English Ivy: A Fix for Allergies?

Researchers Say the Plant Might Be as Useful as an Inexpensive Air Cleaner

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on November 07, 2005
From the WebMD Archives

Nov. 7, 2005 -- English ivy may help you breathe easier, especially if you have allergies, new research shows.

The research shows that the plant helps clean air of allergens such as mold and animal feces.

That could make English ivy an inexpensive alternative to commercial air-cleaning devices, researchers told participants of the American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology's annual meeting.

If you've got kids or pets, take care about where you place English ivy. The plant is toxic, so keep it away from animals or young children who might consume it.

Cleaner Air

English ivy's air-cleaning abilities were recently tested.

First, researchers put moldy bread and dog feces in containers. Then, they checked how much mold and feces were in the containers' air at the start of the study. Next, English ivy was added to each container and repeat measurements were taken at baseline, then six and 12 hours later.

Six hours later, 60% of the airborne-mold had vanished from the air around the ivy. Almost as much of the airborne feces were also gone from the air (58%).

After six more hours the air was even cleaner. More than three-quarters of the airborne mold was gone (78%). So were nearly all of the airborne feces (94%), the study shows.

Ivy Insights

"As airborne mold spores have been linked to a variety of serious illnesses, English ivy could reduce indoor mold counts," write the researchers.

They included Kenneth Kim, MD, of Allergy, Asthma, & Respiratory Care Medical Center in Long Beach, Calif.

They add it might also be a good idea to grow English ivy outside, where animal feces usually are.

But you may want to think twice before you do that. English ivy can spread across the landscape, smothering other plants in its path and creeping up trees.

Show Sources

SOURCES: American College of Allergy, Asthma, & Immunology's annual meeting, Anaheim, Calif., Nov. 4-9, 2005. National Parks Service, "What Is English Ivy?" News release, American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.

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