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The climbing ivy that adorns the sides of buildings has a long history of traditional medicinal use. Herbalists used ivy for such disparate conditions as arthritis, bronchitis, dysentery, and whooping cough. Topical applications of the herb were used for skin problems such as lice, eczema, and sunburn.
Ivy leaf is one of many herbs used in Europe as an expectorant, a substance said to thin mucous and thereby loosen coughs. (In the United States, the herbal product guaifenesin takes this role in almost all over-the-counter cough formulas.) Germany’s Commission E has approved ivy leaf for treatment of mucous in the respiratory passages. 1 On this basis, it is often recommended for asthma , acute bronchits , chronic bronchitis , colds and flus , and other respiratory problems. Unfortunately, there is almost no evidence that ivy leaf (or, indeed, any other expectorant) actually offers meaningful benefits. 2 3 Only one double-blind , placebo-controlled study of ivy leaf has been reported. (For information on why double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are essential to prove a...
Fairly extensive monitoring indicates that ivy leaf rarely causes any noticeable side effects. 4 Nausea and vomiting are possible with excessive doses, or in very susceptible people. Ivy leaf is not recommended during pregnancy due to its emetine content. 5 Safety in pregnant or nursing women, young children, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.