When Kim and I were young we often played in the woods and that led to regular, minor poison ivy rashes and the occasional head to toe rash. We are experienced poison ivy suffers and we’ve tried a number of poison ivy remedies to help relieve the itch but I hadn’t heard of using jewelweed to treat poison ivy until I was visiting my brother a month ago.
At his local farmer’s market I saw someone selling a jewelweed spray as poison ivy treatment. I didn’t buy it because I already had poison ivy once this summer and naively thought I would be more careful and wouldn’t get it again this year. Of course, 10 days later I had it all over my forearm.
Luckily, out of curiosity, I had been researching jewelweed and I had a few ideas about how to make my own natural poison ivy remedy by turning the plant into an effective itch reliever.
Making jewelweed salve is easy, the hardest part is identifying jewelweed for the first time.
Jewelweed grows in wet, shaded soil in the northeastern, southwestern and midwestern United States. It grows up to 4 feet tall and has a hollow stalk which is mostly green, with some red near the lower leaf nodes and at the base, right above the shallow root system. It a member of the Impatiens genus and like the impatiens that are commonly used for landscaping they have a hollow stalk. The flowers, which are yellow or orange, are the best identifying features for the plant.
Click the thumbnails below for to view larger images of the jewelweed plant.
Jewelweed is invasive, and in colder parts of the country it’s annual, and so you shouldn’t have any qualms about pulling the plant out of the ground when you find it. Since the plant starts to wilt soon after you pick it, immediately refrigerate or freeze the plants you don’t use for treatment.
If you’re unable to locate a convenient source of jewelweed, you can buy seeds to plant. When choosing a planting location, avoid riverbeds and hillsides because the shallow root system will accelerate erosion in those areas.
You can make a poison ivy remedy from jewelweed by:
According to a co-worker who had poison ivy the week after mine went away, applying either the jewelweed spray or salve tingled initially and gave him immediate itch relief that lasted for about 4 hours. My experience was the same with the salve, I didn’t actually get to try the jewelweed spray on my poison ivy because the first recipe I tried recommended infusing the witch hazel for 2 weeks and the rash was gone by then. I later discovered that you only need to infuse it for 12-24 hours.
My recipe for the Jewelweed Poison Ivy Itch Relief Spray below. If you are interested in salve you can view the jewelweed salve recipe here.
Clean the jewelweed like you would if you were going to eat it to remove germs and bacteria that could spoil your spray. I do this by pulling off the leaves, roughly chopping the stalks and filling a bowl with cold water and a few sprays of a fruit and vegetable wash. Then I swish the jewelweed around in the bowl.
Roughly chop the stalk, leaves and flowers (if there are any). You won’t have to use the whole plant. Most of the juice is in the lower part of the stalk so I use the section from the root to the first leaf node for the infusion.
Put jewelweed in a jar and pour the witch hazel over it. To get more juice out of the jewelweed use a spoon or pestle to crush it.
Cover and let sit for 12-24 hours.
Strain liquid into a colored or opaque spray bottle to keep light out, since light will break down plant material quickly.
If you don’t want to make your own poison ivy treatment you can buy Teeter Creek Jewelweed Extract, WiseWays Herbals Itch Free Salve or Burt’s Bees Poison Ivy Soap on Amazon, or you can look for it at your local farmer’s market. In Pittsburgh, jewelweed spray can be found at the East End Food Co-op.