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Herbal Remedies for Poison Ivy


Poison Ivy, like other poisonous plants, are actually protectors of a disturbed environment. Wherever you see an abundance of any of these plants, it means that the area has been badly damaged. These plants are Mother Nature’s way of saying “Keep Out”. Their role is to keep us away until the area has healed. However, if you’ve ever broken out from poison ivy exposure, you know it can be downright miserable.


Identifying poison ivy is important. I’m sure you’ve heard the expression “leaves of three, let it be” - well poison ivy has three leaves, so when you see a plant with three leaves, it's best to avoid it. Also, every part of the plant is covered in an oily substance called "urushiol". It’s this oily substance that causes the irritation. Poison ivy rash is hot and wet, so cooling and drying remedies will help provide relief.


One of nature's best remedies for poison ivy is jewelweed (Impatiens pallida), which often grows near poison ivy. If you accidently get exposed to poison ivy, look around immediately for jewelweed. Crush the leaves and apply it to your skin where you were exposed. It will help lift poison ivy's oil from your skin and lessen the impact of poison ivy. You can also have some remedies prepared ahead of time, such as making an herbal tea with water and jewelweed (you can grow jewelweed in your garden). Let the tea steep and then when it's cool, strain, and pour the tea into ice cube trays. When frozen, pop the cubes out of the trays and place in a zip lock bag. Label the bag and store in the freezer for when you need it. When exposed to poison ivy, apply the jewelweed ice cubes to your skin.


Other helpful herbs include:

Plantain leaf (Plantago major) is a cooling, anti-inflammatory herb that can be found almost anywhere, It's a soothing demulcent and wound healer. Go here to learn more about plantain leaf, as well as how to make an herbal salve. Try making a salve with jewelweed, plantain leaf, and calendula. You can store a jar of the salve in your first aid kit for easy use when hiking or camping, in case you accidently get into some poison ivy.


Calendula (Calendula officinalis) is a cooling, anti-inflammatory, wound healer. The petals and flower heads are used. People who are sensitive to the Asteraceae family of plants, may experience an allergic reaction to Calendula.


Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a cooling, drying, anti-inflammatory herb. It is also an anti-histamine, so it will help calm the immune system. You can use cilantro both internally, as in cooking as well as in a tea, and topically as a poultice. To make a poultice crush cilantro leaves in a mortar with pestle. Mix a little water with the leaves and apply to the affected area. Secure the poultice with a bandage.


The bottom line is to avoid poison ivy by identifying it and staying away from it. But if exposed, find some cooling and drying relief.


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