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Ground Ivy - a very versatile herb

Last weekend was spectacular and I harvested three very valuable herbs: Coltsfoot leaves (Tussilago farfara), Ground Ivy herb (Glechoma hederacea) and Red Clover flowers (Trifolium pratense). It was the 11th hour for harvesting Coltsfoot and Ground Ivy and Red Clover isn’t far behind.

Michael Vertolli has an excellent article on Red Clover in this month’s Vitality Magazine, so please click here to read his article and learn about the medicinal properties of this wonderful plant. My only addition is that when you are harvesting Red Clover, before snipping off the flowers and attached leaves, gently pinch the head of the flower and turn it over so you can see if anyone is underneath. Often there is some hanger on there. To remove all the tiny insects that I can't see so they don’t end up as part of my medicine, I transfer the flowers into a colander with big holes and shake the flowers like I’m draining pasta. I do this outside on the walkway or other flat surface so I can see if anyone is still coming out of the flowers. I usually have to shake the flowers for around 5 - 7 minutes to get out all the inhabitants. It's surprising how many beings call Red Clover home!

Many beings also can be found hanging out enjoying the shade that a good Coltsfoot leaf provides, so before snipping the leaf, turn it over first to see if anyone is there. If you find an inhabitant, leave them be and go on to the next plant. Remember that any leaves with rusty red spots are not good medicine. I’ve already talked about Coltsfoot in this blog so I won’t go on about it now.

Ground Ivy is an amazing, discrete medicinal plant. It is a member of the mint family and it grows in moist areas, at forest edges and open woods. It was one of the herbs brought here by the earliest settlers as an invaluable medicinal plant. The herb consists of the top 50% of the plant harvested early in its flowering mid to late May into early June depending on the year. As you can see, I harvested it late. There are several good reasons for harvesting a plant early in its flowering period. Most importantly is that it gives the plant the opportunity to put out new flowers after you’ve harvested. Also, the flowers become fertilized and the plant gets ‘leggy’ (tall and spindly) later in its flowering which makes for a much more laborious harvesting and processing experience. Another good reason to harvest Ground Ivy at the beginning of its flowering season is mosquitoes. Mosquitoes also love moist, rich areas and your blood offering can be quite high, so harvesting Ground Ivy before mosquito season is in high swing is highly recommended!

Ground Ivy has a history of use not only as medicine, but also in the process of beer and cheese making. Another name for Ground Ivy is ‘alehoof’ because it was one of the plants used to flavour, clarify and preserve beer before hops became all the rage. Please check out Alexandre Bessette’s website for lots of excellent info on making gruit (non-hop) beers. His homepage has the most alluring intro: "Welcome to gruitale.com dedicated to the revival of Gruit Ale, the beer which stimulates the mind, creates euphoria and enhances sexual drive." All that in a nice cold pint of beer…I’m in! Ground Ivy has also been used in cheese-making as a vegetable rennet. I haven’t yet found information on how exactly it’s used for this, so if anyone has this wisdom please let me know.

As a medicinal, Ground Ivy has many amazing properties. Use it as a fresh tea or tincture. It is a tonic for the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems. It is excellent for all manner of upper and lower respiratory tract conditions that involve a lot of mucus. It is anticatarrhal, decongestant and expectorant so it helps to thin the mucus and expel it from the body. It can be used for sinusitis, bronchitis, hayfever and asthma. It is useful for depression and anxiety disorders as it is a tonic nervine, tranquilizer and antidepressant. It is excellent for digestive system problems including poor digestion, ulcers and gastritis. It is used for conditions of the urinary system such as cystitis and urethritis. It is also good for headaches and tinnitus. It was traditionally used for scurvy as it is high in vitamin C and is also an excellent spring tonic. Another of its amazing uses is that it pulls heavy metals, such as lead, mercury and aluminum, out of the body. Externally, it is used for skin infections and inflammations and as an eye wash. All in all a spectacular and valuable medicinal plant!

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