This herb is also known by such names as Catsfoot, Gill-go-by-Ground. Alehoof, Hay maids, Gill-go-over-the-Ground. It is found creeping upon the ground and spreading in every direction, with tender, upright leaves springing from each joint. From these joints, also, tender threadlike roots spring, the herb thus rooting as it creeps. The leaves resemble a round nettle leaf, and give off a peculiar characteristic odour. While creeping it shows little disposition to blossom; but when grown so as to prevent its rooting it will blossom freely. The flowers are bluish-purple in colour, somewhat like the violet, only that the stems are very short and the flowers smaller. The flowers of Ground Ivy have often deceived Violet seekers.
Medicinal Properties: Astringent, Diuretic, Pectoral, Tonic.
As a diuretic it is very useful by stimulating the kidneys to healthy action, and for this purpose it should be combined with Agrimony. Its astringent, like its tonic, properties, are feeble, and in these respects other remedies have superseded it. In bronchial and pulmonary affections it is useful, and may be combined with expectorants to advantage. The expressed juice of Ground Ivy is a specific for deafness and sore eyes, dropped into the ears or eyes, respectively, with frequency.
It is said that Ground Ivy was called Alehoof because it clarified ale when tunned with it. There are other herbs which possess a similar property. It also gives the ale a fine flavour, and brewers of herb beer have thus found Ground Ivy extremely useful. The following recipe makes a good herb beer:—
Ground Ivy ... 2 ozs.
Wood Sage ... 1 oz.
Yellow Dock Root ... 1 oz.
Dandelion Root ... 1 oz.
Burdock Root ... 2 ozs.
Stinging Nettle Root ... 1 oz.
Sassafras Chips ... 1 oz.
Ginger, crushed ... 4 ozs.
The whole to be gently boiled for half an hour in eight gallons of water. Strain into an earthenware pan containing 3-lbs. of best black treacle or West Indian molasses; let it cool down to about 75°F., then add 1-oz. of fresh German yeast (be sure the yeast is fresh) or two-thirds of a pint of brewer's barm; let it stand four hours; skim the top and add 8-ozs. of fine, white sugar. Stir it well, and bottle for use. This makes an excellent beverage, containing splendid tonic and blood-purifying properties.
Health from British Wild Herbs was written by Richard Lawrence Hool, N.A.M.H., in 1918.