Ground Elder

(Aegopodium podagraria) see GOUTWEED GROUND IVY

(Glechoma hederacea) In the past, Welsh milkmaids wore ground ivy when first milking the cows in the pastures (Trevelyan), and according to a story quoted by Lady Wilde, ground ivy carried in the hand gave protection against attacks by fairies (Wilde. 1902) (cf PEARLWORT). In the Tyrol, rue, worn with agrimony, maidenhair, broom straw and ground ivy, was said to confer fine vision, and to point out witches (Dyer. 1889). So, too, in Germany on May Day, it was said that by putting a bunch of ground ivy on the breast, or a chaplet of it on the head of a virgin going to church, one would be enabled to recognise and name witches (Lea). Probably, the Welsh custom of making a poultice of the leaves, and applying it to sore eyes (Trevelyan), should be included in this context, though see below for eye medicines.

It is a herb of St John in France. In Poitou, they would say that an old woman who makes a waistband of ground ivy while her friends and relations are away dancing round the Midsummer fires, and who preserves the girdle to the end, will escape the pains and sorrows of old age (Sebillot). More recently, it seems that chap-lets of ground ivy were worn on the head, as the people danced round the Midsummer fires (Palaiseul).

In Ludlow, Shropshire, there was a customary Easter dish of leg of pork stuffed with Robin-run-in-the-hedge, which is ground ivy (Burne. 1883). According to Genders. 1972, the principal ingredients of Elizabethan snuffs were ground ivy, camomile and pellitory-of-the-wall. But it is in the domain of medicine that ground ivy is most important, for it is a real cure-all (it was even given to the insane (Leyel. 1937) ). A tea made from it used to be popular for eczema in the north of Scotland. It was said that the fairies taught Donald Fraser, of Ross-shire, to use it (R M Robertson). It was one of the cries of London, and, drunk as a tea, sold as a "blood purifier" (Thornton), and was always used in this way in Dorset (Dacombe) and Hampshire (Hampshire FWI). And it was used for asthma - an Irish recipe advised the patient to drink of a potion made of ground ivy (or dandelion), with a prayer said over it before drinking (Wilde. 1890). In Scotland, snuff from the dried leaves was used for the complaint, and for headaches (Beith). The infusion was given in Ireland for bronchitis, and

"boil ground ivy and drink the water" is an Irish cold cure (Moloney). Actually, "Gill-tea", as it was called, mixed with honey or sugar to take away the bitterness, has always been a favorite remedy for coughs and colds (Clair). It could be combined with wood sage in a tea to treat a cold - that is a New Forest gypsy remedy (Boase).

Ground Ivy has been just as famous as an eye medicine. A leechdom for eyestrain from as early as Anglo-Saxon times required it to be boiled in sour beer, and the result used to bathe the eyes (Cockayne), and similar eye recipes are to be found in herbals from that time onwards. Folk medicine took it up, too. For example a Dorset remedy for sore eyes is to make an ointment with it (Dacombe). A Warwickshire remedy is to take a large handful of this herb, just cover it with water, and simmer for about 20 minutes, strain it, and use the liquid to bathe the eyes (Vickery. 1995). Wiltshire has a much more localised remedy, in which water from a well on Cley Hill, Warminster, was used to boil ground ivy, as a remedy for weak eyes. The water had a popular reputation as only being valuable for bathing the eyes, and the ground ivy had a separate reputation for the same thing (Manley). There is even a story of a fighting cock that got wounded in the eye. "Its owner chewed a leaf or two of ground ivy, and AU:1 spat the juice in the damaged eye to make it heal quickly" (Palaiseul).

From its former use in brewing, for its tonic bitterness, such names as the very widespread Alehoof (Grigson. 1955, Bloom), which means literally that which causes ale to heave, or work (Britten & Holland). Tunhoof is another, related, name, tun being a cask (of ale). The place where such medicated beer was sold was known as a gill-house (Barton & Castle), and Gill, or Jill, so we know that the 'g' of Gill is soft, are two of the many names using this word (J D Robertson, Britten & Holland). Gill-ale was used as a name for this plant in Devonshire (Friend. 1883), and there are many further, picturesque, names, of which Gill-go-by-the-ground (Prior) will serve as an example.

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