Monday, May 16, 2011

Herbal Medicine/ People's Medicine--Creeping Charlie

I have a feeling that most gardeners know this plant very well, though perhaps not by name. Creeping Charlie is also known as ground ivy and gill-over-the-ground. It is often found taking over flower beds at a rapid pace and many years before I began using herbs as medicine I spent long hours pulling buckets full of Gill out of my beds. But Gill is a medicinal plant as has it's own gifts to offer. It represents to me the epitome of people's medicine, because not only is it likely growing in your yard right now, but you would be hard pressed to find this herb sold in any form at the health food store.

Gill is a bitter tonic, and one of the first plants in the spring we harvest to bring us out of winter's slump. The whole above ground plant is very nutritive and high in vitamin C. We add it to our smoothies and chop it into salads. You could also add it to cooked dishes.

As a tea, Gill is warming and toning. It can be used to treat coughs, colds, bronchitis and fever. Drink it warm to induce sweating if you are in bed with a cold, or let it cool first if you do not need it's febrifuge property.

Use Gill as a poultice for wounds or squeeze out the juice to rub on bruises. 

Gerard, a 16th century English herbalist, has written that Creeping Charlie "purgeth the head from rheumatic humours flowing from the brain." I'm not exactly sure what he meant by that, but it sounds like a good thing.


  1. Interesting! I don't have it growing in my yard but I have plenty other useful herbs that are just as "hardy". Thanks for introducing me to Creeping Charlie!

  2. Thanks to give me these type of information

  3. I'm experiencing some bad sinus congestion and am wondering if Gill relieves congestion/sinus pressure. I have loads of it in my yard. Can I just boil the fresh leaves/flowers in water and drink the tea? What's the difference between a tincture and an infusion? I'm knew to this, sorry if my questions are dumb.

    1. As with any medicine, how well it works varies from individual to individual. For me, Gill works okay to relieve congestion and VERY well to prevent secondary infections such as bronchitis and sinus infections, which had been a common problem for me prior to discovering this herb's medicinal properties. The method which I find most effective is to make a medicinal infusion (strong tea) by pouring about a quart of boiling water over 18-24 inches of the whole, fresh vine, and leaving to steep for about 20 minutes. One two to quarts in a 24 hour period is about the right dosage range for me. Ground Ivy tastes a little like spicy dirt (dried, it can be used as a seasoning, but reports conflict on it's medicinal potency when dried), so I like to steep it with a cinnamon stick (which can be used for 3 or 4 infusions) to sweeten it (cinnamon's anti-inflammatory effects don't hurt here). If I suspect I'm already dealing with an infection, I may add some sage (use whole leaves, fresh or dried) for an extra antimicrobial kick, but that is usually unnecessary. Now that my body is used to recovering fully from colds, creeping charlie or creeping charlie with cinnamon is usually sufficient.

      There are no dumb questions in herbalism. It is always safer to appear not to know what you are doing than to do something which could result in misdosing, destruction of the plant's medicinal value, or poisoning from misidentification or mishandling.

  4. Kathy, I've never used Gill for congestion, but you can certainly give it a try. It could only hope. To infuse is, chop up a big handful of the plant, put it in a jar and pour boiling water over it to fill the jar. Cap the jar and let it steep for 20 minutes at least. Then strain and drink (sweeten if you like).

    A tincture is an alcohol extract of the plant, and an infusion is a water extract, like a strong tea.