Week of June 14 - Herbal Help for Poison Ivy/Oak Rashes

Monday, June 13, 2016 10:21 PM | Wise Woman (Administrator)

Herbal Help for Poison Ivy/Oak Rashes
Susun Weed
c. 2016

Oh my! The poison ivy/oak is getting high, and I don’t mean it is smoking grass. Poison ivy/oak loves the extra carbon dioxide we are adding to the atmosphere and responds by growing higher and lusher. There is more poison ivy – and her sister poison oak – than ever, and they are causing more trouble than ever.

Don’t let the oozy, itchy rashes they cause can spoil your summertime fun. Here are my favorite ways to avoid – and treat – poison ivy/oak rash.

Eat it?   
If you are especially sensitive to poison ivy, you may want to consider eating it in the spring. The dose is one three-part, young, red leaf, dipped in honey and swallowed whole for 7-10 days. Like a homeopathic remedy, eating poison ivy changes your relationship with the plant from the inside out.

Wash Promptly

The irritating part of poison ivy is urushiol, an oily substance. Urushiol is found in all parts of the poison ivy vine, including the leaves, the roots, the vine, the flowers and the berries. When your skin reacts to urushiol, it blisters and itches. The sooner you wash – with cool water and mild soap – after contact with poison ivy, the less likely you are to get a rash.

That’s the idea behind using jewel weed (Impatiens pallida) against poison ivy. Jewel weed is very moist. Crushed, it can be used to wipe urushiol off the skin. But Jewel weed really shines when it comes to treating poison ivy rash. Look for my special recipes at the end of this article.

Witch hazel towelettes/wipes, available in drugstores, are an excellent way to remove urushiol when no water is at hand. Be sure to discard with care, so you don’t transfer the urushiol to your hands.

Since ivy rash is caused by urushiol, you can get it without touching the plant. Urushiol clings to skin, clothing, shoes, and animal’s fur, and spreads from there. So you can get a rash from contact with something , like your dog or your pants, that contacted urushiol and then spread it to you.

Poison Ivy/Poison Oak Facts

It can take up to seven days after contact with urushiol for a rash to erupt.
Urushiol retains its irritating power for decades, even on old clothing.
Poison ivy/oak rashes don’t spread, and they are not contagious. Sensitive skin will react before thicker skin, and more sensitive people will react more quickly than others, making it seem that the rash is spreading from one place or one person to another, but it isn’t.

If poison ivy is burned, there is urushiol is in the smoke. If inhaled, it causes a serious rash in the lungs.

Eating poison ivy does not cause a rash in the mouth or the digestive tract.

Help for Ivy Rashes

Once you have a poison ivy rash, there are a number of ways to ease the itching and pain, keep the outbreak limited, and protect your skin.

Plantain (Plantago) is a champion at countering itches. In the early oozy stages of an ivy rash, poultices of are best. Chew the fresh leaves – or smash with a rolling pin – and apply. Once the blisters are gone, infused oil of plantain can be used instead. (Never put an essential oil on a rash.)
Yarrow (Achillea) is amazing for relieving pain. A poultice of the chewed or smashed fresh leaves (or tincture of the flowering tops sprayed on), acts as a local anesthetic, reduces swelling and checks oozing.

Witch hazel
(Hammamelis) as sold in the drugstore – be sure to get plain witch hazel – is an astringent used to counter the itching, swelling, and weeping of poison ivy rashes. Splash it on, spray it on, or wipe it on. Let it dry on the skin.

Hot water – really, really, really hot water – turns off the sensation of pain for several hours at least. Run hot water from the tap directly over the area of the rash.

Chlorine (bleach) in water is incredibly effective against the itching, oozing, and pain of ivy rashes. Up to half a cup of bleach in full bath tub of hot water; or visit a nearby Y and swim in their (chlorinated) pool.
Clay dries out the poison ivy rash and helps ease itching and counter swelling. Any kind of clay will do, but white clays are kindest to the skin. Buy powdered clay and add water (or witch hazel) little by little until you achieve a thin paste, or a thick slurry. Gently spread the slurry over the rashy area. Let it dry and fall off of its own accord. Repeat as often as you desire.

Jewel Weed Broth
is an incredible ally for those dealing with extensive areas of ivy rash. Make it by boiling fresh jewel weed, roots and all, in water to cover until it turns orange. The broth, drunk freely, swiftly counters swelling and eases pain.

Jewel Weed Witch Hazel Spray
is my ultimate ivy rash treatment. Make it by boiling fresh jewel weed, roots and all, in witch hazel to cover until it turns orange. Let cool in the pot, then strain into a sprayer and apply. Store in the refrigerator or freezer for really cool relief.

Green blessings are everywhere.

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