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Glechoma hederacea (Alehoof, ground-ivy, alehoof, tunhoof, field balm, run-away-robin)

Category: Medicines - plant based



Introduction and description


Glechoma hederacea (syn. Nepeta glechoma Benth., Nepeta hederacea (L.) Trevir.) is an aromatic, perennial, evergreen creeper of the mint family Lamiaceae.

It is commonly known as ground-ivy, alehoof, tunhoof, field balm, and run-away-robin.

It is also sometimes known as creeping jenny, but that name more commonly refers to Lysimachia nummularia.

………………. Catsfoot, Cat's-Paw, Couronne de Terre, Courroie de Terre, Courroie de la Saint-Jean, Creeping Charlie, Gill-Go-By-The-Hedge, Gill-Go-Over-The-Ground, Glechoma hederacea, Glécome Lierre, Haymaids, Hedgemaids, Herbe de Saint-Jean, Lierre Terrestre, Lizzy-Run-Up-The-Hedge, Nepeta hederacea, Robin-Run-In-The-Hedge, Tierra-Hiedra, Tun-Hoof, Turnhoof.

etc etc

It has numerous medicinal uses, one of which is as an antimalarial and the other as an antiHIV medicine.

There is a real irony to this, as the USA considers alehoof to be “a non-native invasive plant in the United States, which has invaded wild areas, sometimes choking out native wildflowers”.  There is a large section on Wikipedia entitled 'control and eradication'.  There is a theory many herbalists have that plants tend to thrive in the areas they are needed most, Alehoof may add evidence to this theory. 

Aids map


Glechoma hederacea is native to Europe and southwestern Asia but has been introduced to North America and is now common in most regions other than the Rocky Mountains. European settlers carried it around the world, and it has become a well-established introduced and naturalized plant in a wide variety of localities.



Alehoof can be identified by its round to kidney or fan shaped, crenate (with round toothed edges) opposed leaves 2–3 cm diameter, on 3–6 cm long petioles attached to square stems which root at the nodes. It is a variable species, its size being influenced by environmental conditions, from 5 cm up to 50 cm tall.

The flowers of Glechoma are bilaterally symmetrical, funnel shaped, blue or bluish-violet to lavender, and grow in opposed clusters of 2 or 3 flowers in the leaf axils on the upper part of the stem or near the tip. It usually flowers in the spring.


Alehoof thrives in moist shaded areas, but also tolerates sun very well. Alehoof really thrives in heavy, rich soils with good fertility, high moisture, and low boron content. It thrives particularly well in shady areas where grass does not grow well.


It is a common plant in grasslands and wooded areas or wasteland. It also thrives in lawns and around buildings since it survives mowing and has been used like a chamomile lawn.  Given that a lawn is simply green and Alehoof is both an attractive garden plant, easy to grow and medicinally useful, it is not surprising that those with some herbal knowledge are using it to replace lawns or for use in pots and as groundcover. Easily cultivated, it grows well in most places. A variegated variety is commercially available; in many areas this is the dominant form which has escaped cultivation but it is not known whether this has the same activity as the original plant.

Alehoof spreads by stolons or by seed. The plant spends the winter as either a small ramet or a small rosette. It produces flowers between April and July.  Each pollinated flower can produce up to four seeds. The seeds germinate a few days after contact with moisture, although they can be stored dry.

The plant can also reproduce clonally, with the stems bending down to the earth and allowing roots to attach themselves.  Part of the reason for its wide spread is this rhizomatous method of reproduction. It will form dense mats which can take over areas of lawn.


It is much liked by bees and insects.  A number of wild bees use the plant, including Anthophora furcata, Anthidum manicatum, Anthophora plumipes, Anthophora quadrimaculata, Osmia aurulenta, Osmia caerulentes, and Osmia uncinata. The plant is also galled by several insects, including Rondaniola bursaria (Lighthouse Gall), Liposthenes glechomae or Liposthenes latreillei (Kieffer, 1898) (a gall wasp).

Medicinal uses

Glechoma hederacea has been used in the traditional medicine of Europe and the Middle East for thousands of years. Galen recommends the plant. John Gerard, an English herbalist, recommended the plant.  Mrs Grieve recommends it.  Alehoof contains menthol, and menthol was well known for many hundreds of years as a very potent antibacterial.  One lethal bacteria it helped with was that of cholera and plants containing menthol were often used to repel the bacteria  - not ingested, used as a form of protective shield!  


