English ivy is commonly found growing outside house walls, but as a surprise to many, it is also vastly used as a herbal supplement. Its scientific name is the Hedera helix, which can climb high on buildings. The leaves are used to extract its medicinal properties, including treating respiratory issues, inflammation, and air purification.
What is English Ivy
English ivy gets its name since you can find it easily in European areas. However, now you can see it everywhere and can survive in any weather. While you can spot it growing on old buildings, many people also get it as an indoor plant. The plant is eye-catching with a deep green color and can cover old walls, but it can also be toxic.
English Ivy Medicinal Uses
Studies show that orally taking cough syrups or cough drops containing English ivy for 1 to 3 weeks helps treat bronchitis. This treatment is safe for both adults and children. Many people also combine English ivy drops with another course of therapy for quicker recovery.
Some studies also suggest that it helps thin the mucus in the airways, relieving breathing for those facing respiratory issues. A study has shown that 80% of herbal expectorants prescribed within Germany have ivy extract, making up to 2 million prescriptions annually. While further research is a need on this native European plant, many studies confirm its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 
Is English Ivy Poisonous?
Its leaves can be highly toxic for both animals and humans. The plant also grows berries, but the leaves are far more poisonous than the berries. Many suggest that the plant should be removed from your house, especially if you have children. Furthermore, extra caution should be taken when removing or trimming the plant due to its toxic nature.
If consumed, the plant can cause severe side effects, which include:
- An extreme case of vomiting
- Stomach issues
- Breathing issues
- Loss in muscle strength
- Body coordination problem
Many people who make contact with the leaves end up having contact dermatitis, an allergic skin rash. This occurs when people trim or cut the plant without covering their hands properly. Since there isn’t much information regarding the plant and its effects, you should consume it cautiously. While it is said that English ivy extract is safe to use during pregnancy, you should always consult your physician before opting for it. 
Benefits of English Ivy Plant Indoors
Even though you must have seen the deep green plant with light-colored veins creeping up outside buildings, it can also be a great addition indoors. Firstly, it acts as an excellent air purifier by clearing VOCs such as benzene, octane, and toluene. People with breathing issues or asthma also benefit from this plant indoors.
Those living in basement homes can also benefit from having it indoors since it is known to remove fecal matter and mold particles in the house. These are common in damp corners of the house or areas close to pipes.
The Hedera helix is a perfect air humidifier with one of the highest transpiration rates. It also reduces carbon monoxide in the air while raising air humidity levels. The best part is that it is low maintenance and can be grown anywhere. It can survive in low light and adapt to any soil type. This makes it an easy plant to have indoors.
It grows quite rapidly, and since it fully covers walls, it keeps houses cool in the summer and warm during winters. However, due to its toxic nature, you must be very careful if you have planted the Hedera helix inside.
English Ivy Leaf Extract Benefits
Hedera helix has multiple potential benefits for our bodies and the environment. The leaf extract is mostly used in drops and syrups, which can be consumed easily.
Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties
English ivy is rich in compounds called saponins and flavonoids, which have many benefits. These compounds are mainly known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. A study conducted on rats showed that English ivy helped create protection from diabetes, which may be attributed to its antioxidant nature. 
Another test-tube study on human lung cells depicted its anti-inflammation properties. English ivy extract may inhibit inflammation in immune cells.
Relief from Cough
Most treatments derived from English ivy are related to respiratory issues such as bronchitis, asthma, COPD, and even cough in children. When used alongside thyme and rosemary for treating these breathing problems, English ivy extract may provide substantial relief from respiratory infections and colds.
Research shows that epinephrine is released in the body due to English ivy, a bronchodilator that widens air passages. 
English Ivy Benefits For Inflammation
The plant is rich in saponins and flavonoids, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Many people have now started using English ivy for joint and muscle pain since studies show that it inhibits the production of inflammatory markers like interleukin 6 in the body. It also relieves arthritis and nerve pain. 
While being a natural remedy, English ivy is also quite poisonous. If you have grown the plant, you can reap the benefits, but you must be cautious when touching and consuming it. Using herbal drops and cough syrups extracted from the plant can be beneficial for multiple respiratory issues. However, always consult your doctor before using any herbal remedy.
Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your own healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.
Editorial References And Fact-Checking
- Holzinger, F., & Chenot, J. F. (2011). Systematic review of clinical trials assessing the effectiveness of ivy leaf (hedera helix) for acute upper respiratory tract infections. Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine : eCAM, 2011, 382789. https://doi.org/10.1155/2011/382789
- White, J., & Pink, A. E. (2020). English Sunday lunch dermatitis: Allergic contact dermatitis to parsnip, carrot, fennel (and ivy). Contact dermatitis, 83(4), 317–318. https://doi.org/10.1111/cod.13593
- Saeed Khan, S., Adil, A., Naeem, S., Jaffar, N., Khatoon, H., Ansar, H., & Shafiq, Y. (2020). Evaluation of Acute and Chronic Antidiabetic Activity of Ivy (Hedera helix L.) Aqueous Leaf Extract in Rat Model. Pakistan journal of biological sciences : PJBS, 23(11), 1357–1368. https://doi.org/10.3923/pjbs.2020.1357.1368
- Bussmann, H., Schulte-Michels, J., Bingel, M., Meurer, F., Aatz, S., Häberlein, F., Franken, S., & Häberlein, H. (2020). A comparative study on the influence of an ivy preparation and an ivy/thyme combination on the β2-adrenergic signal transduction. Heliyon, 6(5), e03960. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e03960
- Schulte-Michels, J., Keksel, C., Häberlein, H., & Franken, S. (2019). Anti-inflammatory effects of ivy leaves dry extract: influence on transcriptional activity of NFκB. Inflammopharmacology, 27(2), 339–347. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10787-018-0494-9