Tag Archives: Hedera helix

365 Frankendael day 169


I managed to get an enormous dog poop on my bicycle whilst taking this photo today! Worth it though. This is just a fraction of the mature Ivy (NL: Klimop, Hedera helix) which is currently lying beside the Middenweg, alongside the cycle and footpaths that pass by Park Frankendael. It got me quite excited, I need Ivy wood of a decent thickness and fresh, to complete my Ogham stick set. So now I have some. Not sure what Ogham sticks are? Have a look at the work of Glennie Kindred. They are rather like Rune Stones, a simple way of coding information which can be used to answer intuitive questions. The symbols have been found on Druid artifacts. No one can be certain of how they were used but it’s clear that the tree Ogham represented common trees. Ivy requires other trees to grow tall but it does none the less.

Urban Herbal Planting Scheme in Amsterdam Oost

I was so pleased when I realised that the local council had commissioned simple herbs for the planting scheme at Christian Huygensplein in Oost Watergraafsmeer, Amsterdam.

About a year on, the herbs are looking great so I thought I’d share a photo. I hope you can see a Pine Tree trunk surrounded by thick Lavender and an Ivy plant climbing up the trunk.

Three practical herbs in an area which needed a little smartening up at the time. Mostly the planting, which had a lot of hot dry weather soon after it was completed, has faired well. It looks good, smells good and could be used for a multitude of remedies, should the need arise.

Thank you Amsterdam Oost! Now how about a few more nut trees?

Frankendael 365 day 21

Today Ivy and Horsetail. Firstly Ivy (Hedera helix). Here it is scaling three massive trees on the edge of Park Frankendael. Yes, it is a herb but not really one for the pot. Ivy has mystic qualities and associations as well as medicinal properties and many traditional uses. I’ve also posted a lotions recipe for Ivy cellulite oil today which may be of interest. Ivy is available year round but harvesting it in spring or summer us likely to have a lesser effect on the plant.

Horsetail is very vigorous at the moment and perhaps more useful than you thought. Here’s a link to a lotion recipe for Horsetail cuticle cream and an oil nail treatment.

Ivy (Hedera helix) Anti Cellulite Oil

This recipe for anti cellulite body oil is inspired by one in Josephine Fairley’s book, The Ultimate Natural Beauty Book. My sister gave it to me as a present several years ago and although I don’t use it very often, it always provides inspiration for natural skin care. The recipe in the book uses a few drops of essential oils of Rosemary, Fennel and Juniper.

In my adaptation, I use small amounts of the fresh plants or seeds. I also substitute olive oil, argan oil or sweet almond oil for grape seed oil as that oil quickly becomes rancid whereas my substitutes don’t. If you prefer a lighter oil then you could substitute coconut oil, mixed with a little of one of the other options.

15 large fresh Ivy leaves
Tip of a fresh Juniper sprig
Tip of a fresh Rosemary sprig
1/2 Teaspoon of fennel seeds
125ml oil (see above for options)

1. Bruise the plant material with a pestle & mortar or similar.
2. Place in a clean glass container and put over the oil.
3. Use a chopstick to push the herbs into the oil and to dislodge any trapped air bubbles.
4. Leave in a sunny spot for about 4 Weeks.
5. Strain off and save the infused you’ll into a clean glass container. Compost the spent herbs our return then to where you found them.
6. Use the oil as you would any massage oil, with upward strokes to move the circulation towards the heart. Do this preferably after
skin brushing with a dry sisal brush or similar.

Holly and Ivy (NL:Hulst en Klimop)

Not being a great one for tinsel and baubals, I generally opt for some sprigs of holly and ivy when decorating my home for the Yuletide festivities.  So I thought it was time to have a quick look at the herbal lore and uses attributed to these beautiful evergreen plants.

Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
Boughs made from the glossy leaves and scarlet berries of Holly have been used to decorate homes at the winter festivals of Yuletide and Saturnalia, since ancient times.  Early Christians are thought to have adopted the practice, to deck churches with evergreen boughs, from their contemporary Pagan cousins.  Ancient Romans believed that Holly could protect their homes from poison, lightening and witchcraft.  It’s not difficult to understand why, given the spiky, defensive structure of many holly leaves.  Planting holly bushes close to homes was thought to infer this protection.

The leaves, berries and bark of Holly have been employed in herbal remedies over the years.  The berries quickly cause vomiting (they were used a purgative) but the leaves (of several Ilex varieties) have long been used as a tea substitute in Germany and Brazil. The leaves have been thought to help with catarrh, smallpox and pleurisy.  They contain a bitter alkaloid called Ilicin which promotes perspiration. Traditionally Holly leaves have  been used to treat intermittent fevers and rheumatism.  The berries, when dried and powdered are astringent and have been used traditionally to stop bleeding.

Gathering holly for medicinal purposes is best done in May and June, at about noon time when they are dry of dew.  Gathering holly for decorative purposes should be done with respect for the plant, taking just a little, without harm.  I like to return the holly to the foot of the plant I have cut it from, when I take my decorations down.  It feels much more respectful to do this and hopefully the plant will benefit a little as the dried branches slowly rot down.  Holly can be found growing in hedgerows, as specimens in gardens and within woodlands.  There is plenty growing in central Amsterdam.

Ivy (Hedera helix)
Glossy, beautiful, angular Ivy grows easily in pots and makes a great addition to balconies.  It sticks so well to walls, with its amazing vertical fibre support system, that it will easily pull the mortar out from between brickwork if the plant is pulled off.  However Ivy is said to be one of the only plants that keeps walls dry, it’s leaves acting as a protective and beautiful curtain. The fibres become true roots when they meet water, until then they help ivy to attach firmly to the most unlikely surfaces.

Ivy is favoured by many birds for nesting and its berries provide a rich source of nectar for bees.  Ivy has the amazing ability to transform itself in many ways when it reaches unrestricted light, such as at the tops of trees or walls.  It then produces softer looking, ovate leaves and bunches of pretty flowers on a strong bush like structure.

There is some much lore associated with ivy.  Like Holly, Ivy has been used to decorate homes since ancient Pagan times.  Poets’ wreaths are made from ivy leaves, as is the wreath of Bacchus.  It was thought that gently boiling bruised ivy leaves in wine would remove the wines powers of intoxication.  Perhaps the alcohol simply boiled away? Perhaps not.  Ivy has long been a sign of fidelity and was given to newly weds in ancient Greece.

One of the few traditional medicinal uses for Ivy was as relief for sunburn.  Soft ivy twigs, when boiled in butter were thought to produce a useful remedy.  I think I will stick with Aloe vera for now but the ivy remedy could be worth experimenting with.