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Botanical name

(Common) Ivy - Hedera helix L.


Ivy family (Araliaceae)

Useful information about the plant

The evergreen ivy is native to Europe and grows as a vine on trees and shrubs in forests and parks. In the big city as in the villages it covers walls and shady corners. Ivy is easy to recognise through its characteristically shaped leaves. It is present in numerous farmed and garden forms. The genus Hedera name probably comes from the Greek ‘hedra’ (sitting), referring to the adhesion of the plant to the walls and trees. The epithet helix, from Greek ‘helix’ (= spiral), describes the winding of the ivy around trees. Thanks to its roots, it can establish itself firmly on the surface. The word ‘ivy’ comes from Old English word: ‘ifig’.
Ivy is a creeping or climbing, very woody and branched plant. It clings to its support with adventitious roots. The leaves of the non-flowering shoots characteristically have 3 to 5 lobes with a heart-shaped base, they are leathery and dark green, glossy, often with lighter venation. The leaves on the flowering shoots are rhombic to lanceolate and tapered at the end. The brown flowers are inconspicuous and are in semi-globular clusters, like grapes. Flowering time is September / October. The following year, the fruits ripen. The blue-black berries are then in decorative, spherical umbels. They go well in flower bouquets and flower arrangements. Caution: the berries can cause cases of poisoning to children!

Medicinally used plant parts (drug)

The dried leaves harvested in spring are used. The drug is imported from Eastern European countries.

Ingredients of the drug

Ivy leaves contain triterpenoid, mainly hederacoside, flavonoids, caffeic acid derivatives, and sterols.

Descriptions of the quality

The quality of ivy (Hedera folium) is specified in the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur).

Medical Application

Recognised medical use

For catarrh in the respiratory tract; symptomatic treatment of chronic inflammatory bronchial diseases (Commission E); ESCOP has added: coughs, especially if this is accompanied by an excessive secretion of viscous mucus.
A documented area of use from clinical data (approval) as follows: for the relief of symptoms associated with chronic inflammatory bronchial diseases, colds and the respiratory tract (see also "Traditional use").
The HMPC has accepted the internal use of ivy as an expectorant for productive coughs as "well-established medicinal use".

Traditional use

Ivy leaves were classified as a traditional herbal medicinal product by the HMPC for the following areas of use (§ 39a AMG). Based on many years of experience, ivy leaves can be used as an expectorant in connection with a cold (see also "recognised medical use").
Ivy leaves are traditionally used to help release the mucus in the respiratory tract (traditional use according to § 109a).

Medicinal herbal preparations in finished drug products


Prepared drugs: see package insert;
tea infusion: infusions of ivy leaves are not common.

Preparation of a tea infusion



There are no studies on the harmlessness of the use of ivy leaves during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Ivy leaves should not be used with children under 2 years old, as it may worsen the respiratory symptoms, medical advice should be sought for use in children aged between 2 and 4 years. Similarly, seek medical advice with shortness of breath, fever or purulent sputum. A simultaneous administration of antitussives (cough medicines) such as codeine or dextromethorphan should only be done under medical supervision.

Side effects

Sensitive individuals may experience stomach and intestinal complaints. Fresh ivy leaves and the leaf sap can cause allergic contact, e.g. dermatitis.


None known


Drug monographs

HMPC, Commission E, ESCOP

Further reading

Wichtl: Teedrogen und Phytopharmaka, pg. 328
Schilcher: Leitfaden Phytotherapie, pg. 83
Van Wyk: Handbuch der Arzneipflanzen, pg. 167
Kommentar zum Europäischen Arzneibuch (Ivy leaves, no. 2148)

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