Ivy is an evergreen climber native to the damp woods of western, central, and southern Europe. The leaf is used medicinally.1 It should be carefully distinguished from poison ivy found in the Americas.
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
25 drops of a leaf extract twice per day
A controlled trial on children with bronchial asthma suggested that 25 drops of ivy leaf extract given twice daily was effective in increasing the amount of oxygen in the lungs after only three days of use. However, the frequency of cough and shortness of breath symptoms did not change during the short trial period.5
Adults: 50 drops extract twice per day; children: 25 drops twice per day
Anti-inflammatory herbs may help people with bronchitis. Often these herbs contain complex polysaccharides and have a soothing effect; they are also known as demulcents. Ivy leaf is approved in the German Commission E monograph for use against chronic inflammatory bronchial conditions.6 One double-blind human trial found ivy leaf to be as effective as the drug ambroxol for chronic bronchitis.7 Ivy leaf is a non-demulcent anti-inflammatory.
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease
50 drops of a concentrated alcohol extract twice per day
One double-blind trial found an ivy leaf extract to be as effective as the mucus-dissolving drug ambroxol for treating chronic bronchitis.8
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Ivy leaves were held in high regard by the ancients. They formed not only the poet’s crown but also the wreath of the Greek god of wine, Dionysus. The ancient Greeks believed that binding the forehead with ivy leaves would prevent the effects of inebriation.2 Greek priests presented a wreath of ivy to newlyweds, and ivy has been traditionally regarded as a symbol of fidelity. Romans regarded ivy as excellent feed for their cattle.3 Traditional herbalists have used ivy for a wide number of complaints, including bronchitis, whooping cough, arthritis, rheumatism, and dysentery. Decoctions of the herb were applied externally against lice, scabies, and sunburn.4
How It Works
How It Works
Although ivy’s composition has not been subject to detailed scientific investigations, it is known to contain 5–8% saponins.9 Other constituents in the leaf include an alkaloid called emetine that is similar to one found in the herb tylophora. Although emetine typically induces vomiting, in ivy leaf it seems to increase the secretion of mucus in the lungs. While the emetine content is very low in ivy, this could in part explain its traditional use as an expectorant (a substance that promotes the removal of mucous from the respiratory tract).10 Animal studies have shown the saponins found in ivy extract prevent the spasm of muscles in the bronchial area.11
While very few human clinical trials have been performed on ivy, a controlled trial in a group of children with bronchial asthma found that 25 drops of ivy leaf extract given twice per day was effective in improving airflow into the lungs after only three days of use.12 However, the incidence of cough and shortness of breath symptoms did not change during the short trial period. Ivy leaf is approved by the German Commission E for use against chronic inflammatory bronchial conditions and productive coughs due to its actions as an expectorant.13 One double-blind human trial found ivy leaf to be as effective as the drug ambroxol for treating the symptoms of chronic bronchitis.14
In addition to the use of ivy to treat asthma, clinical reports from Europe suggest that topical cream preparations containing ivy, horsetail, and lady’s mantle are beneficial in reducing, although not eliminating, skin stretch marks.15
How to Use It
Standardized ivy leaf extract can be taken by itself or in water at 25 drops twice per day as a supportive treatment for children with asthma.16 At least double this amount may be necessary to benefit adults with asthma. However, ivy is not intended to replace standard medical therapies and should only be used following consultation with a healthcare professional. A similar amount can be used for people with a cough or bronchitis.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Interactions with Medicines
As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The 0.3 gram daily tea preparation of the herb, suggested in the German Commission E monographs,17 is not recommended for pediatric use because the quantities of the saponins it contains are too variable and could induce nausea and vomiting. Since ivy contains small amounts of emetine, it is not recommended during pregnancy, as this specific alkaloid may increase uterine contractions.18 In addition, the leaf itself can be quite irritating when handled and may cause allergic skin reactions.19
11. Bruneton J. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemistry, Medicinal Plants. Paris, France: Technique and Documentation-Lavoisier, 1995, 560.
12. Mansfeld HJ, Höhre H, Repges R, Dethlefsen U. Therapy of bronchial asthma with dried ivy leaf extract. Münch Med Wschr 1998;140:32–6.
13. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 153.
14. Meyer-Wegner J. Ivy versus ambroxol in chronic bronchitis. Zeits Allegemeinmed 1993;69:61–6 [in German].
15. Rigoni C, Scarabelli G, Spinelli G, et al. Results of clinical research about a topical compound with a basis of Alchemilla vulgaris, Hedera helix and Equisetum arvense in Striae cutis distensae. Giornale Italiano de Dermatologia Venereologia 1993;128;619–24.
16. Rigoni C, Scarabelli G, Spinelli G, et al. Results of clinical research about a topical compound with a basis of Alchemilla vulgaris, Hedera helix and Equisetum arvense in Striae cutis distensae. Giornale Italiano de Dermatologia Venereologia 1993;128;619–24.
17. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 153.
18. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions, 2nd ed. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998, 86.
19. Garcia M, Fernandez E, Navarro JA, et al. Allergic contact dermatitis from Hedera helix L. Contact Dermatitis 1995;33:133–4.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.