Ground Ivy Herb Use
Authors Karen Bergeron and Deb Jackson
(c) 2000 Updated July 20, 2020
Other Names: Ale-hoof, Cat's foot, Creeping Charlie, Gill-over-the-ground, Gillrun, Hay maids, hedge maids
Ground ivy has a long history of use in alternative medicine and as an edible herb, dating back to the first century A.D. it was long considered a panacea (cure-all). Known for its high vitamin C content, it is said to be one of the first herb and edible plants brought to the North American continent by early settlers.
Ground Ivy gets little respect from those who prefer to keep a neat lawn and don’t know of its many reputed health benefits. Although it is invasive, Ground Ivy may serve as a ground cover in places where the grass doesn’t grow well, or at tree bases that are difficult to mow. If you feel like you must remove it, you can use the plant material afterwards as a bath soak herb to relieve your sore muscles.
Ground ivy is used in alternative medicine and is an excellent spring tonic. Ground Ivy contains a volatile oil which aids in relieving congestion and inflammation of mucous membranes associated with colds, flu, and sinusitis.
The leaves and flowers of Ground Ivy can be dried for tea, made into a tincture, and used externally in a salve or liniment. An infusion of the above-ground plant is said by Lee Peterson, of Peterson’s Guides, “to make a fine tea.” It is supposed to be helpful for colds and lung ailments.
The fresh juice of Ground Ivy or a herbal tea of same is used to treat digestive disorders, gastritis, acid indigestion, and diarrhea. It is also beneficial for liver and kidney function, said to relieve gravel and stones.
Herbalist Henriette Kress of Finland says of Ground Ivy “It's one of the few herbs that can touch noise-induced tinnitus…. I know because quite a few told me. It's 2-3 cups of tea for weeks or months on end, or until the noise stops. (... what a relief!)”
Ground Ivy is used in Italian spas as a bath soak for back pain, as well as its emollient and mild sedative properties.
A 1986 study found that Ground Ivy’s ursolic and oleanolic acids protected mouse skin from induced tumor growth. It can also be used to lighten skin and fade age spots.
Before lead paint was banned, it was said that painters who drank Ground Ivy tea were not bothered with lead poisoning.
Like most plants with edible leaves, it can be used as a flavoring, a spring green, or addition to soups and stews. In the Middle Ages, Creeping Charlie was known as Ale-Hoof and was added to beer for flavor, to clarify, and add shelf life. It is very high in iron.
Ground Ivy can be added to bath as an emollient to soften skin and has a sedative effect. It is used in Italian bath spas as a soak for backache.
Some of the most valuable plant constituents of Ground Ivy are 1,8-cineole, alpha-pinene, apigenin, beta-sitosterol, borneol, caffeic-acid, ferulic-acid, hyperoside, iodine, luteolin, menthol, oleanolic-acid, rosmarinic-acid, rutin, ursolic-acid.
Ground Ivy Habitat and Description
Ground ivy forms masses of small scallop-shaped evergreen leaves that lay low on the ground for most of the year. At flowering time in spring, it grows erect up to 6 inches to show off its dainty purple flowers nestled in the axils of its paired leaves, then returns to its ground-hugging habit.
Ground ivy is a creeping European perennial evergreen, naturalized in North America and found in moist shady areas, along paths, around hedges, and roadsides from Ontario to deep south, west to Kansas, and along the Pacific Coast. A member of the mint family, it is finely haired all over and has a square creeping stem which grows from a few inches up to two feet long. The leaves are heart shaped, opposite, scalloped, and dark green, sometimes tinted purple. The main root is thick and matted. It sends out runners as long as 36 inches. Ground Ivy flowers appear in march and are purplish to blue, two lipped and grow in axillary whorls of six.
How to Grow Ground Ivy
Ground Ivy is easily cultivated through root division and thrives in moist shady areas. As it is considered an invasive weed by many who are not aware of its uses, you may not want to grow it. Ground Ivy is a great herb for wildcrafting, due to its abundance.
How to use Ground Ivy
Gather leaves, flowers and stems of Ground Ivy year round. It can be dried for later herbal use.
Ground Ivy Herb Recipes
Spring Tonic: Steep 2 tsp. of fresh or dried herb in 1 cup water for 10 min. flavor with peppermint or honey to taste take in half cup doses twice a day.
Colds and flu: Express fresh juice with press. Take in 1 tsp. doses 3 times a day, 1/2 tsp. for children. Use 2 or 3 drops in nose twice a day for sinusitis.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron