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Natural Remedies to Treat Poison Ivy

Poison ivy remedies, natural

Summer is around the corner, and so, unfortunately, is poison ivy along with its cousins poison sumac and poison oak. Now is the time to have some natural remedies to treat poison ivy around the house so you will be prepared.

Most people react to poison ivy

Approximately 85 percent of the population is sensitive to plants in the Toxicodendron genus, which includes poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. All of these plants secrete an oily resin called urushiol which, when it makes contact with the skin, can trigger a red, itchy rash that is often accompanied by blisters and swelling.

The majority of people can be treated at home using over-the-counter medications or natural home remedies. About 15 percent of people who are sensitive to poison ivy experience severe symptoms (e.g., eyes that are swollen shut, erupting blisters) that require medical attention.

If you know you have been exposed to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, the first thing you should do is rinse the affected areas with cold water or rubbing alcohol. If your clothes have been contaminated, wash them with soap or detergent.

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Most people who react to poison ivy experience redness, itching, swelling, and blisters at 12 to 48 hours after they were exposed. To treat poison ivy, you can try any of the following natural approaches:

  • Aloe vera—Break off an aloe vera leaf and squeeze the gel onto the affected areas. This plant has soothing, anti-inflammatory properties and is handy to keep around the house.
  • Baking soda or cornstarch—Mix 1 tablespoon of baking soda or cornstarch with 1 teaspoon of water and make a paste to apply to the affected areas
  • Essential oils—Use any one of the following essential oils (3 drops of cypress, lavender, or peppermint oil) mixed with 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt when poison ivy needs to be dried out. The vinegar helps dry out the poison ivy and also can help prevent infection. Apply the mixture using a cotton ball.
  • Oatmeal—Soak in a tub of lukewarm or cool water to which you add colloidal oatmeal. This can soothe the itching. As an alternative, mix 1 tablespoon of oatmeal with 1 teaspoon of water and make a paste to apply to the affected skin.
  • Sweet fern tea—Steep 1 tablespoon of dried sweet fern leaves in hot water for 20 minutes, cool, and apply to the affected skin.
  • Tea tree and almond oils—Combine 1 teaspoon of tea tree oil with 6 teaspoons of almond oil and use a cotton ball to apply the mixture to the skin.
  • Witch hazel—Use a cotton ball to apply witch hazel to the skin to reduce swelling and itching.

Several other natural remedies are sometimes used to treat poison ivy, including blood root, calendula, chickweed, holy basil, jewelweed, and Virginia snakeroot. Reports of their effectiveness come largely from anecdotal reports.

Anyone who has typical poison ivy symptoms accompanied by a fever higher than 100 F, breathing problems, blisters that ooze yellow fluid, or a rash that affects the eyes and/or mouth should seek medical attention. For typical symptoms, however, natural remedies can be an effective way to manage poison ivy.

Duke JA. The Green Pharmacy. Rodale Press 1997.
Long D et al. American Journal of Contact Dermatitis 1997 Sep; 8(3): 150-53
Robbers JE, Tyler VE. Tyler’s Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Haworth Press 1999

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