Monday, June 18, 2012


Poison ivy

... let it be! But not so for three of poison ivy's companion plants which can be used to wash off the irritating oils and relieve the itching.

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis, I. pallida) is a succulent plant that grows in low moist areas beside roads and trails. A handful of the leaves can be rolled between the hands (or made into ice-cubes) and rubbed over exposed skin to decrease the hypersensitivity reaction to poison ivy's barbed oils.

Yellow jewelweed
Spotted touch-me-not

Virginia creeper

If there's no jewelweed near the poison ivy patch, look for leaves of five. Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) is a vine that grows in the same habitat as poison ivy. The leaves have been used similarly to those of jewelweed as a rub for cleaning exposed skin.

1st and 2nd year burdocks

The barbs are long gone once those itchy vesicles appear but you can still calm down a poison ivy rash with a fresh burdock leaf (Arctium lappa, A. minus) draped or taped over the inflamed area. Fortunately for us, these pre-made poultices come in all sizes from your friendly neighborhood burdock patch. But watch out for the P. ivy often lurking nearby!


HERBALIST'S NOTE: Keep a tray of jewelweed ice-cubes over the winter for those spring poison ivy exposures before fresh jewelweed is available.

1) Gather a half dozen jewelweed plants by grasping the stem and pulling directly upwards;
2) Snip off the roots and coursely chop the stems, leaves, and flowers into a pot;
3) Pour boiling water to cover the plant matter and steep for 10-15 minutes;
4) Strain off the plants and pour the orange liquid into ice-cube trays;
5) When frozen, pop out a cube and rub it over exposed skin for removal of oils or over the itchy rash for relief. For oil removal, rinse with cold water after rubbing with a jewelweed ice-cube.

DOCTOR'S NOTE: Severe cases of poison ivy with eye, genital, or internal exposure should be evaluated by a health care professional for possible steroid treatment.

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