Malaria was as much a problem in Galen’s day as it is now and again Alehoof, via chemicals such as OLEANOLIC-ACID and  MYRTENAL, is antimalarial and  Antiplasmodial. 

In the next section we have listed the Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Glechoma hederacea L. (Lamiaceae) – Alehoof extracted from Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. 

What emerges from Dr Duke’s analysis is that Alehoof is a plant for external use only.  This is key.  The Wikipedia entry appears to imply you can use it as a green vegetable, this would be most unwise as there are chemicals in this plant that are cytotoxic [kill cells] and neurotoxic [kill neurons].  There are also chemicals that do not do your liver any good either

  • Chelation - One clear ability of this plant is that it is a chelating agent, able to chelate lead , titanium , strontium and nickel.  This means that if it is grown in contaminated ground it has the capacity to be bioremedial, as long as the plant is removed every so often and flung into a deep hole where the contaminants are buried for good! Via Limonene it is also an ozone scavenger, which means it could also help clear up air pollution as well
  • Iodine – Alehoof has quite an impressive array of minerals.  One worthy of note is Iodine.  Whether Alehoof has Iodine or not will depend on the soil it is grown in, but it clearly has the capability to absorb it.  Iodine is an antiseptic and is key – in trace amounts – to thyroid health, as such this has great interest for those with thyroid problems.  Please read the section on Iodine. 
  • Colds, cough, bronchitis, rhinitis, sinusitis, laryngitis and catarrh – A number of chemicals  help with these problems.  The action appears to be mediated through some antiviral activity but also the plant’s decongestant and expectorant effects when sniffed.  In effect if you have any of these complaints you don’t ingest the plant, you sniff the plant!  And you also gargle but don’t swallow.
  • Mouth and tooth disease - A number of chemicals help with the bacteria that causes halitosis, plaque, and gum disease; again one would gargle with a warm water water infusion not drink it.
  • Fungal infections – externally applied again, Alehoof has candidicidal activity.  It is also antiplasmodial.  Plasmodia are cellular slime molds that live as single, amoeba-like cells moving about feeding on bacteria
  • Antiviral activity – key viral  illnesses that appear to be helped by this plant are influenza and  pneumonia – sniff but don’t swallow.  There is also Herpes, where the sores of herpes might be helped.  Very key here too is that it is antiHIV via a number of chemicals including Apigenin.  But remember, for use externally as a protectant.  If you are looking for antiHIV activity in an edible plant then a herb like Rosemary is used or a very strong cup of tannin rich tea or wine!
    Acne and other skin problems – if the acne is caused by bacteria or parasites, then externally applied, Alehoof may help.  Some of the chemicals have anti-inflammatory and sedative properties so there may be help with any skin problems that do not cause open wounds, but which are irritant. It also contains Sulphur and sulphur has a great deal of healing potential for skin complaints.  Again see the section on sulphur.
  • Wounds - The overriding message one gets is that Alehoof is an antiseptic, it kills all manner of pathogens.  Because it is an antiseptic it helps with wound healing - a ‘Cicatrizant’ -  promoting the healing of a wound or the formation of a cicatrix
  • Insecticide and Pesticide – the chemicals in Alehoof have very extensive insecticidal activity externally.  If we were to sum up its properties, it keeps away pests.  You would never ingest it, but use it as a plant to keep the bugs away.  Externally Alehoof is a:
    • Pediculicide -  a chemical used to kill lice
    • Acaricide  - a substance poisonous to mites or ticks
    • Coleoptophile  - a weevil killer
    • Nematicide  - a substance used to kill nematode worms
    • Aphidicide  - killer of aphids
    • Protisticide  - kills any member of the kingdom protista, a single-celled organism
    • Killer of mosquitoes. 
    • Termiticide - any pesticide intended to protect a structure against subterranean termites.
  • Companion plant - Alehoof is rarely promoted as a companion plant, but it has all the makings of an exceptionally useful one – particularly its ability to repel aphids and fungal infections.  Aphids are the bane of most gardeners and they spread disease amongst plants, as such anything that repels aphids is a real boon
  • Anti-Parasitic activity - One very very important activity of Alehoof is that it is, according to Dr Duke a Trichomonicide -  Trichomoniasis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by a small organism called Trichomonas vaginalis.  Again the plant would be used externally.
  • Fish killer – this could be a positive or negative activity depending on how it was employed but one chemical - OLEANOLIC-ACID  - is a piscicide, a chemical substance which is poisonous to fish. The primary use for piscicides is to eliminate a dominant species of fish in a body of water, as the first step in attempting to populate the body of water with a different fish. They are also used to combat parasitic and invasive species of fish.  On the other hand, don’t grow Alehoof near your fishpond

