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April 2017

The Use of Ivy in Dermatology

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of General Medicine, National University Hospital, Singapore
JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(4):284. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.0529

The common English ivy, or Hedera helix, is a modest woody evergreen climbing plant that is ubiquitous in Britain. Although commonplace and humble, it had religious and magical connections in the past. The Greek god of wine, Bacchus, wore a wreath woven from ivy leaves that provided him immunity from intoxication. A bush of ivy is often commonly seen outside British taverns, hence the cheeky saying “a good wine needs no bush.” Interestingly, ivy has also been used extensively in folk medicine to treat dermatological conditions. Corns were a particularly common condition treated by ivy; the leaves were soaked in vinegar or simply worn inside one’s socks. There is even a myth from Norfolk, England, that an ivy leaf growing on an ash tree is a cure for corns,1 perhaps reminiscent of the importance of the ash tree in folk medicine globally.

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