One of the first things I was asked when I became an herbalist is “What can I do for poison ivy?” As a result, I found myself a few years into my practice rubbing poison ivy on my legs as I sat on the front walk. I had to know that anything I created for others definitely worked before I sold it.
Over the years, I’ve continued to improve on the best of what I learned. Here are the highlights.
Poison Ivy Solutions That Work
NO Hot Baths
One of the most common bits of advice about poison ivy that I see online is to take a super hot shower. This is actually one of the worst things you can do. Sitting in a hot bath or taking a hot shower heats up your skin. When your skin heats up it lifts the urushiol oil to the surface. It’s true that poison ivy isn’t contagious, but once lifted, urushiol is free to move to other areas, possibly creating a new rash.
Avoid Eating Sugar
Don’t eat sugary foods or drinks when you have poison ivy. Believe it or not, what you eat at the time of a poison ivy or oak rash could make this better… or a whole lot worse. Sugary foods and drinks “feed” the rash, making everything more inflamed, itchy, and miserable.
Solutions to Relieve the Itch of a Poison Ivy Rash
To dry out the rash, you can try an old recipe from the book “Back to Eden,” called Kloss Liniment. You can make this recipe with either apple cider vinegar or alcohol (rubbing alcohol or vodka both work). It can help to dry up blisters and ease away the itching.
(from Jethro Kloss’s original recipe)
- 1 oz. echinacea powder
- 1 oz. organic goldenseal powder
- 1 oz. myrrh powder
- ¼ oz. cayenne powder
- 1 pint apple cider vinegar or rubbing alcohol
Pour your apple cider vinegar or alcohol over the herb powders. Let it sit, shaking it daily for 4-6 weeks. Strain, label, and use topically to cleanse wounds, ease sore muscles, and relieve itching.
Find an all-natural toothpaste with mint flavoring. Dab it on the rash to soothe away the itch.
When the rash gets so itchy that you think you’ll go out of your head, an ice pack can be very effective in giving relief.
Herbs for Poison Ivy
Plantain (Plantago spp.)
I use a homemade herbal mask over a poison ivy rash to pull out the oil. Dried plantain leaf mixed with green clay makes an effective poison ivy mask.
Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)
Jewelweed is the most common plant people associate with poison ivy. It’s in so many remedies that everyone assumes it is the best solution for the itch. Unfortunately, jewelweed is only really effective before you get the rash. It prevents the urushiol oil from binding to the skin in the first place. If you’ve already got a rash, jewelweed is more likely to help you prevent the spread of the oils to any other place on your body.
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Valerian is good for your nerves. It can help settle a body that is pulled too tightly from the constant itch and inflammation.
I hope that you don’t have a need for any of these tips this year, but if you do, hopefully there’s something here you haven’t tried yet!