What is Glechoma Hederacea?

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  • Written By: N. Phipps
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 28 December 2019
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Glechoma hederacea, also known as Nepeta hederacea, is a creeping perennial evergreen. This plant can spread up to four feet (1.2 meters) or more, and in some cases, it is considered a pest because of its tendency to choke out other plants. While the evergreen is native to Europe, it has been naturalized in North America since the colonization of the European settlers. During this time period, the interesting plant has become known by numerous names.

Some of the more common names for Glechoma hederacea include ground ivy, creeping Charlie, catsfoot, field balm, and runaway robin. Other names associated with ground ivy allude to the plant’s prior use as a flavoring agent for beer and ale. These include alehoof, ale ivy, and gill-over-the-ground. In addition to its use in brewing, the plant was once a popular folk remedy for various ailments.

Ground ivy has a high vitamin C content, and although it is somewhat bitter, the young leaves of the plant can be eaten raw in salads or cooked like greens. Other than its nutritional value, it also provides antibiotic and anti-inflammatory significance. In fact, Glechoma hederacea has been used for centuries as a tonic, diuretic, and decongestant.


Most often used for treating colds and coughs, the oil found in the Glechoma hederacea plant also relieves a myriad of problems relating to the ears, nose, and throat. It also aids in the digestive system, helping to stimulate one’s appetite. The remedy was usually given as an infusion, tincture, or powder form. However, an herbal tea can be made from the fresh leaves of ground ivy as well.

Glechoma hederacea also has a sedative effect on the body. In addition to the tea, the extract can be added to bath water to aid in relaxation. Externally, ground ivy can be used as a decoction compress for the healing of bruises. Other remedies associated with the use of this plant include the treatment of hemorrhoids and diarrhea. It was even once thought to be helpful in treating scurvy due to its high vitamin C content.

Although the plant is deemed relatively safe, herbalists have found it necessary to use the remedy with precaution, as with most any type of herbal remedy. Excessive doses of Glechoma hederacea should, of course, be avoided and it should not be used with pregnant women. It is also inadvisable for those suffering from epilepsy.



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