It’s a three-letter word that doesn’t readily come to mind when one considers the ingredients in a massage cream—ivy. However, ivy extract actually is a fairly common ingredient in various high-quality massage creams and lubricants. In fact, ivy extract has a long history of use beyond climbing brick walls.

Taken orally, ivy extract often is used to help improve lung and bronchial conditions, as well as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Several peer-reviewed, double-blind studies have shown ivy extract can indeed improve lung function and reduce asthma attacks.

Among massage therapists, however, the question is what happens not when ivy extract is taken orally, but when it is applied topically. It turns out this plant extract boasts a host of benefits in cosmetic use, which is most likely what earned ivy extract a spot on the ingredient list in quite a few massage creams.

One of the best-known benefits of ivy extract is it may help boost blood circulation, which could serve to enhance the effects of your hands-on healing. In addition, it is reported to tone and tighten the skin, while assisting in the removal of waste products from the body. For this reason, you will find ivy extract almost always is a key ingredient in products that aim to reduce the appearance of cellulite or promote weight loss.

Another reason you may find ivy extract in your massage cream is for its antibacterial properties, which can help stave off infections and increase the overall health of a client’s skin. This plant extract also is known for its ability to smooth and soften skin, and it is also reported to help relieve itchy skin conditions.

The components of ivy include triterpenoid saponins, andoleanolic acid glycosides, hederacoside, phenolic acids, flavonoids, malic acid and fatty acids. It also comprises rutin and nicotifloroside, within the flavonoids that are part of the phenolic compounds, as well as caffeic and chlorogenic acids.

The active ingredients in ivy help other ingredients in a product to be absorbed by the skin, which is another major reason this plant is so often featured in massage creams. These ingredients also help the lipids stored in fat cells to be released in the bloodstream to be used as a source of energy or eliminated.

The saponosids found in ivy are natural surfactants, which means they can help relieve congestion in the lymphatic system and make lipids soluble, thereby improving the elimination of cell metabolism residues and wastes.

Triterpenic saponins are found in all parts of the ivy plant and include hederin, which is also an active saponin. This component of ivy extract has been reported to aid in blood vessel protection, while helping to reabsorb the edemas present in the initial stages of cellulite.

With a bit of investigation, it’s clear ivy can pack whole host of health benefits. Therefore, it’s not hard to understand why ivy extract may be on the ingredient label of your favorite massage cream.

Brandi Schlossberg