Common Name: Ground Ivy, Gill-over-the-Ground, Hedgemaids, Cat’s foot, Lizzy-run-up-the-hedge, Alehoff, Tun-hoof, Creeping Charlie
Scientific Name: Glechoma hederacea – The generic name is from the Greek glechon meaning mint, as it is a member of the mint family; Hedera is Latin for ivy, the sacred plant of Bacchus, the God of wine.
Potpourri: The many common names for G. hederacea attest to a widespread familiarity of the plant in a diversity of cultures. It is an invasive species to North America, having been brought here by colonists from Europe, where it is a widespread indigenous plant. Ground ivy, its most mundane appellation, is because its foliage has the appearance of English ivy. It is green throughout the year, as is ivy, but it keeps to the ground.
The name Gill-over-the-Ground is subject to some etymological uncertainty. Gill is short for Gillian which is an archaic term for sweetheart. This would also explain the name hedgemaid. Another theory is that it stems from the French guiller, to ferment beer. The Saxons employed it as a beer flavoring due to its aromatic, bitter taste before the introduction of hops in the 16th Century. The names Alehoff (hofe is an English brewing term) and Tun-hoof (tun means “to tipple”) also reflect this lineage.
Ground ivy has been widely used as a curative for centuries. Gill tea was made from the leaves as a remedy among the poor for the coughing of consumption. When powdered and taken as snuff, it was said to be able to cure a headache when all else has failed. It was used it as a remedy for lead colic, an intestinal pain endemic to painters, attributed to the use of lead paint. It was considered an excellent wash for “ulcers in the private parts.”