Poison Ivy Protection & Remedy
by Elaine Conradi
My brother, an avid outdoorsman, has severe reactions to poison ivy. He has tried everything to prevent it from wearing long sleeves during summer to cleaning every possible thing that could be contaminated. Nothing has proven effective.
Last summer while on a wildflower walk, I came across jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). I remembered as a child being told to rub this on your skin where the poison ivy touches and it would prevent a breakout. Not certain that I recalled this correctly, I came home and did some research. Sure enough, the folk tales concur that it effectively neutralizes the poison if you make a salve and put it on before going out of doors. Moreover, it suggested that it is equally effective after exposure, as well. What could I lose by giving it a try?
Jewelweed blooms from mid-May through October. You will often find it growing near poison ivy as they both prefer areas with dappled sunlight (although you will sometimes find poison ivy also growing in the sun where jewelweed will not). I went back to the location and cut about 2 lbs. of stems, flowers, and leaves. Because jewelweed contains a great deal of moisture and oil, it doesn’t dry well for future use. You can freeze fresh plant material to use throughout the year however, NEVER make alcohol tinctures or extracts with it as many people have had bad reactions with this combination.
Here is the recipe and steps I took to make Jewelweed Salve:
· 6 cups cleaned and coarsely chopped jewelweed stems and leaves (you can add flowers also if in bloom)
· 2 cups of good quality olive oil
· 1 ½ cups of grated beeswax or coconut oil (I prefer the coconut oil as it solidifies enough to carry it in your purse and spreads and absorbs more readily. You may find you’ll need to add more coconut oil than beeswax if you go this route, perhaps ½ cup more).
· You can add 20-30 drops of your favorite essential oil if you desire but I rather like the earthy scent of the jewelweed so I skip this step.
Place the oil in a stainless-steel or cast iron cooking pot and add the chopped, cleaned jewelweed. Simmer for one hour. After one hour, cover the pot and allow it to cool to room temperature. Next, strain it through cheese cloth. Do not try to drain through paper filters as they will clog. Now measure out your beeswax or coconut oil. Heat the strained oil just enough to melt the wax or coconut oil and stir until dissolved. To check the thickness of your salve, you can put a bit on a plate and place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes to cool down completely. If it is too thin, you may add a bit more wax or coconut oil one tablespoon at a time. You may now add essential oil if you choose and pour it into containers. You might find it beneficial to add essential oils that are insect repellant such as lavender, eucalyptus, and/or rosemary. If using plastic containers instead of glass or tin, wait for it to cool but still liquid before pouring. Store in a cool, dry place. I keep mine in the refrigerator as the coolness also helps to alleviate the burning sensation.
I didn’t just want to assume this worked before handing off a tin full to my susceptible brother so I rubbed a bit into my forearm and on my hands. I then picked a stem of poison ivy and allowed the juice to drop. I also am susceptible though not to extent that he is. IT WORKED!!!! I had absolutely no reaction. I have since found out that this wonderful salve, that now allows my brother to enjoy outdoors without worry, works equally as well on rashes, insect bites including mosquito, bramble scratches on the skin, and relieves the sting of nettle.
*If using this after being exposed, wash vigorously first with lukewarm water and soap, then apply the salve liberally.
Bio: I am working toward my master herbalist certification though have worked with medicinal herbs for over 30 years. Having spent endless hours on the family farm as a child, plants (both wild and cultivated) have always been an integral part of my life. Though I hold a BA in History, Social Studies, and Secondary Education, my fascination with growing herbs, wildcrafting, and making both medicinal preparations and body care products has been continual activity of love and joy. I am an avid reader and researcher and am on a perpetual mission to discover nature’s wonderous healing properties shrouded in the mystery of plants.
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