Friday, July 18, 2008

Ah, the Itch! Poison Ivy

One of my sons has some prizewinning poison ivy at his house. Some of it has trunks like trees, no kidding. He's working on eradicating it, but it's no easy task.

Over the years I've learned a few remedies for poison ivy that work for me, and others that seem to work for those who've tried them:

1. Homemade lye soap was recommended to me by a doctor in the 1970's. According to the FDA, what makes you itch when you come into contact with poison ivy is the chemical urushiol, which is easily spread on contact. Lye soap can strip usushiol from your skin and stop the spread of the itch. It definitely helped me recover from a bad bout of winter poison ivy I apparently contracted from the smoke for logs twined with the stuff that we were burning in a brush pile.

2. Jewelweed, also known as wild Touch-Me-Not (and related to the garden flower Impatiens) has a gel in its stem similar to that of Aloe. My neighbors told me when I moved here that breaking open the stem of jewelweed and spreading the gooey get on poison ivy will stop the itch. A few years ago I was on a nature hike when someone in the group came in contact with nettles. The stinging was driving her crazy so I suggested jewelweed as a possible antidote. She tried it and it worked like magic. I have used jewelweed on bug bites and poison ivy and it works for me.

3. Bleach applied directly to poison ivy has been recommended to me by several people. I haven't tried it so I can't attest to its efficacy, but it seems like a reasonable idea given the ability of bleach to strip oil and grease from surfaces. There are many conflicting opinions online about this and almost any remedy for poison ivy, however.

4. My mother mixed baking soda with water to make a paste that we applied to the itchy spots. It seemed to help with the itching, as I remember, but the good effects wore off as soon as the paste dried. Still it could be a stopgap until something more effective can be obtained.

For an extensive list of folk remedies for poison ivy, look at Health 911.

I'd like to hear what others are doing for this irritating itch. Do you have a remedy you'd like to share?


  1. Hey Susanna!

    As a child I had a nasty bout with poison ivy (giant watery blisters everywhere). One of my aunts had a mother in law who was a gypsy, and she recommended lye soap, bleach water, and white shoe polish, of all things. We tried them all, and amazingly white shoe polish worked the best of all three. Of course, I looked like a clown with white shoe polish on my face-
    I don't think the bleach water worked well, plus it hurt, because the remedy was you cut open the blisters and poured it in. It was too painful a cure.
    Nowadays, I simply go to the doctor and get shots for poison ivy. Turned out I was violently allergic to the plant, and the shots cleared it up in a day or two. I have also learned to ask for the shots. If a doctor tries to give you the pills, don't do it. Those things will make you feel as bad as the poison ivy!

    1. How long do you leave the white shoe polish on for?

  2. When my husband works out in the "deer woods", which means he's looking for deer so he can hunt in the right spot in the fall, the first thing he does when he comes home is take a bath in water he adds bleach to. It gets rid of chiggers and other nasty critters and he never gets poison ivy so I guess it takes care of that too. Then he showers to get the bleach smell off! Blessings, marlene

  3. Jason, that white shoe polish rings a bell! I think we did that too, but I had forgotten all about it.

    I agree about the bleach cure--sounds terribly painful. According to the FDA, the liquid in the blisters doesn't have the urushiol in it anyway, so cutting them open would not help it heal but could certainly open up the possibility of other infections.

    Marlene, I think bathing in water with bleach in it would be effective to remove the thin oil of urushiol from the skin. The oil can be on clothing, dogs. guns, etc too and a person can actually get poison ivy months after being exposed by coming into contact with a coat, for example. How strange is that!

  4. When my little cousin Marcus got poison we used a sliced green tomato on it. It really dried it up.

    Luckily, I have never had poison in my life. I've even rolled around in it and never got it. In contrast, my brother Jason can look at the stuff and get it. Also, Jason used calamine lotion sometimes for his, but I still remember his dalmation look from the shoe polish!!

  5. Matt,we used calamine lotion too--I think it was called Caladryl--it was a pink milky liquid. It sort of worked, but produced the same spotted-cow effect that the shoe polish did.

    I haven't had poison ivy in years. I'm not sure why because I got it all the time as a child. I'm thinking about it now because we're supposed to go berry-picking next week and I'm wondering if I'll get the itch---or just my usual dose of chiggers!

  6. We have tried the Jewel weed, but I boiled it in water and then applied the water to my poison ivy. It worked, but next time I will save some time and just apply it the way you said. We also use lye soap...always have some on hand! But the best way? Avoid it at all costs!!!!

  7. Interesting! Who knew!? Ya know, it rings a bell. I figured I must have gotten into a little bit of poison ivy at our place, but I felt like maybe I was imagining it or it went away ... didn't know why. Guess what?! I make my own lye soap and that's the only soap we use! Thanks for this info!

  8. Granny Sue-the only other remedy I've heard-paint over the spots with finger nail polish which helps dry it up and prevent spreading.

    One time during a very cold spell our gravity water froze almost from the house to the spring. Pap built fires all along the way to thaw the water. My brother and I of course played in the fire. My brother came down with a horrible case of posion oak. He eventually had to have a shot to get over it.

    I'm going to pass along your tips to my older brother who gets posion oak every summer.

  9. Let me tell ya something I found out---If you have poison ivy, simply wet the affected area, then sprinkle plain table salt on it. Within 2 seconds the itch is gone, 10 seconds the blisters are gone, and all without any unsightly cream or stinging. This is like a wonder drug. Please try it :) Loveyameanit, Yvonne

  10. Also full strength asorbine from a farm store really works


Thank you for sharing your thoughts! Comments are moderated so may not appear immediately, but be assured that I read and enjoy each and every word you write, and will post them as quickly as possible.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...