Ancient Herbs with Modern Credentials: Ivy Leaf and Stinging Nettle
Ivy leaf and stinging nettle are traditional herbs that have long histories of use and modern validation. Both were included in the teachings of Hippocrates, the Father of Modern Medicine. And both have been recognized and approved for use by the German Commission E and other national advisory boards.
These common plants grow in temperate climates. Both are used separately for their beneficial qualities, and both are included in natural supplement formulas, including REDD Remedies Sinus Support products for adults and children.
Ivy (Hedera helix), which originated in Europe and Asia, is a member of the Araliaceae family, which includes ginseng.
Its use dates back to ancient Greece, where it was worn in poets’ crowns and presented in wreaths to newly married couples as a symbol of fidelity. As it was reputed to help prevent intoxication from drinking wine, the wreaths of Bacchus were said to be made of it, and often ivy leaves were bruised and seeped in wine. It was sacred to the Druids, who used it, along with holly and mistletoe, for Christmas decorations. It was also included in some early anesthetic formulas.
Constituents and Actions
The active constituents of Ivy Leaf deliver a range of benefits, earning it German Commission E approval as a decongestant and for chronic inflammatory bronchial conditions.
Its triterpenoid saponins help make fluids more viscous and slippery, thinning thick mucus secretions. This secretolytic effect makes it easier to cough up mucus and helps drain the sinuses.
Flavonoids, including Quercetin, function as antioxidants, binding to toxins to help the body remove them. They also modulate enzyme pathways, contributing to a healthy inflammation response by helping to stabilize mast cells that release histamines (see our Allergic Reactions blog).
Ivy leaf promotes muscle relaxation, which helps relax airway spasms. One German study showed that it helps to relieve the constricted airways typically problematic for people with asthma.
Studies have shown that it also has antimicrobial effects, which can help protect tissue that might be damaged by excessive sneezing and coughing.
Best of all, it can be safely used in supplements formulated for children’s sinus support.
Although the name is not appealing and its reputation for causing irritation when its fresh leaves rub against the skin is deserved, when it is dried and powdered, extracted or cooked, this plant yields some wonderful benefits.
An herbaceous perennial flowering plant nettle is wild-collected in eastern and southern Europe, and in western and central Asia. It is cultivated in Europe, Africa, and throughout North America.
Its use as a vegetable and folk remedy dates to ancient times, with Hippocrates including it in the Materia Medica. It appears in Medieval writings and in prominent British folk medicine guides. English herbalist Nicholas Culpepper (1616-1654) recommended it as a Spring tonic and for a variety of conditions, including coughs and colds.
Introduced into the Americas, nettle enjoyed great popularity with Native Americans who found multiple uses for it. Topically, it was included in formulas for the scalp, for preventing hair loss and to support growth of long, silky hair. (It is still used in hair and skin products.) They also used it as a poultice, in sweat baths, and as a tonic for joints, colds and flu.
Modern recognition of its contributions to health include recognition by the German Commission E, the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicine, and the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), which provides quality standards for dried roots and rhizomes and dry extracts. It is also listed in the World Health Organization’s Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants and the American Herbal Pharmacopeia and Therapeutic Compendium.
Confirming its widespread acceptance and current use, the German Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices lists 1540 products containing nettle leaf.
Many modern clinical studies involve its effect on urination difficulties related to early stage prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). Modern herbalists also appreciate its support for healthy inflammatory response and antioxidant properties.
Stinging nettle has been studied for its ability to reduce the amount of histamine the body produces in response to an allergen. More than half of the patients in one human study rated it as effective in relieving allergy symptoms, and freeze-dried stinging nettle has been doctor recommended for hay fever.
These helpful herbs help contribute to overall health as well as their condition-specific benefits. Ancient traditions, coupled with modern research, make them ideal ingredients for natural supplement formulas.
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