Ivy leaf is the common name for the leaves of the plant Hedera helix L., commonly known as ivy or English ivy, belongs to a family called Araliaceae. Hedera helix L. is an evergreen dioecious woody liana one of the 15 species of the genus Hedera, Araliaceae family. The whole leaves are coriaceous, 4-10 cm long and wide, cordate at the base. The lamina is palmately 3-5 lobed. The upper surface is dark green with a paler, radiate venation while the lower surface is more greyish green and the venation is distinctly raised. Ovate-rhomboic to lanceolate leaves 3 to 8 cm long form the flowering stems.
The major compounds responsible for the biological activity are triterpene saponins. For its chemical constituents, triterpene saponins, flavonoids, polyacetylenes and some phenolic compounds have been isolated from Hedera helix. In particular, α-hederin, a triterpene saponin, has been revealed to be responsible for the therapeutic effect of ivy leaf extract because of its β2-adrenergic effects, which leads to the spasmolytic, bronchodilatory, mucolytic and expectorant action. Another triterpene saponin, hederacoside C, is known to be metabolized into the active form and produces the effect of α-hederin in the organism. Thus, in the European Pharmacopoeia, α-hederin and hederacoside C should be detected in ivy leaf extract in the identification test using thin-layer chromatography.
Hedera helix extract preparations can be used as an expectorant (a medicine that helps to bring up phlegm) for productive (chesty) coughs. Hederae helicis folium is used for the treatment of respiratory tract diseases with intense mucous formation, respiratory tract infections and in irritating cough which stems from common cold. It can be used in common cold associated with cough and for the symptomatic treatment of acute and chronic inﬂammatory bronchial disorders. Two galenical formulations of an ivy herbal extract are cough syrup and cough drops.