Poison Ivy rash can be excruciating.
The itchy red bumpy raised areas that can eventually ooze icky liquid can show up from a few hours to a few days after exposure. If you have poison ivy in your yard or area, or like to do hiking in the woods, you’ll want some natural remedies for poison ivy or poison oak in your medicine cabinet.
In our area of the southeast it’s poison ivy that tends to be everywhere in the woods around us. Our kids—especially our son, the wild woodsman, Nikolai—have grown up with frequent bouts of the rash that is so itchy it’s painful. But there is some good news when it comes to these poison, rash-inflicting plants.
What Does Poison Ivy Look Like?
There are a couple of sayings that will help you to remember what to look for when your in the woods in possible harm’s way.
“Leaves of three, let it be.”
“Leaves of three, stay away from me.”
“Leaves of three, beware of me.”
Poison ivy grows on single stems on underground runners vines that also grow up and around trees. As those vines get increase in size they look ominous with a wickedly coarse “hairy” appearance.
Look for a stem with a larger leaf at the end, and two smaller leaves shooting off the sides. The leaves can be notched or smooth on the edges, and they have pointed tips. ArtOfManliness.com
A close look alike in the early stages are red maple leaf saplings that appear to have three lobes and growing up on spindly stalks.
Some people outgrow it.
Immunity to Poison Ivy
Good News: You can build up an immunity to poison ivy.
Nikolai reported just the other day that he seems to have built up an immunity to it. He still gets an occasional poison ivy rash, but the bumps are not as many and they’re no longer itchy. Well, that’s a relief!
However, the opposite can also happen. I.e., people can start out not allergic but develop reactions later in life.
Genetic Immunity: The other way you can be immune to poison plants is through a genetic immunity. My husband, Coleman, is not bothered by it, nor is our daughter, Devani. Now Devani was adopted from India, (should you wish to read about that), so her immunity was passed down from other genetics. Still, that’s a really good ratio in our family.
Estimates are that approximately 70-85% of the population are allergic to poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.1)http://zidbits.com/2011/02/why-are-some-people-more-susceptible-to-poison-ivy-than-others/2)http://www.samaritanhospital.org/departments-services/qcare/poison-ivy
Food for Animals
Speaking of immunity, some animals eat poison ivy without any issue. It’s astonishing that something so toxically allergenic to human mammals, can be consumed with impunity. Animals such as white tailed deer, muskrats, and eastern cottontail rabbits eat the leaves and stems. Many birds, including crows, bluebirds, and turkeys eat the fruit and some insects munch on the leaves.3)http://www.fcps.edu/islandcreekes/ecology/poison_ivy.htm
Well, it’s good there’s at least some beneficial use to wildlife in this plant that most humans dread.
Medicinal Benefit of Poison Ivy
Formerly officially in the United States Pharmacopeia. It is in extensive use by homoeopaths for rheumatism, ringworm and other skin disorders. It is considered to be one of the most useful remedies in a great majority of cases of Nettlerash, and eruptions caused by food allergies.
I’ve often mused that there must be some good use to something so potent. So while I’m glad to discover there is medicinal benefit to this poisonous plant, I think I will seek out some of the other beneficial natural remedies first whenever possible.
Having been excruciatingly affected by skin contact with poison ivy, I shudder to imagine risking an internal dose, no matter how tiny. I’m not against it, and understand the homeopathic principle, but there is still risk. So prudence says to seek out other methods if allergic to the plant, and to never apply such remedies unless under the supervision of the appropriate medical professional.
Can Poison Ivy Spread by Scratching?
No… and yes!
So scratching alone won’t cause the rash to spread from wherever it is on your skin. In other words, scratching won’t spread from blisters, nor is it likely to even transfer the oil from skin in one area to another, as it has likely already bonded with the proteins in your skin. Remember, you have about 15 minutes to wash it off before that happens. But… if traces of the poison ivy oils are trapped under your fingernails, the oil can be spread in this way from scratching. So if you’ve heard conflicting information as to this, that’s probably why.
Similarly, when the poison ivy rash blisters and oozes serum, that liquid does NOT have the urushiol resin4)https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urushiol in it, and will not cause further poison on you or anyone else.5)http://www.samaritanhospital.org/departments-services/qcare/poison-ivy
The poison ivy, oak or sumac can also be spread by coming in contact with pets or inanimate objects that have come in contact with the plant oils. So, if you’re out with loppers or pruners, cutting out the poisonous plants, be sure to wash your tools after use. Think of the oil as like a resin, that can exist on non-organic surfaces for years even, and subsequently cause a reaction upon contact.6)http://www.fda.gov/downloads/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/UCM143611.pdf
Poison Ivy Prevention
If you know you’ve come into contact with any of these poisonous plants, you have about a 15 minutes window to wash it off thoroughly before the oils bind with proteins in your skin, and settle in to make your life miserable for a few days or even weeks. Use COLD water, as hot water will cause your pores to be more to the oil.
Wash thoroughly with COLD water within 15 minutes of contact.