Chemicals and activities


Where no activity has been reported, the chemical is excluded.  The full list with all chemicals is available on Dr Duke’s site for those who are interested. 

We have concentrated on only the activities related to pathogens – viruses, toxins such as heavy metals, bacteria, fungi, and parasites.  Trichomoniasis activity is shown in blue.  General pesticide activity is shown in green.  Specific antimalarial activity is shown in pink.  I have made no especial distinction between the viruses as they are all vicious - EBV, HIV, etc.  The other activities listed have a tendency to be a further benefit from the basic activity against the pathogens eg anti-dementia means the plant has the ability to fight whatever is causing the dementia.

The minerals and vitamins as well as essential amino acids are also highlighted, but their activity is not listed as it repeats what is in other sections of this site.  A link is provided to these pages.

  • 1,8-CINEOLE Plant 6 - 37 ppm   Acaricide LC100=6 uM; Anesthetic; Anthelmintic; Antibacterial 50 ppm;   Antistaphylococcic 50 ppm; Antiulcer; Candidicide; Fungicide; Gram(+)icide; Gram(-)icide; Insectifuge; Nematicide; Pesticide; Trichomonicide LD100=1,000 ug/ml
  • ALPHA-CADINOL Plant 1 - 6 ppm Acaricide; Antimite; Pesticide
  • ALPHA-PINENE Plant:  Antiacne; Antibacterial; Antiflu; Antipneumonic; Antistaphylococcic; Antiviral; Coleoptophile; Insecticide 0.82 uM/fly; Insectifuge 50 ppm; Insectiphile; Pesticide
  • ALPHA-TERPINEOL Plant 1 - 7 ppm Antiacne; Antibacterial MIC=800-1,600 ug/ml; Antiseptic; Insecticide 1.29 uM/fly;   Mosquitofuge > Deet;   Nematicide MLC=1 mg/ml; Pesticide; Termiticide IC100=5 mg/g;
  • APIGENIN Plant:  Antiaflatoxin IC50=2.57 ppm IC50=9.52 uM; Antibacterial; Antiherpetic 20-54 ug/ml;  AntiHIV IC50=143 ug/ml IC72=200 ug/ml; Antiviral 20-54 ug/ml; Pesticide;
  • ARSENIC Plant: Mineral
  • ASIATIC-ACID Plant:  Collagenic
  • BETA-ELEMENE Plant 9 - 53 ppm
  • BETA-PINENE Plant 3 - 17 ppm Candidicide; Herbicide; Insectifuge; Irritant; Pesticide
  • BETA-SITOSTEROL Plant:  Antibacterial; Antileukemic; Antilymphomic; Antiophidic 2.3 mg mus; Antiviral; Artemicide LC50=110 ppm [artemicide is a substance that kills brine shrimp];  Candidicide; Pesticide; Spermicide [my joke, activity real]
  • BORNEOL Plant 1 - 5 ppm Antibacterial MIC=125-250 ug/ml; Antiescherichic MIC=125 ug/ml; Antisalmonella; Antistaphylococcic MIC=250 ug/ml; Antiyeast; Candidicide; Fungicide; Herbicide IC50=470 mM IC50=470 uM; Insect-Repellent; Insectifuge; Irritant; Nematicide MLC=1 mg/ml; Pesticide
  • BORNYL-ACETATE Plant 1 - 4 ppm   Antibacterial; Antiviral; Insectifuge; Pesticide
  • CAFFEIC-ACID Plant: Antiadenoviral; Antibacterial; Antiescherichic; Antiflu; Antiherpetic 50 ug/ml EC50=>50 ug/ml; AntiHIV EC50=200 ug/ml; AntiLegionella; Antileukemic; Antiophidic; Antistaphylococcic; Antiulcerogenic; Antivaccinia; Antiviral IC50=62.5 ug/ml; Fungicide MIC=0.4 mg/ml;  Insectifuge; Metal-Chelator; Pesticide
  • CALCIUM Plant 21,000 - 23,000 ppm Mineral
  • CAMPHENE Plant 1 - 3 ppm Insectifuge; Pesticide
  • CHLORINE Plant 8,000 - 11,000 ppm Antibacterial; Antiherpetic; Antiseptic; Antiviral; Candidicide; Fungicide; Pesticide
  • CHOLINE Plant:
  • CHROMIUM Plant 3 - 4 ppm Mineral
  • CIS-OCIMENE Plant 9 - 55 ppm Antibacterial; Antistaphylococcic; Fungicide
  • COPPER Plant 11 ppm; Mineral
  • ELEMOL Plant 1 - 3 ppm
  • FERULIC-ACID Plant: Antibacterial; Antiherpetic; Antileukemic IC50=25-56 ug/ml; Antimitotic; Antiviral; Candidicide; Fungicide; Herbicide; Insectifuge; Metal-Chelator; Pesticide; Preservative
  • GERMACRENE-D Plant 20 - 116 ppm Pesticide;
