Hedera helix. Ivy.
Nat. Ord.— Araliaceae. Sex. Syst.— Pentandria Monogynia.
The Leaves and Berries.
Description. — This is an evergreen creeper, with long and flexible stems and branches, which attach themselves to the earth, or trees, or walls, by numerous root-like fibers. The leaves are coriaceous, smooth, shining, dark-green, with white veins, petiolate, the lower ones five-angled or five-lobed, the upper or old ones ovate and acute. The flowers are greenish-white, and are disposed in numerous, simple and downy umbels, forming a corymb. The berries black, with a mealy pulp.
History. — This well known plant is a native of Europe, and is cultivated in many parts of the United States ; it flowers in September. The leaves and berries are the parts used. The leaves have a balsamic odor, especially when rubbed, and a bitter, astringent, and nauseous taste. The berries have an acidulous, resinous, somewhat pungent taste. A peculiar, very bitter, alkaline principle, named Hederin or Hederia, has been discovered in the ivy seeds by Vandamme and Chevallier, and which appears to be closely allied to quinia in febrifuge properties. It is obtained by treating the seeds with hydrate of lime, dissolving the precipitated alkali in boiling alcohol, and evaporating the alcoholic solution.
Properties and Uses. — The leaves have been employed for dressing issues, and, in the form of decoction, have been recommended as a wash in sanious ulcers, itch, tetter, and other cutaneous eruptions; likewise to destroy vermin in the hair, which latter, it is stated, is stained black by this application ; reputed beneficial as a cataplasm, in chronic glandular enlargements. Dried and powdered, they have been employed in the atrophy of children, rachitis, and pulmonary complaints, in the dose of a scruple or more. The berries are purgative and emetic, and were at one time much esteemed in febrile affections. Boyle considered them to be sudorific, and in the great plague in London, they were administered in combination with vinegar.