Spring is here in beautiful Peterborough, NH and there is nothing like getting outside to work in the garden or heading to the woods, lakes and mountains to explore.
These activities can come with many joys and rewards, but a Poison Ivy rash is not one of them. The rash is caused by the skins reaction to the urushiol (yoo-ROO-shee-all), an oily toxin which is found on the leaves, stems, flowers, berries, and roots, even when the plant is dead. This toxin is also found on Poison Oak and Sumac. Urushiol is one of the most toxic natural poisons on earth. The amount that can fit on the head of a pin is enough to affect the entire population in this country.
Coming into contact with poison ivy can result in swelling, blisters, pain and incredible itching of the area that is affected. Some cases may also appear as red bumps, intense burning and irritation and even fever. The reaction can appear within hours or from seven to ten days after exposure to the toxin. The rash can then spread within a few days, which is quickened when the affected area is scratched. Most poison ivy cases are mild but some people can develop a serious rash and irritation that can cause a lot of suffering.
Luckily there are many natural remedies to sooth a poison ivy rash:
Aloe Vera gel, can be applied directly onto the rash to cool and sooth the skin. Himalayan Sea Salt is drying to the skin and will help by pulling the excess water and toxins from the body. A cup of Himalayan sea salt can be put into a warm bath to soak the body for 20-30 minutes. It can also be made into a paste by mixing it with water and applying it directly to the rash.
Witch Hazel is both cleansing and itch relieving when dabbed onto the rash. Cucumber is very cooling and can be made into a paste to bring soothing relief to the hot rash. Some folks will rub the rash with the inside of a banana peel, which can produce a cooling and soothing effect.
A small amount of powdered organic Goldenseal root, made into a paste with hot water, can be rubbed onto the rash to help prevent infection. Goldenseal can also be taken as a tea or supplement for quicker results.
Jewel weed is a famous remedy for poison ivy. Ironically, it often grows near poison ivy and oak. Apply the juice of the fresh plant on the rash, or make a tea or tincture to apply topically.
Some essential oils are also helpful. Combine 3 drops each of lavender (for itch relief), tea tree (as an antiseptic) and peppermint (cooling menthol) essential oils with 1 teaspoon of sea salt, 2 tablespoons of raw Apple Cider vinegar and 2 tablespoons of distilled water. Be sure the salt is completely dissolved and then dab the combined mixture onto the rash as needed.
An oatmeal bath soak with essential oils can also be very soothing. Combining 3 cups of quick oats with 3 drops of Chamomile essential oil and 1 drop of peppermint essential oil tied in a piece of cheesecloth. Run a bath, and dissolve a small box of baking soda in the water while filling the tub. Toss in the oatmeal cheesecloth and soak the body as often as needed. The oatmeal cheesecloth can also be gently rubbed onto the rash while in the tub to help sooth the skin.
There are also many homeopathic remedies that can be helpful for poison ivy, oak and sumac:
Arnica for heat, Apis for swelling, Bryonia for hot pale skin, Kali sulphuricum for treating yellow pus, Arsenicum album for itch and swelling, Graphites for oozing and chills. Rhus Tox for swelling , Sulphur for intense itching, Ledum for stinging or burning.
Many of these remedies are available in 30C dosage pill form and are also available in some lotions, creams and gels. Be sure to avoid using remedies containing oils, as the oil can worsen a poison ivy rash.
Homeopathic silver, in gel form, fights skin infections and calms inflammation when applied to the affected area.
So, when you are out in the yard be sure to dress appropriately to protect yourself from exposure to poison ivy by wearing protective clothing such as gloves, long sleeved shirts and long pants. If you do become exposed, be sure to get any serious reactions checked by a qualified healthcare professional.
Many of the remedies in this article are found on the shelves at Maggie's Market. When Poison Ivy strikes we can help.
Blog posted by Melissa Mustapha, who works as a Manager and Buyer at Maggie's Market. She is qualified as a certified Herbalist and Aromatherapist.
Melissa Mustapha Herbalist/Manager at Maggie's Market