Poison Ivy Remedies
(& Poison Oak / Sumac)


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Poison Ivy Remedies

When to Use Natural Remedies

These remedies also work on poison Oak and Sumac because the cause of the reaction is from the same thing – an oil called Urushiol (pronounced "you-ROO-shee-ol").

The oil is an allergen, not an actual poison. It causes rashes and blisters on the skin to those who are allergic to it but anyone can get an allergy to it at any time, even if you've never had a problem before.

It has to do with how much you're exposed to it – the more exposure, the more likely you'll have a reaction.

The first thing you'll want to do in all cases before using Poison Ivy remedies is wash the oil off of your skin and anything else that may have come in contact with the oil. Any kind of soap or solvent will work fine.

The faster you wash it off, the better! Sometimes the oil will absorb into your skin and bond with your proteins in as little as 3 minutes (although some people say it takes at least 30 minutes).

Once the Urushiol bonds to the protein molecules in your skin, it can't be washed off – you just have to wait and see if you have a reaction.

If you have inhaled the smoke from burning poison ivy, oak or sumac, go to the doctor right away! Also go to the doctor immediately if it's been eaten. In either of those cases, natural remedies will not be effective.


List of Natural Remedies that Treat this Condition

(Clicking on the underlined name of the remedy below will take you to the page that tells you specifically how to use it for this condition. It will open a new window.)

  • Baking Soda - Make a paste out of baking soda (preferably aluminum free baking soda) by adding a little water until it becomes thick enough to apply to the area evenly but without being watery. Some have also used vinegar instead of water or both vinegar and water in the baking soda. Keep applying the paste as often as needed to help relieve the itching.
  • Jewelweed - This one was contributed to the site by a friend of mine so I looked it up. Being on the west coast, I don't run into poison ivy or jewelweed, but it's a very common remedy back east. Jewelweed usually (but not always) grows in close proximity to poison ivy and the sap of its stems when applied immediately after contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac, will counteract the allergic reaction to the Urushiol. Simply slice the stem down the length and rub the sap on.

    You can also collect the leaves and flowers, boil them into a tincture and freeze them in to ice cubes to use if there isn't any fresh jewelweed around.
  • Milkweed Sap - Some people swear by this poison ivy remedy. Take the sap of a milkweed plant and rub it on the rashes. It will still itch for about 15 minutes but after that, it's been reported that a full night of itch-less sleep can be had and that the rashes are significantly reduced by morning.
  • Oatmeal - This is one of the most common poison ivy remedies. Cook up some oatmeal, but make sure it's a thick paste, not runny. Let it cool enough that you don't scald yourself, but keep it as warm or hot as you can tolerate it. If you like, you can add vinegar and baking soda to the mixture to add that extra anti-itching benefit. (Just be careful not to make it too runny!) Apply the mixture to your poison ivy rashes and cover with a towel or cloth wrap of some kind. Repeat as often as necessary. This should help relieve the itching.
  • Oatmeal Baths - To make an oatmeal bath to soak the itching away, you'll need about 1/3 cup of powdered oatmeal. You can make your own using a blender or coffee grinder, or buy it already powdered online or at the local drug store. To make sure the powder is fine enough, put a little in a glass of water an stir it up. The result should be a milky white water that's smooth in texture. Run the bath as warm as you can tolerate, add the oatmeal powder, and relax. To make this poison ivy remedy even more effective, add 1/2 cup of baking soda and 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar.
  • Tea Tree Oil (Melaluca Oil) - Numerous accounts have stated that Tea Tree oil works wonders to relieve the itching and rash of Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac almost immediately. Using a cotton ball, you can use it diluted in a little water or not (whatever you can tolerate) and dab it on your rashes every two hours or so. Some people find their rashes clearing up within a day or two.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac are the same – it starts with horrible itching, and then progresses to rashes and sometimes even blisters and swelling on the skin.

This usually happens in 24 to 48 hours after contact with the plant sap. There are those few people that can have a severe reaction however – usually within 4 to 12 hours – their eyes might swell shut and blisters will begin to form right away in addition to the other symptoms.

These people need to be taken to the emergency room immediately! No poison ivy remedy will be quick enough to help that severe of a reaction.

There are reports of those who don't have a reaction for up to 14 days after being in contact with the plants.

Of the people who are allergic to these plants, only about 15% might have a reaction severe enough to need emergency medical attention.


Causes

As stated in other sections, the cause of the itchy rashes from Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac are from a sap in the plants called Urushiol (you-ROO-shee-ol). This oily sap is in every part of the plant – leaf, stem and root – and will only hurt you if you are allergic to it.

Unfortunately, between 50 to 80% of the population of North America is allergic to it. These plants grow mostly in the US and Canada and look like this (courtesy of Wikipedia):

Poison Ivy Remedies

Poison Ivy

Poison Oak Remedies

Poison Oak

Poison Sumac Remedies

Poison Sumac

There is a saying: "Leaves of 3 – let it be!", but as you can see, that will not work for Poison Sumac. Sumac can have leave bunches in any number.

But all of these plants are fragile and will break easily exposing the sap. Even if the plant is dead, it will still have Urushiol on it. You can get the sap on you from anything that's touched it like tools, animal fur, clothing, etc.

You can also become exposed through the burning of these plants by inhaling the smoke. Urushiol is so potent in fact, that an amount the size of the head of a pin can cause an allergic reaction in 500 people.

Even Urushiol that's hundreds of years old can cause reactions in those who are really sensitive!

In spite of some old myths about Poison Ivy, breaking the blisters or itching the rashes does not spread the poison to other parts of the body or to other people. (Although scratching too much will cause bleeding and maybe scarring.)

The only way to spread Urushiol is if the oily sap is still on your skin. Once it binds to your protein molecules, it doesn't spread.


Nutritional and Dietary Support

In addition to natural Poison Ivy remedies, there has been anecdotal evidence that those who eat a lot of raw honey or raw bee pollen as part of their regular diet or supplementation can develop an immunity to Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac.


Additional Actions You Can Take

Additional support to natural Poison Ivy remedies is:

  • Very hot water can help relieve the itching temporarily
  • Some people have said that ice packs on a rash will relive itching and burning
  • In those rare cases that your reaction is severe, please go to the emergency room to receive emergency care – although not a "natural remedy", it can save your life if you are hyper-allergic to Urushiol.

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