6 Impressive Benefits of Ivy

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most interesting health benefits of ivy may include its potential ability to reduce inflammation, eliminate congestion, speed healing, soothe the stomach, increase oxygenation of the body, boost the immune system, and heal the skin.

What is Ivy?

Ivy is the common name of an entire genus of plants called Hedera, which is primarily found throughout Europe, Asia, Northern Africa, and parts of the Pacific. There are approximately 15 species of ivy, which grow by crawling along the ground, until they reach a stable climbing surface, like a tree or a wall. At this point, the ivy can access sunlight more directly and can subsequently increase its growth rate. The leaves of ivy plants are not only ornamental, although they do look lovely on the sides of buildings, but also medicinal in nature. Its leaves have been used throughout traditional medicine from Europe to Asia for thousands of years, and have a very important place in history. [1]

The leaves can be consumed or applied topically, while the extract from the leaves is commonly removed and used as a potent supplement or herbal treatment. Whether in tincture, poultice, tea, or infusion, you should be careful how much ivy you use, as the strong antioxidant and chemical components that give it health benefits can also be harmful if used in large quantities. Some of these substances include various saponins and polyyne, among other chemicals in smaller amounts, all of which impact the body in various ways.

Health Benefits of Ivy

Let’s take a closer look at the many health benefits of this plant.

Possibly Anti-inflammatory Effects

One of the most well-known benefits of using ivy, particularly “English Ivy”, is for inflammation issues in the body. If you suffer from arthritis, gout, or rheumatism, you can either consume it in the form of tea or apply the leaves directly to the spot of inflammation. For people who experience discomfort and pain from an injury or surgery, topical application is recommended. This can heal internal inflammation as well, which has a variety of other applications in various bodily systems. [2]

Fresh ivy cllimber plants against a yellow wall

Ivy, any plant of the genus Hedera, with about five species of evergreen woody vines. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

May Help Detoxify the Body

Early studies showed a link between liver and gallbladder function and the use of ivy leaves; this helps the organs function better and release toxins from the body more effectively, thereby purifying the blood and reducing strain on these crucial systems. [3]

May Aid in Skin Care

For centuries, people have used ivy leaves to minimize the pain and infection of burning wounds on the skin. This also works for any open sores or wounds, as there are certain antibacterial properties of its leaves, in addition to the protective nature of the saponins found within the leaves. This can also help relieve the discomfort and irritation of psoriasis, eczema, acne, and other skin-related conditions. [4]

May Relieve Congestion

Ivy leaves are commonly used to eliminate respiratory tract congestion and inflammation. They act as an expectorant and can break up the phlegm and mucus in the bronchial system. By eliminating these breeding grounds for pathogens and bacteria, you can improve your overall health and reduce your healing time from illness. This may also make ivy leaves an effective remedy for allergic reactions and asthma, as they reduce the inflammation of those passages. [5]

May Have An Anti-cancer Potential

Although research is still ongoing, the many properties that ivy leaves have displayed suggest a significant antioxidant activity, which may also mean that they may have the potential ability to prevent the spread or development of cancer. By possibly eliminating free radicals and preventing mutation and apoptosis, ivy leaves may help protect the body from a wide range of chronic diseases, including cancer. [6]

May Have Potentially Antibacterial Properties

In addition to its potentially antibacterial properties, ivy also has certain anthelmintic and antiparasitic qualities, perhaps making it ideal for eliminating intestinal worms and lice. You can clear out your bowels and also topically apply the extract or decoction to the hair for getting rid of those uncomfortable, itching lice as well! [7]

Word of Caution: Some people have reported that direct contact with the skin results in irritation, so if you have sensitive skin, apply it moderately at first and see your reaction. Oral consumption has been deemed safe in most cases. However, if pregnant, avoid using ivy supplements or oils, as the potent mix of chemicals could be harmful. As always, speak with a medical professional or herbalist before making any major changes to your health regimen.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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