Hedera helix L.

Last updated: 04 May 2016

Scientific Name

Hedera helix L.


Hedera arborea Garsault [Invalid], Hedera arborea Carrière [Illegitimate], Hedera aurantiaca (Hibberd) Carrière, Hedera baccifera G.Nicholson, Hedera chrysophylla (Hibberd) Carrière, Hedera combwoodiana Carrière, Hedera communis Gray, Hedera conglomerata (G.Nicholson) Carrière, Hedera cordata Carrière, Hedera cordifolia G.Nicholson, Hedera digitata G.Nicholson, Hedera diversifolia Stokes, Hedera donerailensis K.Koch, Hedera elegantissima G.Nicholson, Hedera floribunda Sennen [Illegitimate], Hedera glimii G.Nicholson, Hedera gracilis (Hibberd) Carrière, Hedera grandifolia G.Nicholson, Hedera humirepens Röhl., Hedera latifolia G.Nicholson [Invalid], Hedera lobata Gilib. [Invalid], Hedera marginata G.Nicholson, Hedera minor G.Nicholson, Hedera palmata (Paul) Carrière, Hedera pennsylvanica G.Nicholson, Hedera poetica Salisb. [Illegitimate], Hedera purpurea Carrière, Hedera willsiana G.Nicholson. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Common ivy, English ivy, ivy [2]
India Banda, karmora, lablab, maravalai [2]
Saudi Arabia Lablab kebir, leblab, qessous [2].

Geographical Distributions

Hedera heligrows across Europe and into northern and central Asia, and has been naturalized to the United States. [3]

Botanical Description

H. helix falls under the family of Araliaceae. It is a climbing vine that can grow up to 20m high. [4]

The leaves are evergreen and dimorphous with 3-5 lobes and a white fan like nervature on non-flowering branch. [4]

The flowering branches have rhombic to lanceolate leaves. [4]


No documentation

Chemical Constituent

H. helix has been reported to contain saponins (e.g. α-hederin and hederacoside C), sterols, flavonoids, polyalkynes (e.g. falcarinone and falcarinol). [5]

Plant Part Used

Leaves [3]

Traditional Use

H. helix leaves have been used traditionally in the symptomatic relief of acute and chronic respiratory inflammation, as an antihelmintic, and as an agent to reduce fever and cause diaphoresis. In Europe, preparations are available as teas, skin products, cosmetics, shampoos, anticellulite creams, and in proprietary mixtures such as those used for bronchitis. [3]

Preclinical Data


Antifungal activity

Falcarinol has been reported to has antibacterial, analgesic, and sedative effects [5][6]. The isolated constituent α-hederin also has been reported to have significant activity against Candida albicans in vitro [7]. Other research helps confirm the antifungal activity of saponins found in H. helix leaf [8][9]. It is postulated that saponins found in H. helix leaf trigger responses in the gastric mucosa, in turn activating mucosal cells in the bronchi to remove excess mucous via stimulation of the parasympathetic nervous system [10]. In vitro tests also report antispasmodic activity associated with dried H. helix extract [10]. In addition, saponins derived from H. helix leaf have been reported to be cytotoxic to mouse melanoma cell cultures, with potential uses in support of cancer therapies [11][12].

Hepatoprotective activity

The constituent α-hederin has also been reported to be hepatoprotective in laboratory animals [13][14]. It was once thought that the saponins from ivy leaf would be beneficial in chronic venous insufficiency (CVI), as are the saponins from horse-chestnut seed. However, research on this concluded that saponins from ivy did not have a significant effect on venous flow [15].


No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

There have been several studies that have reported favorable clinical results in the use of a proprietary dried H. helix leaf extract in the management of upper respiratory problems. One such report was a randomized, double-blind crossover study involving 25 school-age children aged 10-15 years with COPD. Improvements in spirometric and plethysmographic parameters were reported, with a daily dose of 105mg of the proprietary dried H. helix leaf extract and with 42 mg daily of dried H. helix leaf drops (2 g/100mL, 5-7.5:1w/v), both being therapeutically equivalent in the positive outcome. [16]

Another double-blind, randomized, controlled study consisting of 99 individuals with chronic bronchitis, compared a proprietary dried H. helix leaf extract with the pharmaceutical ambroxol, a synthetic mucolytic [17]. Efficacy was evaluated with both spirometry and auscultation, with the H. helix leaf extract reported to be equivalent to that of the synthetic chemical in relieving chronic bronchitis. Another multi-center study reported that proprietary syrup of H. helix extract was effective in the management of recurrent obstructive respiratory disease in children aged 6 to 15 years, with a daily dosage of 6 teaspoonfuls. Coughing, expectoration, and pulmonary function was reported to improve significantly during the study [18].

A post marketing study of 9657 patients (5181 children) with bronchitis (acute or chronic) treated with dried H. helix leaf extract found that after 7 days of therapy, 95% of the patients showed improvement or healing of their symptoms. The authors also found that in patients who received antibiotics along with H. helix extract had no benefit respective to efficacy but did increase the relative risk for the occurrence of side effects by 26% [19]. A double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre Phase IV study using 361 outpatients with acute bronchitis found that administration of a combination of thyme and H. helix extracts was superior to placebo in relieving symptoms [20].


