The Essential Herbal Blog: Ground Ivy Grimoire


by Kristine Brown, RH (AHG)

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Ground Ivy is commonly known by many
names including Gill-over-the-ground, Gill-over-the-hill,
Lizzy-run-up-the-Hedge, Gill-go-by-the-Hedge, Robin-run-in-the-Hedge,creeping
Charlie, catsfoot, cat’s paw, turnhoof and alehoofe. This plant is not related
to Ivy but is, instead, in the Mint family. Many of his names imply his growing
habit of being a ground cover while others such as ‘paw’ and ‘hoof’ describe
the shape of his leaves. Ground Ivy was historically used in beer brewing,
hence the name ‘ale.’ 

Do you have Ground Ivy growing in
your backyard? If so, grab a sprig to try out this experiment. Take a leaf and
chew on it. Observe what you taste. Does it seem bitter or sweet? Spicy or
pungent? Does your mouth salivate or dry up? How does your mouth feel, does the
leaf warm it up or cool it off? Most people describe Ground Ivy as bitter,
pungent, drying and cooling. 

Nutritionally, Ground Ivy contains
vitamin C, copper, iodine, iron, phosphorus and potassium. He also contains
triterpenoids, sesquiterpenes, flavonoids, resin, saponin, tannins, the
volatile oil pulegone and a bitter principle known as glechomine. 

Medicinally, Ground Ivy is said to
be analgesic, anthelmintic, antiatheromatic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant,
antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, hepatoprotective,
hypoglycemic, hypotensive, mucostatic, urinary tonic, and vulnerary. 

Let’s take a look at what Ground Ivy
is used for…

Ground Ivy is probably most
recognized for his usefulness in being able to remove heavy metals such as
lead, mercury and aluminum from the body due to his high levels of vitamin C
which bind with the soft, heavy metals. Matthew Wood also surmises that Ground
Ivy may be useful for doing the same with petrochemical pollutants as well.
Ground Ivy has a long history of being used for chelation and is listed in
various historical herbals for treating ‘painters colic’ or ‘lead colic’ as
lead poisoning was known by. As a hepatoprotective herb, Ground Ivy protects
the liver from these heavy metals by binding with them so they can be filtered
and removed from the body through the kidneys.

I became familiar with Ground Ivy after
I learned he can help with the inner ear issue known as tinnitus which symptoms
include humming or ringing in the ear and loss of hearing. Ground Ivy is also
used for those suffering from ‘glue ear,’ medically known as otitis media with
effusion, a condition that occurs when the Eustachian tubes fill with fluid in
the middle ear, often at the beginning stage of chronic respiratory congestion
or with a head cold. 

For the respiratory system, Ground
Ivy is great for congestion, especially when you have a hot, wet cough as
Ground Ivy cools and dries. Other coughs most likely will not benefit from
Ground Ivy. Ground Ivy works for both acute respiratory infections as well as
chronic respiratory infections, especially when the middle ears are congested,
including ailments such as sinusitis and bronchitis. Ground Ivy can also help
to soothe a sore throat and makes an all around great remedy for all things
cold virus related.

Gall from ground ivy.

As well as working on respiratory
issues, Ground Ivy can be helpful for eye issues such as conjunctivitis, acute
redness, itchiness, soreness, tiredness, and pain in the eyes. A tea made of
Ground Ivy with a pinch of sea salt added makes a soothing eye wash. 

Ground Ivy can be helpful for
urinary problems as well. As a urinary tonic, Ground Ivy tones the urinary
system, and may be helpful for those suffering from gout. As a diuretic, Ground
Ivy gets the urinary tract back on track and can be used as a tea for cystitis,
urinary inflammation and urinary tract infections. Kidney issues may find
relief with Ground Ivy as well, from kidney stones to infections. 

Ground Ivy is said to help stimulate
the bile flow in the gallbladder and liver, and may alleviate jaundice, helping
to increase the flow of bile when it seems to be ‘stuck.’ Ground Ivy is also
helpful for a congested spleen and lymph. 

As a stomachic, Ground Ivy is
soothing for intestinal issues such as colic, intestinal cramping, and gas.
Because of his astringent nature, Ground Ivy can be helpful for relieving

Topically, Ground Ivy can be applied
to hot, itchy skin conditions for gentle relief, as well as cuts and scratches
since he is a vulnerary and antiseptic. His traditional use for arthritis and
rheumatism suggest that topical applications may be helpful for these conditions
as well. 

