A poison ivy treatment or two or three are crucial if you live in the country or plan on spending any time in the woods at all. Back in the good ole days, before I moved to the country, I was actually immune to poison ivy.
My mom told me I once sat down in a bed of poison ivy, and wasn't bothered at all. Sadly, things changed in 2007 when my youngest son was an infant. He's a sweet little guy, but when teething set in, he got fussy, and I decided to settle him by putting him in a baby wrap and going for a walk in the woods on our property.
It had rained a few days earlier, and I ended up getting mud in the moccasins I loved wearing ALL the time.
Apparently, the mud had some of the urushiol oil from the poison ivy leaves, and my feet got exposed to it over and over again for days.
Turns out, even if you're immune to poison ivy initially, if you get exposed enough you'll develop an allergy to it.
I got the biggest, ugliest blisters on my feet you ever saw. I've posted a picture to the right, if you're brave enough to look.
Ugh! Talk about miserable!
I still shudder to think about that awful week of gigantic blisters. The itching kept me up at nights, and I can honestly say I have never been so miserable in all my life. So if you've been exposed to poison ivy, trust me; I feel your pain.
Here's a picture in case you're curious about what poison ivy looks like. The general rule of thumb is "leaves of three, leave it be."
Poison ivy is a plant with three leaves, and the leaves are saw-toothed. So if you see a plant with three leaves and the leaves are saw-toothed in shape, stay away.
The leaves are coated with an oil called urushiol oil that causes the problems. Touch one of the leaves and the oil comes off the plant and onto you.
So if you brush against the plant and realize you have touched poison ivy or a plant you think is poison ivy, rinse the area with lots of clean water (not soap) and you should be okay.
The problem is, you don't always know you're brushing against a poison ivy plant. Plus, if you have dogs or cats on your property, they can lie in the poison ivy for hours and it won't affect them.
They can then carry that oil into the house and rub against you or the furniture, exposing you and your loved ones without your even knowing about it. Life is so unfair, isn't it?
So when those itchy blisters appear on your skin, here are some poison ivy treatments that have helped me and mine:
I'm a firm believer in homeopathic medicines along with other types of alternative medicines as they stimulate your body's immune system to heal itself. Rhus Tox (find it here) is the go-to remedy for poison ivy, as the remedy is made from the poison ivy plant. It's also an excellent remedy for back and neck pain, and I've noticed that if I take it every day (the 30c dosage or higher), I'm less likely to get poison ivy in the first place. Anacardium (find it here) and Graphites (find it here) are also good poison ivy treatments to try.
Jewelweed (the official name is Jewelweed Impatiens capensis) is a well-known and effective poison ivy treatment. Although I've never seen it for myself, I have heard that jewelweed often grows near the poison ivy plant. So if you brush against the poison ivy and you find a nearby jewelweed plant, you can rub the jewelweed leaves on the area and avoid a rash that way.
I ordered dried jewelweed a few years ago and made an infusion which I allowed to cool and applied it to the rash. A decoction of this will work well also.
A good jewelweed salve like this one is a helpful poison ivy treatment.
It worked remarkably well. A jewelweed salve has also helped many to ease the itch from poison ivy.
For all those die-hard do-it-your-selfers out there (and I salute you), you can make your own infusion or salve. Make jewelweed oil first by chopping up a cup of fresh jewelweed and mixing it with 1/3 a cup of olive or coconut oil in a double boiler. Heat it gently for one hour until the weed loses its color. Strain the jewelweed oil, removing all the bits of weed, and heat the strained oil again on a double boiler if you have one, adding one and a half tablespoons of beeswax to the oil. Heat until the wax is melted, stirring it frequently. Remove the salve from the heat and stir constantly until the salve cools and begins to thicken. Apply the salve to the infected area as needed.
An essential oil, such as peppermint oil is good for taking away the itch. If your rash is painful, a gentle essential oil such as lavender essential oil will help ease the pain and heal your skin.
Okay, I'm listing this last poison ivy treatment with fear and trembling, because I suspect some will think it unorthodox and unsanitary. Be that as it may, it's what I do, and it works better at easing the itch than anything else I've tried, save for taking Rhus Tox once daily throughout the summer to prevent the nasty rash in the first place: sterilize a straight pin by dipping it in alcohol and pop the blisters to allow the pus to come out (ewwww!). Then clean the area thoroughly with a cotton ball soaked with Witch Hazel. If nothing else works, you may consider trying this. For me at least, popping the blisters and cleaning the area helps ease the itch and allows me to sleep. The area will likely produce pus filled blisters again in the next day or so, and you may have to repeat this process more than once.
So the next time poison ivy threatens to damper your joyful homesteading, try one of these remedies to help put the joy back in summer.
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