Have you heard of Hedera helix? That’s the scientific name for the plant which you may know as the common ivy, English ivy or European ivy. Ivy is a flowering plant found in the Araliaceae family that can be seen clinging on house walls and tree trunks around Europe and Western Asia.
It is widely known that ivy leaf causes itch when we touch it. However, dried ivy leaf extract is safe and tolerated well among children and adults.
Father Knows Best
The medicinal properties of ivy were supposedly made famous by the Father of Medicine, Hippocrates. Over the centuries, ivy has been used to prevent hangovers from alcohol; as an anaesthetic due to its germ-killing (antiseptic) properties; to reduce swelling of the brain and feet, and even to treat bleeding and gut infection which causes bloody diarrhoea (dysentery).
The Ivy Today
Scientific studies have now shown ivy extract to contain antimicrobial properties, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions, in addition to mucus-thinning properties. In a nutshell, ivy extract helps us breathe properly when we are down with a cold or flu as well as bothersome coughs that go on and on.
What’s in the Ivy?
The two main chemical groups in ivy that have been researched many times are triterpenoid saponins and flavonoids. Triterpenoid saponins have antiviral properties; Flavonoids function as antioxidants and help to bind and remove toxins from our body. Flavonoids also have anti-inflammatory actions besides the ability to modulate the enzyme pathways in our body.
Ivy is Good for Coughs and More
Ivy extract helps to relax the lungs’ bronchial muscle, especially in people who are down with cold or flu and having bouts of coughing. Even in those having asthma attacks, ivy extract can help them breathe easier. Ivy also makes thick and sticky mucus become more liquid. Mucus which is more liquid can be coughed up and gotten rid of easily.
Studies have shown ivy extract to weaken many strains of bacteria, the yeast Candida albicans and flu virus. This helps people to recover from infections faster.
It is really not surprising that ivy extracts can be found as active ingredients in medications for cough. It is truly a plant that deserves a league of its own!
References: 1. Clinicians Research Based. Available at: www.clinicians.co.nz 2. Lutsenko Y, et al. (2010). Hedera helix as a medicinal plant. Herba Polonica.; 56(1):83-96 3. Schmidt M, et al. (2012). Suitability of ivy extract for the treatment of paediatric cough. Phytother Res.;26 (12):1942-1947 4. Simoes CM, et al. (1999). Mechanism of antiviral activity of triterpenoid saponins. Phytother Res.; 13(4):323-328 5. The International Plant Names Index. Available at: ipni.org
6. Uddin G, et al. (2011). Preliminary Phytochemical Screening and Antimicrobial Activity of Hedera Helix L. Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research.; 8(1):198-202.