  • HYPEROSIDE Plant: Antibacterial MIC=250-500 ug/ml; Antiflu; Antiviral; Pesticide;
  • IODINE Plant: Mineral
  • IRON Plant 290 - 500 ppm Mineral
  • ISOPINOCAMPHONE Plant: Pesticide
  • L-PULEGONE Plant:
  • LIMONENE Plant 1 - 6 ppm Acaricide LC100=8 uM; Antibacterial; Antiflu; Antiseptic; Antiviral; Candidistat; Fungiphilic; Fungistat; Herbicide IC50=45 uM; Insecticide 0.37 uM/fly; Insectifuge; Nematicide IC=100 ug/ml; Pesticide;
  • LUTEOLIN Plant: Antibacterial MIC=500 ug/ml; Antiherpetic 11-23 ug/ml; AntiHIV; Antipolio; Antiviral 11-23 ug/ml; AphidifugePesticide;
  • MANGANESE Plant 82 - 100 ppm Mineral
  • MARRUBIIN Plant:
  • MENTHOL Plant: Antiasthmatic; Antibacillus MIC=1.25 mg/ml; Antibacterial MIC=0.625-2.5; Antibronchitic; Antidandruff; Antiescherichic MIC=1.25 mg/ml; Antihalitosic; Antilisteria MIC=0.625 mg/ml; Antiodontalgic; Antisalmonella; Antiseptic 4 x phenol; Antisinusitic; Antistaphylococcic MIC=0.625 mg/ml; Antistreptococcic MIC=0.4 mg/ml; Antitartar; Antivaginitic; Antivulvitic; Candidicide MIC=0.625 mg/ml; Nematicide MLC=1 mg/ml;Pesticide; Termiticide;  Vibriocide [destructive to bacteria of the genus Vibrio, especially V. cholera]
  • MOLYBDENUM Plant: Mineral
  • MYRCENE Plant 3 - 20 ppm Antibacterial; Fungicide; Insectifuge; Pesticide
  • MYRTENAL Plant 1 - 1 ppm Antimalarial IC50=5-50 ug/ml; Antiplasmodial; Herbicide; Pesticide
  • OLEANOLIC-ACID Plant 360 ppm; Antibacterial MIC=625-1,250 ug/ml; Antigingivitic MIC=625-1,250 ug/ml; Antihepatotoxic; AntiHIV EC50=1.7 ug/ml IC50=21.8 ug/ml; Antimalarial IC50=70-89 ug/ml; Antiplaque MIC=625-1,250 ug/ml; Antiplasmodial IC50=70-89 ug/ml; Antiseptic MIC=625-1,250 ug/ml; Antiviral EC50=1.7 ug/ml IC50=21.8 ug/ml; Piscicide
  • P-COUMARIC-ACID Plant: Antibacterial; Antiseptic; Fungicide; Pesticide
  • P-CYMENE Plant: Antibacterial; Antiflu; Antiviral; Fungicide; Herbicide IC50=50 uM; Insectifuge; Irritant; Pesticide; Sedative; Trichomonicide LD100=50 ug/ml
  • PALMITIC-ACID Plant: Nematicide; Pesticide; Propecic [androgen inhibitor]
  • PHOSPHORUS Plant 2,100 - 3,500 ppm Mineral
  • ROSMARINIC-ACID Leaf 25,000 ppm; Antibacterial; Antihepatotoxic; Antiherpetic 50 ug/ml EC50=20 ug/ml; AntiHIV EC50=40 ug/ml; Antiplaque; Antiviral EC50=40 ug/ml;  Pesticide; Radioprotective [serving to protect or aiding in protecting against the injurious effect of radiation]
  • RUTIN Plant: Antibacterial; AntiCVI 270 mg/man/day; Antihepatotoxic; Antiherpetic;  Antimalarial IC50=>100 ug/ml; Antiprotozoal; Antitrypanosomic 100 mg/kg; Antiviral; Insecticide; Insectiphile; Juvabional; Larvistat IC95=4,000-8,000 ppm diet;  Pesticide; Protisticide; Radioprotective
  • SABINENE Plant 1 - 9 ppm Antibacterial; Antihelicobacter; Antiseptic;  
  • SUCCINIC-ACID Plant: Pesticide
  • SULFUR Plant 3,100 - 3,400 ppm  Mineral
  • TANNIN Plant: Anthelmintic; Antibacterial; Antidysenteric; Antihepatotoxic; AntiHIV; Antiviral; Chelator; Pesticide
  • TERPINEN-4-OL Plant 1 - 8 ppm Antiacne; Antibacterial; Antiseptic; Antitussive; Bacteriostatic; Fungicide; Herbicide IC50=200 mM IC50=22 uM; Insectifuge; Nematicide MLC=1 mg/ml; Pesticide; Spermicide ED100=0.015;
  • TYROSINE Plant: amino acid
  • URSOLIC-ACID Plant 166 ppm; Antibacterial; AntiEBV; Antiescherichic; Antihepatotoxic 5-20 mg/kg ipr;  AntiHIV 6.7 uM EC50=2.0 ug/ml IC50=6.5 ug/ml IC85=18 ug/ml; Antileishmanic ED50=20 uM; Antileukemic IC50=2.5-17.8 ug/ml; Antilymphomic; Antimalarial IC50=28-37 ug/ml; Antiplasmodial IC50=28-37 ug/ml; Antistaphylococcic; Antitrypanosomic; Antiviral IC85=18 ug/ml; Candidicide; Pesticide; Piscicide; Protisticide; Trypanocide
  • VALINE Plant: amino acid
  • ZINC Plant 46 - 53 ppm  Mineral



