Can Common Ivy Improve Your Health?

Common ivy, also known as English ivy or just ivy, has a long history as a medicinal and ornamental plant. It was associated with Bacchus, the Roman deity of revelry and fertility. The ancient Greeks used ivy in wedding ceremonies, and Hedera helix, the scientific name of the vine, is of Greek origin. The woody vines and evergreen leaves of common ivy are a common sight on buildings and walls in modern times.

While often hated and removed for its highly invasive and harmful tendencies in non-native areas, common ivy is also valued for its health benefits and possible medicinal uses.

Relieves congestion

Several chemical components in ivy leaf extracts, including saponins, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds, affect the respiratory system. Ivy leaf extracts are often used in European cough and cold medicines because they act as an expectorant and help reduce congestion by getting thinner and loosen mucus so that it can be expelled more easily.

Ivy leaves contain chemical molecules called saponins that stimulate the mucous glands and make slime in the liquid throat, lungs and bronchi. Saponins also have an antitussive effect, meaning they suppress coughing.

A woman blowing her nose with a tissue

Asthma and COPD

In addition to expectorant and antitussive properties, ivy extracts can also be spasmolytic and bronchodilator Effects. These agents relax smooth muscles in the bronchi and help open and dilate the airways. Their effects can be highly beneficial for people with asthma, COPD, and other respiratory conditions involving narrow, hardened, or inflamed bronchioles.

Woman breathes fresh air in the forest


Common Ivy can relieve inflammation associated with a variety of illnesses and injuries.

People with arthritis or gout may benefit from ivy tea and other oral preparations. Ivy ointments, creams, or compresses can be applied topically to relieve pain, swelling, and stiffness. Topical application works best for inflamed joints or injuries such as strains, sprains and muscle strains.

Elderly woman putting ointment on her hands


Ivy leaf compresses were used in the past to treat wounds and burns because of the plant antibacterial and antifungal properties. Although today we have many medicines to treat and prevent infections, it is good to have as many options as possible. Topical ivy leaf preparations can protect minor scrapes, cuts, and burns from infection. The antimicrobial properties of ivy leaf in oral medications are also potentially beneficial in cases of pneumonia, sinusitis, and other respiratory infections.

Hand applying ointment to toddler's knee wear


Common ivy extracts are used to treat parasitic infections in some parts of the world. Antiparasitic drugs are not always available in places where such infections are common. If so, the drugs can cause serious side effects, so an alternative to an herbal treatment is very beneficial. Ivy extracts may also be effective against some diseases caused by protozoa.

A 3D image of Microfilaria worm in blood

Deliver protection

Liver damage is not a rare diagnosis. The liver is responsible for removing most toxins from our body. Certain over-the-counter medications can cause severe liver damage at high doses, so there are plenty of opportunities for damage. Antioxidants and other chemically active compounds in common ivy may offer some: protection for the liver and reduce the toxic effects of certain drugs.

A doctor holding a liver model


Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is one of the most common forms of cardiovascular disease. Common ivy can help control blood pressure in several ways. Some compounds in the plant have vasodilator properties That reduce tension in blood vessel walls. The heart doesn’t have to work as hard to keep blood circulating in the relaxed arteries.

Anti-inflammatory properties of common ivy can reduce or prevent inflammation and subsequent damage to endothelial cells lining the internal blood vessel walls.

Nurse measuring blood pressure


Research on common ivy leaves discovered cytotoxic properties in methanolic leaf extracts. Cytotoxic refers to the ability to kill cancer cells or prevent them from multiplying.

Further studies identified a phenolic compound as the source of this effect. Further research is needed to find out how effective common ivy can be against different types of cancer. Some people take regular ivy supplements along with traditional cancer treatments, but this should never be done without the approval of the supervising physician.

Colorful awareness ribbons and stethoscope

air quality

A NASA study once suggested that houseplants, including common ivy, could remove some types of pollutants from the air. Many plants were evaluated, but ivy was found to be especially useful for removing formaldehyde. Surprisingly, plant roots and the surrounding soil were responsible for most of the filtration.

However, further studies and reviews sow doubt about air purification claims. Growing common ivy in your home can improve aesthetics and produce more oxygen, but you should not rely on a houseplant for air purification.

Pot with ivy plant on wooden drawer boards with decor


Although ivy extracts are often thought of as natural medicine, this does not mean that ivy is always harmless. Some people are allowed experience effects including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Allergic reactions, such as hives, itching, or rash, may also occur. Serious side effects are rare.

Ivy leaves contain a substance called emetine which is not recommended during pregnancy. Use caution when handling ivy plants, as unripe berries on vines can be toxic to humans and animals.

Woman scratches her arm
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