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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2011, Article ID 382789, 9 pages
Review Article

Systematic Review of Clinical Trials Assessing the Effectiveness of Ivy Leaf (Hedera Helix) for Acute Upper Respiratory Tract Infections

Department of General Practice/Family Medicine, University Medicine Goettingen, Humboldtallee 38, 37073 Goettingen, Germany

Received 16 May 2010; Accepted 17 August 2010

Copyright © 2011 Felix Holzinger and Jean-François Chenot. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Introduction. Among nonantibiotic cough remedies, herbal preparations containing extracts from leaves of ivy (Hedera helix) enjoy great popularity. Objective. A systematic review to assess the effectiveness and tolerability of ivy for acute upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs). Methods. We searched for randomized controlled trials (RCTs), nonrandomized controlled clinical trials and observational studies evaluating the efficacy of ivy preparations for acute URTIs. Study quality was assessed by the Jadad score or the EPHPP tool. Results. 10 eligible studies were identified reporting on 17463 subjects. Studies were heterogeneous in design and conduct; 2 were RCTs. Three studies evaluated a combination of ivy and thyme, 7 studies investigated monopreparations of ivy. Only one RCT ( 𝑛 = 3 6 0 ) investigating an ivy/thyme combination used a placebo control and showed statistically significant superiority in reducing the frequency and duration of cough. All other studies lack a placebo control and show serious methodological flaws. They all conclude that ivy extracts are effective for reducing symptoms of URTI. Conclusion. Although all studies report that ivy extracts are effective to reduce symptoms of URTI, there is no convincing evidence due to serious methodological flaws and lack of placebo controls. The combination of ivy and thyme might be more effective but needs confirmation.