I have only recently discovered that Ground Ivy is in fact edible. I have not eaten it in any qualities at this point and therefore can’t really attest to quality it provides.
In the end, my Forage Friday posts are only presented as trivia and should not be mistaken for an endorsement of treatment when medicinal herbs are discussed.
I never cease to be amazed by the bounty of nature. The Appalachian Mountains are almost a garden of Eden. When most Americans look to the landscape for nourishment we have a tendency to ask how the indigenous peoples may have used a plant. I suppose that’s because of the Thanksgiving story about the failed crops and it’s true that the natives had to rescue the colonial settlers. But we have to remember that they were aliens in a landscape with a that most of their seed was not adapted to. A few of the plants they brought with them have actually done so well that they’re now considered invasive “weeds”. Such is the case with Ground Ivy.
Image Titled “Ground Ivy 41620a” shows just how prolific Ground Ivy can be.
Once it has a foothold ground ivy is tenacious! It will spread out and set root at every opportunity. At this point I have not learned if it was brought here on purpose or by accident. Two things make me think that the herb was brought here on purpose.
1. The Anglo-Saxon name for this plant is “Alehoof” which is said to mean “Ale-herb. And, it was a prime ingredient for brewing before hops was adapted.
2. The accidental import theory is that it traveled here in the stomach of livestock. But ground ivy is toxic to livestock so it wouldn’t be a good fodder and most livestock don’t like the taste of ground ivy and wouldn’t have eaten it.
So it looks like it was intentionally brought aboard the ships.
Ground Ivy is said to be rich in Iron, potassium and Vitamin C as well as flavonoids common to the mint family and the square stem on Ground Ivy puts it in the mint family. Because it’s an evergreen herb it would have been available as a good source all year round.
Historically it was not only added to ale but also to jams and marinades. According to a couple of online sources Ground Ivy mixes well with Garlic, honey and lemon, sesame, the cheese and clove. It’s main function seems to be as a seasoning and more than source suggested using it on grilled meat.
Image Titled Ground Ivy 51920a. Although a creeping plant it does bolt from time to time.
As a medicinal herb ground ivy has a reputation for use with lung ailments and bronchitis like most members of the mint family. According to the USDA/NRCS Ground Ivy has been used to treat disorders of the the bladder and kidneys, digestive problems, gout, coughs and colds, poor vision, tinnitus, partial insanity, asthma and jaundice and much more. (They even say that a wreath woven from ground ivy and other herbs strengthens the eyes enough to reveal witches that might be hiding in your village according to the Swiss. )
Several sources also warned that pregnant women should avoid ground ivy because it can cause a miscarriage which makes me think it’s got some strong phytosterols too.
Another warning comes from my personal experience. The ground ivy seems to provide a good habit for spiders. While obtaining some of tonight’s photos I managed to get a mild spider bite. No super hero powers (Just my luck) but a lot of itching. The bite completely healed in about 3 weeks with the aid of antibiotics and I only mentioned it to encourage you to be cautious. We do have black widows and brown recluse in my area but thankfully it seems to have been just a plain old jumping spider that got me.
This little guy isn’t quite as friendly as Lucas the Spider on YouTube. This isn’t the exact spider that bit me but it’s the same species that I suspect did the biting.
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