Jewelweed: The Secret Weapon Against Poison Ivy You Need to Know About
Nature's cure for the the little bastards known as poison ivy (and poison oak).
The Husband does most of the yard work, which means he gets most of the poison ivy. He's miserable until it goes away, and the poison ivy rash tends to linger. If you've ever had a run-in with poison ivy, you know how miserable the experience can be. (Same with the poison ivy plant ... it's so hard to kill!)
I discovered jewelweed entirely by accident, or more like a Google search. I then bought some seedlings on Etsy, and say to myself, Self, what the heck. I'll try it out. I thought they would die in the transplant, since I read horror stories about how finicky jewelweed was. "They" weren't entirely untruthful. About half of my seedlings survived.
But this year, I have an abundance of these little guys. They grow everywhere! Buy some seedlings for yourself, and soon enough, you'll have an unending supply of this poison ivy remedy.
Jewelweed is normally found in the same areas as poison ivy, jewelweed is often called the "touch-me-not" plant due to its tendency to release its seeds at the slightest touch. I also think it's a beautiful plant, and it grows in places that can be hard for other plants to grow.
By the way, don't believe what every other website says. Jewelweed is called a weed for a reason. If you're not careful, it can take over everything. (But at least it won't give you a rash like poison ivy does!)
Don't let its delicate appearance fool you–jewelweed is awesome against the rash. Whether you're an avid hiker, enjoy spending time outdoors, or need to mow a lawn, jewelweed is essential in your natural first aid kit.
P.S. You can use jewelweed on bug bites.
What is Poison Ivy and Poison Oak?
Poison ivy and poison oak are plants that produces an oil called urushiol, which can cause an allergic reaction in most people who come into contact with it. The oil found everywhere on the plant. Warning! Burning the plant can cause an allergic reaction inside of your lungs. The rash usually appears within 12 to 48 hours of contact with the plant and can spread if the oil is not washed off immediately.
What's worse is that you can get a rash by touching the oil that is transferred to another object, like your clothing, gardening tools, or another person.
The rash can be extremely uncomfortable and can cause blisters, swelling, and even difficulty breathing in severe cases. It's important to go to the doctor if you get too much. A steroid cream can help.
The Science Behind Jewelweed as a Remedy for Poison Ivy
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for poison ivy and other skin irritations. The plant contains compounds that have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antipruritic properties, which can help to reduce itching, redness, and swelling. One study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that jewelweed extract was able to significantly reduce inflammation and itching in mice that were exposed to poison ivy.
How to Identify Jewelweed
Jewelweed is a tall, green plant that can grow up to six feet in height. It has bright orange or yellow flowers that resemble jewels, which is where it gets its name. The leaves are oval-shaped and have a slightly serrated edge, and they are arranged alternately on the stem.
Jewelweed has a distinctive shape to its leaves:
Where to Find Jewelweed
Seriously, this stuff can be found almost anywhere, although it does like it damp. If you go hiking even on a rail-trail, you can find it growing near streams, along riverbanks, and in wooded areas. Like its impatiens cousins that are normally sold at Lowe's, it likes the shade.
Here's some of the impatiens you can normally buy at Lowe's:
Even though it likes it damp, mine grows ... pretty much everywhere. The plant is adaptable, but it does not like the sun too much.
When to Harvest Jewelweed
You can harvest jewelweed at any time, but it is most potent when it flowers. That's when it has the highest concentration of its poison-ivy-fighting-stuff.
You can crush the stems and leaves to let the juices on your skin, or you can dry it for later use. And also something I learned from its impatiens cousins: cut above where a set of leaves grow. The plant will continue to grow, often branching out.
Poison Ivy Prevention
Before I get into a different jewelweed recipes, you can buy IvyX to help prevent getting a rash in the first place (affiliate link). This stuff is the bees knees right there. I love it, and we use it liberally.
Preparing Jewelweed for Use
There are several ways to prepare jewelweed for use as a remedy for poison ivy and other skin irritations.
How To Make Jewelweed Essential Oil
Jewelweed essential oil is another great way to harness the power of this amazing plant. To make jewelweed essential oil, you'll need to harvest a large quantity of fresh jewelweed and place it in a large pot with a carrier oil (such as olive oil or coconut oil).
Heat the mixture on low for several hours (or use your slow cooker on the low setting), then strain out the plant material and bottle the oil for later use. You can use jewelweed essential oil as a massage oil or add it to your bathwater for a relaxing soak.
Amazing Jewelweed Soap Recipe for a Poison Ivy Rash
Another popular way to use jewelweed is to make soap. Jewelweed soap is great for soothing a poison ivy rash. Double up your power by washing your hands (and any part of your body that was exposed) in cold water right away.
- To make jewelweed soap, start by collecting flowers, leaves, and stems from blooming jewelweed plants. Roughly chop the plant material and place it in a small saucepan with just enough water to cover.
- Bring the mixture to a boil and then let it simmer over low heat until the water darkens, about 20 to 30 minutes. You can also use a slow cooker.
- Strain the infusion through a coffee filter or a cheese cloth into a heat-proof jar or bowl. Compost the plant material.
- Melt two cups of glycerin soap base in a double boiler, then remove the pan from the heat and add half a cup of the jewelweed infusion (affiliate link). Stir the mixture thoroughly and let it cool for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Once the mixture has cooled slightly, you can add additional essential oils. I like one drop of lavender and one drop of orange. Stir well to incorporate everything evenly.
- Lightly coat your soap mold with cooking oil spray and then pour the liquid into the mold. Let the soap cool at room temperature.
- When the soap is fully set, remove it from the mold and enjoy your homemade jewelweed soap.
Jewelweed Tea and Ice Cubes
Use up the rest of the liquid you prepared (above) to make a tea! No, you shouldn't drink it. Instead, use it to make some ice cubes, or make a jewelweed spray (below).
Making a Jewelweed Spray
If you prefer a more convenient method of using jewelweed, you can make a spray. Put the strained liquid (above) into a bottle for a quick, effective bug bite remedy. You can also add a few drops of essential oil for added benefits. Spray the affected area as needed for relief.
Whether you prefer to use jewelweed in tea form, as a salve or ointment, or as a soap or essential oil, up your poison ivy toolkit with jewelweed.