Ground Ivy – Glechoma Hederacea: Edible & Medicinal Uses of the Houseplant of Wild Plants

Table of Contents

Ground ivy is a nonnative (to Ontario) edible and medicinal plant that you can easily grow in a pot indoors if you love it, rather than have it take over yours and your neighbors lawns.

Ground Ivy - Glechoma Hederacea
Ground Ivy – Glechoma Hederacea

Called gill-over-the-ground in Haliburton Flora, ground ivy (glechoma hederacea syn. nepeta glechoma, nepeta hederacea) is uncommon here. You may find this vining, evergreen mint creeping around damp edges of woods or aggressively filling out lawns and driveways. It’s also commonly called creeping Jenny, although it shares that nickname with an unrelated plant.

A related lookalike is henbit (lamium amplexicaule), which is also a nonnative aggressive spreader, but with pinkish flowers. It’s also possible to confuse it with selfheal/heal-all.

Edible Uses of Ground Ivy

The young shoots and leaves can be eaten raw as a salad green or cooked as a potherb. While related to mint, it’s not very minty. Maybe a little bit lemony and salty. The sprigs or dried leaves can be used to make a pleasant tea as well.

The “gill” in gill-over-the-ground is for guiller meaning “to brew beer“. It was used in Europe for brewing ale; for flavoring, preservation and clarification. Yet another herb that fell out of popularity once hops/beer became popular. Other folk names referencing this brewing include alehoof and tunhoof. It’s still a contender for those homebrewing or for herbal wines and vinegars.

It has also been used in cheesemaking as a substitute for animal rennet.

High in vitamin C.

Medicinal Uses of Ground Ivy

Ground ivy is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Integumentary
  • Respiratory

Medicinal tags include Astringent, Carminative, Diuretic, Expectorant and Febrifuge. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes hot Gill Tea out of the fresh aerial parts for a cold or stubborn cough. Cover when brewing to keep the medicinal volatile oils from evaporating, same as other mints and other herbs with useful volatile oils. These oils help dry up excess mucous and secretions in the ear, nose, throat and other mucous membranes. People have snuffed the fresh juice up their nose. It’s also used for “glue ear” and tinnitus.

While it’s a mild febrifuge, its relative catnip is more recommended for children in that case.

Astringent uses like for diarrhea, wound poultices, eye inflammations, etc., apply too. It can be combined with calendula for skin uses. Ground ivy may be part of an herbalists prescription for many issues from hyperacidity/indigestion to heavy metal poisoning.

Alternative Uses of Run-Away-Robin

Ground ivy makes a nice looking houseplant, with a similar feel to African violets. A sunny window or grow light is needed.

Growing Glechoma Hederacea

As a nonnative that tends to take over entire lawns and resist hand pulling, it’s good to know you can enjoy this plant as a potted indoor plant. Even the cultivators are aggressive and can invade wild areas choking out native wildflowers. Native plants that can be used as groundcover instead include violets, wild strawberry, wild ginger, Canada mayflower, our wintergreens… there are many options.

For those that have to live with it, at least the bees will get some use from it in the spring (like dandelions) but beyond that it’s of low ecological value on this side of the Atlantic. You might spot some skippers, sulfur or cabbage white butterflies on it. We’ve had a few of those introduced from Europe too. Tawny skippers for instance are one reason our orchids are struggling. They get stuck in the orchid flower, blocking pollination. Poor lost skippers.. poor orchids..


Large quantities of ground ivy are toxic.

May be toxic to livestock, especially horses.

And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Every book I reference that is available on Amazon is linked to with an associates link.



Edible and Medicinal Plants of Canada

The Herb Book: The Most Complete Catalog of Herbs Ever Published (Dover Cookbooks)

Stalking the Healthful Herbs (Field Guide Edition)

Plants Have So Much to Give Us, All We Have to Do Is Ask: Anishinaabe Botanical Teachings

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments

The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

Reader’s Digest Magic and Medicine of Plants

Please Like, Comment, Share! We'd love to hear your stories and knowledge! Thank you!

Leave a Comment