The fresh herb can be rinsed and steeped in hot water to create an herbal medicinal infusion.  This infusion can then be sniffed, gargled or applied to wounds, as it is principally antiseptic and antibacterial as an external medicine.

Thus it must be treated as a medicine and not a food, in other words because of its total chemical composition this is not a plant one should eat!  In Dr Duke’s analysis a number of the chemicals are listed as being neurotoxic, or irritant.

Although the essential oil has been used for analysis purposes, use of this internally would be poisoning and even externally would be overdosing.  You want the plant not the oil.  There have been cases of people becoming quite ill on the essential oil.   Essential oils by their very nature are highly concentrated extracts – in some cases they do not even contain the needed chemicals.


Glechoma was widely used by the Saxons in brewing beer; thus the brewing-related names, alehoof, tunhoof, and gill-over-the-ground.  Beer in the old days was the means by which medicines were administered, but in this case the plant may have been the means by which the resulting beer was safe to drink – that any bacteria, fungi or other pathogens were removed from the brew.  In the far distant past monks did most of the brewing, making herbal medicines they could hand out to their fellow citizens.  The Belgian beers owe their existence to this tradition and are still made from herbal ingredients – healing ingredients.

Glechoma has also been used in the cheese-making process as a substitute for animal rennet.  Cheese too in old days was looked on as both a food and a medicine, a valuable source of proteins and cholesterol – the source of progesterone! It may be worth bearing in mind considering this little snippet of information from a cheese information site in the USA

According to some sources, almost 6 out of 10 hard cheeses made in the US today are manufactured using Genetically modified rennet.

Related observations