No documentation.

Side effects

No documentation.

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

No documentation.

Age limitation

No documentation.

Adverse reaction

H. helix leaf extract has been reported to cause contact dermatitis in sensitive individuals. [21][22]

Interaction & Depletion

No documentation.


No documentation.


Dosage Range

In the usage of this plant as tea, the recommended dosage is 0.3 g to 0.8g of herb and can be taken 3 times a day/as needed. [23]

Most Common Dosage

No documentation.


No documentation.

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Hadera helix L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 May 4]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-96659
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume III E-L. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 424
  3. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckmann J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded commission E Monographs. Newton, Massachusetts: Integrative Medical Communications; 2000.
  4. Brinckmann JA, Lindenmaier MP. Herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals. A handbook for practice on a scientific basis. 3rd ed. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2004; p. 274.
  5. Cioaca C, Margineanu C, Cucu V. The saponins of Hedera helix with antibacterial activity. Pharmazie. 1978;33(9):609-610.
  6. Tanaka S, Ikeshiro Y, Tabata M, Konoshima M. Anti-nociceptive substances from the roots of Angelica acutiloba. Arzneimittelforschung. 1977;27(11):2039-45.
  7. Moulin-Traffort J, Favel A, Elias R, Regli P. Study of the action of alpha-hederin on the ultrastructure of Candida albicans. Mycoses. 1998;41(9-10):411-416.
  8. Timon-David P, Julien J, Gasquet M, Balansard G, Bernard P. [Research of antifungal activity from several active principle extracts from climbing-ivy: Hedera helix L]. Ann Pharm Fr. 1980;38(6):545-552.
  9. Mshvildadze V, Favel A, Delmas F, et al. Antifungal and antiprotozoal activities of saponins from Hedera colchica. Pharmazie. 2000;55(4):325-326.
  10. Trute A, Gross J, Mutschler E, Nahrstedt A. In vitro antispasmodic compounds of the dry extract obtained from Hedera helix. Planta Med. 1997;63(2):125-129.
  11. Danloy S, Quentin-Leclercq J, Coucke P, et al. Effects of alpha-hederin, a saponin extracted from Hedera helix, on cells cultured in vitro. Planta Med. 1994;60(1):45-49.
  12. Jeong HG, Lee SS. Suppressive effects of alpha-hederin on 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin-mediated murine cyp1a-1 expression in the mouse hepatoma hepa-1c1c7 cells. Cancer Lett. 1999;138(1-2):131-137.
  13. Shi JZ, Liu GT. [Protective effect of the fulvotomentosides on paracetamol-induced hepatotoxicity in mice]. Yao Hsueh Hsueh Pao. 1995;30(4):311-314. Chinese.
  14. Liu J, Liu Y, Bullock P, Klaassen CD. Suppression of liver cytochrome P450 by alpha-hederin: relevance to hepatoprotection. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 1995;134(1):124-131.
  15. Facino RM, Carini M, Stefani R, Aldini G, Saibene L. Anti-elastase and anti-hyaluronidase activities of saponins and sapogenins from Hedera helix, Aesculus hippocastanum, and Ruscus aculeatus: Factors contributing to their efficacy in the treatment of venous insufficiency. Arch Pharm (Weinheim). 1995;328(10):720-724.
  16. Gulyas A, Repges R, Dethlefesen U. Systematic therapy of chronic obstructive respiratory disease in children. Atemwegs und Lungenkrankheiten. 1997;23:291-294.
  17. Meyer-Wegener J, Liebscher K, Hettich M, Kastner HG. Ivy versus ambroxol in chronic bronchitis. Zeitchrift fun Allgemeinmedizin. 1993;69:61-66.
  18. Lassig W, Generlich H, Heydolph F, Paditz E. Efficacy and tolerance of ivy-containing cough medications. TW Pediatric. 1996:489.
  19. Fazio S, Pouso J, Dolinsky D, Fernandez A, Hernandez M, Clavier G, Hecker M. Tolerance, safety and efficacy of Hedera helix extract in inflammatory bronchial diseases under clinical practice conditions: a prospective, open, multicentre postmarketing study in 9657 patients. Phytomedicine. 2009;16(1):17-24.
  20. Kemmerich B, Eberhardt R, Stammer H. Efficacy and tolerability of a fluid extract combination of thyme herb and ivy leaves and matched placebo in adults suffering from acute bronchitis with productive cough. A prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Arzneimittelforschung. 2006;56(9):652-660.
  21. Hannu T, Kauppi P, Tuppurainen M, Piirilä P. Occupational asthma to ivy (Hedera helix). Allergy. 2008;63(4):482-483.
  22. Jones JM, White IR, White JM, McFadden JP. Allergic contact dermatitis to English ivy (Hedera helix)--a case series. Contact Dermatitis. Mar 2009;60(3):179-180. No abstract available.
  23. PDR for herbal medicines. 2nd ed. Montvale, New Jersey: Medical Economics Company, 2000; p. 276.