English ivy is a member of the ginseng family and has been used in traditional herbal medicine both in Europe and Asia since ancient times.
Historically, English ivy was held in high esteem; its leaves formed the poet’s crown, as well as the wreath of Bacchus. Ivy was probably dedicated to Bacchus because it was believed that binding the brow with ivy leaves would prevent intoxication.
Greek priests presented an ivy wreath to newly married couples, as a symbol of fidelity.
The plant was sacred to the Druids and considered the female counterpart to the masculine holly. Together with mistletoe and holly, ivy is a traditional herb used to decorate houses for the Christmas season.
Externally it was used for burn wounds, calluses, cellulitis, inflammations, neuralgia, parasitic disorders, ulcers, rheumatic complaints and phlebitis.
English ivy is most widely used today as a natural treatment for respiratory tract congestion; it is a respiratory catarrh used for symptomatic treatment of chronic inflammatory bronchial conditions.
The herb contains saponins which appear to be responsible for preventing spasms in the bronchial area.
Commission E, a prestigious medical group in Germany approved ivy leaf extract as an herbal decongestant as well as treatment for inflammation-related lung (bronchial) conditions.
English ivy exhibits antiviral, antimycotic, and anthelmintic and effects and some studies indicate that the leaf extract may have anti-cancer and antioxidant properties.