluck ivy leaves from a yard plant to make a home remedy. It is much safer to use a sterilized preparation designed specifically for medicinal use.

References

1. Plant Conservation Alliance's Alien Plant Working Group-English Ivy. Available at http://www.nps.gov/plants/alien/fact/hehe1.htm. Accessed November 15, 2011.
2. Uddin G, Rauf A, Qaisar M, Rehman, T, Latif A, Ali M. Preliminary Phytochemical Screening and Antimicrobial Activity of Hedera Helix L. Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research 2011;8(1):198-202.
3. Hecker M, Runkel F, Voelp A. Treatment of chronic bronchitis with ivy leaf special extract--multicenter post-marketing surveillance study in 1,350 patients. Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2002 Apr;9(2):77-84.
4. Kemmerich B, Eberhardt R, Stammer H. Efficacy and tolerability of a fluid extract combination of thyme herb and ivy leaves and matched placebo in adults suffering from acute bronchitis with productive cough. A prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Arzneimittelforschung. 2006;56(9):652-60.
5. Marzian O. Treatment of acute bronchitis in children and adolescents. Non-interventional postmarketing surveillance study confirms the benefit and safety of a syrup made of extracts from thyme and ivy leaves. MMW Fortschr Med. 2007 Jun 28;149(27-28 Suppl):69-74.
6. Fazio S, Pouso J, Dolinsky D, Fernandez A, Hernandez M, Clavier G, Hecker M. Tolerance, safety and efficacy of Hedera helix extract in inflammatory bronchial diseases under clinical practice conditions: a prospective, open, multicentre postmarketing study in 9657 patients. Phytomedicine. 2009 Jan;16(1):17-24.
7. Holzinger F, Chenot JF. Systematic review of clinical trials assessing the effectiveness of ivy leaf (hedera helix) for acute upper respiratory tract infections. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:382789.
8. Chiummariello S, De Gado F, Monarca C, Ruggiero M, Carlesimo B, Scuderi N, Alfano C. Multicentric study on a topical compound with lymph-draining action in the treatment of the phlebostatic ulcer of the inferior limbs. G Chir. 2009 Nov-Dec;30(11-12):497-501.
9. Blumenthal M, ed. The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Trans. S. Klein. Boston, MA: American Botanical Council, 1998.
10. Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C. PDR for Herbal Medicines. 3rd ed. Montvale, NJ: Thomson PDR, 2004.
11. Gulyas A, Repges R, Dethlefsen U. Therapy of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases in children (Translation). Atemvegs und Lungenkrankheiten 1997;23:291-4.

Evidence Based Rating Scale

The Evidence Based Rating Scale is a tool that helps consumers translate the findings of medical research studies and what our clinical advisors have found to be efficacious in their personal practice into a visual and easy to interpret format. This tool is meant to simplify the information on supplements and therapies that demonstrate promise in the treatment of certain conditions.

 

Condition

Rating

Explanation

 

Bronchitis

   

Several studies indicate efficacy in relieving symptoms of bronchitis in children and adults in combination with thyme and as a single agent. However, a review of studies suggests flaws in earlier studies with ivy leaf alone. (3-7)

Leg ulcers  


One small study showed topical cream containing ivy leaf extract relieved pain from leg sores; larger studies are needed to confirm these results. (8)

 

 


Date Published: 04/18/2005
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