English Ivy – Itching

Q: Recently I pulled vines from a pine tree and later developed itching and dryness between fingers. Two weeks later, I pulled out English ivy and experienced the same reaction. Any thoughts?

A: It turns out that both English ivy, Hedera helix, and Algerian ivy, Hedera canariensis, are known to cause contact dermatitis in sensitive people. Both contain the allergen falcarinol. The allergic reaction seems to follow direct contact with the sap of the plants, not the leaves. This contrasts with poison ivy, where contact with any part of the plant can cause a skin reaction. Falcarinol is also found in carrots, ginseng and schefflera. The chemical is said to contain antioxidants which help fight cancer.

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