Ground Ivy can also be helpful for
sciatica pain, I would use a poultice directly over the affected area along
with a tea or extract internally. Dioscorides used Ground Ivy as a “remedy
against sciatica or ache in the hucklebone.” Adele Dawson states that she finds
that Ground Ivy is not helpful for sporadic, acute cases of sciatica and
surmises that Ground Ivy would best be used for chronic cases. 

I am curious to try Ground Ivy more
in conditions of the heart as research has shown Ground Ivy to be
antiatheromatic, hypotensive, and anti-inflammatory as well as hypoglycemic due
to his triterpenoids oleanolic and ursolic acid. 

There are no known contraindications,
side effects or adverse effects with drug interactions. It is possibly safe for
pregnant and lactating women though no studies have been done. 

Ground Ivy Extract

This extract can be used for
respiratory infections, tinnitus, and heavy metal toxicity, as well as urinary,
digestive and bile issues. 

Fresh Ground Ivy

Grain alcohol


Fill your jar halfway with chopped
Ground Ivy. Add grain alcohol halfway then add water to fill the jar.

Let steep for 4 weeks before using,
shaking daily. You may wish to strain off the Ground Ivy at the end of the 4
week period.

Dosage for adults: 30 drops 4-5
times daily. Double for chelation

Children 2-6 – 10 drops; Children
7-12 – 20 drops 4-5 times daily.

Ground Ivy Tea

This tea is used for helping with
chelation, tinnitus, and respiratory, urinary, digestive and bile issues. For
tinnitus, it may be slow to work; expect results to take 30-90 days to be
effective. This tea is also great as an eye wash for eye complaints. 

1 tablespoon dried Ground Ivy

10 oz boiling water

Steep Ground Ivy in boiling water
for 15-20 minutes.

Dosage for adults: 2-4 cups

For children 2-6, 1/2-1 cup daily;
6-12 should drink 1-2 cups daily.

Ground Ivy Vinegar

Ground Ivy vinegar is great for
getting a daily dose of Ground Ivy’s minerals. Use it on salads, a tablespoon
in a cup of water before a meal to aid digestion. This can also be applied
topically to help with hot, itchy skin conditions. 

Fresh Ground Ivy

Apple cider vinegar

Fill your jar with chopped up Ground
Ivy then pour the Apple cider vinegar over the shoots to fill the jar. Cover
with a lid.

Label and shake daily for 2 weeks.

Dyeing with Ground Ivy

Ground Ivy gives a rich palette of
greens when using it as a dye. This is a perfect way to use a bunch of Ground Ivy
from your yard if he is taking over! You can experiment in getting different
shades by using different mordants. 

Fresh Ground Ivy


Cutting board

A large stock pot


13 oz. Alum

7 oz. Cream of tartar


Natural dye fabric (cotton, wool, silk,
linen are all good – they will dye slightly differently in color)

Rusty nails*

Baking soda*

Section of copper piping or other
copper material (if using pennies, make sure they are pure copper pennies made
prior to 1982)*

*Optional items to test out
different shades – If you want to experiment with the optional colors, place
the rusty nails (or other iron objects) into a jar and cover with rain

Do the same for the copper piping in
a separate jar. Be sure to label both jars so you know which is which.

Let soak for several days until the
water turns a deep rust color.*

To begin, add 1 gallon water., alum
and cream of tartar to the stock pot and stir to dissolve. Bring the water to a
boil then turn off. Have a big person help you with this step if you are not
used to using a stove.

Add the dye materials, stirring to
soak and let steep until cool. Strain off the water and set aside the dye
materials. You can also begin this at the same time as the next step to save time
(in separate pots). 

Chop up enough Ground Ivy to fill
your stock pot loosely with the plant material.

Cover the Ground Ivy with water and
place on the stove. Bring the pot to a boil then turn down to a simmer,
simmering for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Turn off the heat and allow the
mixture to cool, steeping for 6-8 hours. You may wish to start this step the
evening before you want to dye, allowing the mixture to cool overnight. 

Strain off the plant material and
compost. If you are doing a dye bath of just this mixture, add your material to
the pot and return the liquid mixture to a simmer for 30 minutes. Let sit
another 6 hours before straining. 

If you want to experiment with
colors, split your dye bath in to 2-4 sections, depending on which mordants you
want to try (copper, iron, baking soda, plain). Add about 1/4 cup of the
mordants to each dye bath, labeling the dye baths accordingly. Follow the
instructions to dye the materials. 

Once the materials have soaked for 6
hours, use the tongs to remove them and rinse them in cool water until the
water runs clear. 

Hang to dry. 

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