Glechoma Hederacea - Creeping on the Down Low
Confession: I have been studying herbalism for years now and I have yet to do
anything with Creeping Charlie.
This blog is supposed to be a chronicle of my personal herb experiences and here I have none even though Creeping Charlie or ground ivy grows in droves right outside my backdoor. This year, however, I have not been able to get him out of my mind. He has been keeping me awake at night and creepin' into my sho nuff dreams!
I take that to be a sign and so begins our relationship.
Creeping Charlie (also known as ground ivy and ale hoof, among other things) caught my eye several years ago, before I even knew I was destined for herbalism. Rather, it caught my nose. I would step on it or pull it up or mow over it and notice this wonderful grassy, herbaceous, slightly musky fragrance. I remember saying to myself, 'this has to be "something" because of this fragrance that it has'. It seemed too lovely to just be a 'weed'. (Note: I have since changed my whole narrative on weeds as somehow lesser-than plants.)
Coincidentally, ground ivy was the very first herb that I was introduced to by herbalist Jim McDonald in his 2014 herbal intensive class. I pulled out that old composition book and am reviewing my notes. I wrote about how the stems, leaves, and flowers are used in medicinal preparations. It is from the mint family and has that signature square stem. Ground ivy is aromatic and astringent. I have notes on it being very good for respiration, head cold, dripping noses, sore throats, and the kind of colds that go up into the ears. He is also good at other ear things in general such as vertigo and tinnitus. In "Indian Herbology of North America", ground ivy is recommended for painful gas, bloating, and colic. Externally, it is said to help with the healing of wounds, skin irritations, scab, welts and weals. This sounds to me like there is a salve in my future.
For research, in addition to consulting my notes and reading over the books that I have in my herbal library, I Googled the plant. It's telling and quite sad that all of the top entries in the Google search start with how to get rid of it.. How to kill... How to stop...Ground ivy.
Poor Charlie. I bet he feels like "What am I doing here? I don't belong here? I wish I was special..."
You ARE special Charlie!!
An Environmental Justice Herb?
Could ground ivy be useful in mitigating the effects of environmental toxins? This herb has come up in most historic writings for what was known as "painters colic" or lead poisoning. Herbalist Matthew Wood also writes, "There is speculation and some experience to suggest that it removes other heavy metals such as mercury, and perhaps petrochemical pollutants as well." From an environmental justice perspective, I have great hope for utilizing ground ivy in this way given the Flint Water Crises and lead levels in Detroit children that are still off the charts. According to the World Health Organization, there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe. There is also considerable evidence that lead poisoning and environmental toxins often negatively affect children's behavior and cognitive functioning according to the American Psychological Association. The inability to focus, hyperactivity, and difficulty following directions are often punished in the typical educational setting. This could forever alter a child's life course.
Ground Ivy and Soil Remediation
It should also be noted that Creeping Charlie remediates soil, meaning it takes up the chemicals that are in the soil. That can be good if you want to clean your soil but not so good if you want to use the ground ivy for a tea or tincture. It is important to collect it from an open or shady area where there hasn't been any pesticide, herbicide, or chemical use of any kind. If collecting from your backyard, it would help to know the age of your house and if lead-based paints were still in use at that time. It is also possible to have your soil tested and the organization Keep Growing Detroit can point you in the right direction for soil testing.
Back to this budding relationship!
Since we are just getting started, we can just keep it on the down low. I mean, everybody doesn't have to know right? *wink*
But I can share that I harvested a nice paper grocery bag full of my new plant boo and so far we have had tea. I steeped it in a huge stockpot overnight and the result was a very mild, slightly minty tea that would be great hot or iced with lemon. Next I am going to be trying the ground ivy in a variety of preparations, fresh and dried. All of this will be in another post about how to get to know an herbal ally.
Thank you for reading and learning with me!
Here are some additional informative links I foraged in the internet forest that feature Ground Ivy:
Hope you enjoyed the Creeping Charlie Playlist!
I try to spice things up with a tune or medley that seems to fit. There were too many to choose just one this time!
Side Bar: Did you know that Luther Vandross' Creepin' was a cover of this original:
https://youtu.be/6gkqGCnK-nw Stevie Wonder and Minnie Riperton! Creepin'?