Wash thoroughly in a cold shower (not bath) with lots of water and thoroughly scrubbing of every inch of your body is recommended. Or if you just exposed your arms, you could wash them in the sink. Just make sure that the sink is also thoroughly washed afterward, to prevent slicks and spots of the oil that could be picked up again by you or others.7)http://www.jaxmed.com/articles/Diseases/poison_ivy_dermatitis.htm
And, when you’re out on that hike, always look at any tree before placing your hand on the trunk. We have some lethal looking poison ivy vines growing up trees in our area that look ancient, they’re so huge.
Poison Ivy Rash Remedies
Here are some hand-me-down grandma’s remedies that might help.
Excerpted from article by Erin Gorney on HubPages.com
1. Heat lamp – A family member of mine actually stumbled upon this method when he hurt his shoulder after a game of tennis, he placed his shoulder and arm under a heat lamp, what he found out was the itching stopped and the spots and little boils dried up. He did this for a few days and it completely dissipated.
2. Essential oils and oats – Add four cups of quick cook oats to a bath of luke warm water, add a few drops of Lavender and/or Geranium oil, and a cup of Epsom salt. Soak for 15 minutes and repeat at least 3 times a day.
Editor’s Note: This seems a bit time-consuming to us, but if you have a widespread miserable rash, it’s worth a try.
3. Oils for itching– Peppermint oil is one of the best oils for any kind of skin irritation, but with poison oak or ivy, the menthol is extremely helpful for the rash. It has a cooling effect and soothes the inflamed skin. Lavender, Chamomile and Cypress oils are also good to use at night to help soothe the skin and induce sleep.
4. Paste– 1 cup of Baking Powder, 1 cup oats- 1/4 cup of Epsom salt- a few tablespoon of white vinegar. Mix together in a blender or by hand until it becomes a paste, adjust measurements as needed. My mother prefers more oats and will sometimes use up to 3 cups. Once you have a paste, apply it to the area and cover with saran wrap or towel. Leave on until itching has stopped. A slight burning sensation is normal, and should go away after a few minutes.
Source: Erin Gorney, HubPages.com8)http://hubpages.com/art/How-to-use-Water-Color-Pencils
More Natural Remedies
Here’s another list of natural remedies we favor from GlobalHealingCenter.com.
1. Baking Soda Baths & Pastes – soak in a baking soda bath or make a baking soda paste to relieve itching.
2. Oatmeal Paste – make a paste of cooked oatmeal, and apply to affected area while hot but tolerable.
3. Organic Apple Cider Vinegar – apply organic apple cider vinegar directly to the affected skin or as a hot compress for the toxin-pulling action.
4. Aloe Vera Gel – best applied directly from the aloe plant and reapply as often as needed to soothe.
5. Organic Goldenseal – a paste out of goldenseal root powder externally for infection, and internally as tea or supplement for best results.
6. Himalayan Crystal Salt – make a paste or bath of Himalayan Salt.
7. Organic Witch Hazel – dab a small amount of witch hazel tonic on the infected area for cleansing and itch-relief.
8. Banana Peel – old-wives tales swear by the power of a banana peel for poison ivy. Rub the inside of a banana peel on the affected area. Simple and harmless enough to try.
9. Organic Cucumber – this green veggie is very cooling. Making a cucumber paste or place slices directly to the affected area.
10. Watermelon Rind – similar to cucumber, watermelon rind can provide cool relief.
Be sure to also see some wisdom from the GardensAll community at the end of this article.
The Best Natural Poison Ivy Remedy
By Rob from Sigma 3 Survival School
Nature caused it and… nature offers the cures. You will love this video! Rob goes into far more of the medicinal benefits of of yarrow beyond a poison ivy remedy, and he shows you how to make it.
Natural Poison Ivy Remedy
A Favorite Herbal Remedy for Poison Ivy or Poison Oak
Okay! One more favorite treatment for poison ivy and poison oak rash or exposure is Jewel Weed or Jewelweed. And the wisdom of nature often has jewel weed growing nearby poison ivy. ?
Disclaimer: Of course in any of these and anything you try, you are responsible to stop the moment any treatment does not seem to be helping and to apply treatment only under the advice of your physician. Be responsible… be safe… and…
‘Wisdom from the Tribe’ at the GardensAll Facebook Community
Gina Jensen Wyatt
Best remedy I have found, and I am highly allergic, is to wash/scrub exposed skin after coming in from working near it. Use dishwashing detergent on a scrubby sponge or wash cloth, COLD WATER, and scrub at least twice. Seems to do the trick to avoid dermatitis.
May I add a general warning? It might be tempting to dispose of the ivy by burning the vines, but it is a risky thing to do. The smoke contains the oils and it does nothing good for the lungs. Passed along from my tree hugging and cutting sweety. Thank you for all the great suggestions for easing the itch. I don’t seem to get affected but Tree Hugger does.
I am lucky to have jewelweed growing in my yard. It’s often found close to where poison ivy grows. Before I knew about this amazing little plant, I used tea tree oil and I don’t see it on your list.. it cuts the itch almost immediately. Mix it first with coconut oil before trying on your skin. By my second encounter with poison ivy I was putting straight tea tree oil on my skin, and it would cut the itch almost 24 hours for me.
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