Every spring I say the same thing: poison ivy is NOT going to get me this year! And every year it still happens. I get a small spot of poison ivy oil on me and before long, it takes on a life of its own. Last year I had it so bad that my entire left leg looked like it had been burned in a fire. I’m not one to visit the doctor unless it’s really bad, so I started looking for natural options.
Natural Poison Ivy Treatment
Now before I start, let me say that everyone reacts to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac in different ways. What works for one may not work for another. This list will give you a variety of options to choose from. (Also, we are not doctors, and this information should not be construed as medical advice. If you have an extreme case of poison ivy you should see a doctor.)
Note: Keep in mind that the rash is NOT contagious! The rash is derived from urushiol oil secreted from poison ivy, oak, and sumac. It is not contagious but urushiol oil can be spread if not removed by washing. Remove the urushiol oil and you eliminate the spreading of the rash. If the rash appears to have spread awhile after you’ve removed the oils it’s either a delayed reaction to oil that was already there, or because you didn’t completely rid all the oil from your body, clothing, or other items that came into contact with the oil.
Now, on to other ways to help ease the rash:
Cold coffee: Coffee has a substance known as chlorogenic acid, which is an anti-inflammatory. It can help keep the swelling down. Apply cold coffee with a cotton ball and throw it away when you are done. The oil from the poison ivy can cling to the cotton and spread.
Witch hazel: Witch hazel is astringent and soothing. It can help calm the itch and promote healing. Apply with a cotton ball and discard when done. (Learn to make your own witch hazel here.)
Tea Tree Oil: Tea tree (or Melaleuca) essential oil can help to heal poison ivy rash once it has stopped oozing. Tea tree heals from within first, so it may not seem to be working, but keep using it. It may sting at first, but that will fade quickly. Tea tree is generally safe to apply undiluted to skin, but only a few drops are needed. (Find 100% pure organic tea tree essential oil here.)
Lavender Oil: Lavender essential oil heals rapidly. Be sure to use after the blisters have opened, like with tea tree. Healing with Lavender oil is more rapid and it can also sting at first. Lavender essential oil is also generally safe to be applied undiluted. (Find 100% pure organic lavender essential oil here.)
Ocean Water: Ocean water is about 3.5% salt. Salt can help speed healing by drying out the wound. If you don’t have an ocean nearby, dissolve 1 ounce of sea salt in a quart of water. To use the water, dip a cotton ball in it and wipe on the wound. Allow it to dry. You can also put some on a bandage and apply that to the wound. Leave this on for the day, while you are at school or work, or at night while you are sleeping. At the end of the day or the next morning, rinse and reapply if necessary.
Mouthwash: some say that mouthwash helps to heal poison ivy rash, especially the minty ones. It’s probably the alcohol in it that dries it out, but mouthwash can be antibacterial too, so this may also be the reason. (A natural mouthwash is recommended.)
Rhubarb Stem: Use the stem juice near the roots. It’s not known what substance works to help heal the poison ivy rash, but old timers swear by it. And after trying it last year, I can also attest to it. Apply like most other treatments, with a cotton ball dipped into the juice.
Pine Tar Soap: Pine tar soap possibly works due to the healing ability of pine tar. Often combined with sulfur in soaps and ointments, pine tar has long been used in healing. (Find a pine tar bar soap here.)
Cashews and pistachios: This one threw me, until I remembered the family that poison ivy comes from. This family includes tomatoes, mangoes, deadly nightshade, pistachios and cashews. They all contain the substance urushiol, which is the oil that causes poison ivy rash. It is possible that eating cashews and pistachios could give you some limited immunity.
Aspirin: Grind up aspirin and make into a paste with a small amount of water. Place this paste on the wound and allow to dry. The salicylic acid can help to speed healing.
Dish soap: The very first thing you should do if you think you’ve come in contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac is to wash with a grease cutting dish soap. This can be made at home by adding a few tablespoons of lemon juice to any bottle of liquid soap, or by making your own homemade cleaning soap that’s formulated specifically to cut grease. Grease cutting soap will break down the oils in urushiol.
Wash your clothing: It may have come in contact with the oils. It will spread on the fabric if not washed out.
Wash everything else: Wash any garden tools you may have used, shoes, gloves and even your pet. Dogs and cats can carry the oils on their fur and not be affected by it, but if it gets on you, it could.
Don’t scratch: Poison ivy rash can itch terribly, but try to resist the urge to scratch. This can leave raw, open wounds that are more prone to infections.
Don’t pop the blisters: For the same reason. Your skin may get weepy and get fluid filled blisters, but don’t be tempted to empty them.
Oatmeal: Make yourself a colloidal oatmeal bath. You can use ready-made baths that are available at most stores, or just finely grind oatmeal and put this in your bath. Oatmeal is soothing and comforting on your skin.
Baking soda bath: Dissolve a cup of baking soda in your bath to draw out toxins.
Baking soda paste: Put ¼ cup of baking soda in a small bowl and add a few drops of water at a time until a paste forms. Apply this to the wound and allow to dry. It will draw out toxins the same way as the bath.
Calamine lotion: Calamine is usually a mixture of zinc oxide and ferric acid, or iron. It is used as an anti-itch agent. (Learn how to make your own here.)
Cool compress: Apply a cool cloth to the area to help sooth the over-stimulated nerve endings.
Cucumbers: Make a paste from cucumbers and apply for a soothing effect.
Apple cider vinegar: ACV helps to heal by breaking down the oils. It can also be cooling. It may sting at first, like many other treatments. (Find our favorite brand here.)
Jewelweed: Jewelweed is a plant that almost always grows near poison ivy. It is a succulent, a member of the impatien family. Crush it and apply to the rash. This alone is by far the best help of any of these treatments. (See images of jewelweed here.)
Alcohol: Alcohol will help to break up the oil. (If you are already using our homemade deodorant, this is perfect for spraying on affected areas.)
Lemon Juice: Lemon juice will also help to break up the oils.
A few things I did not mention on this list are aloe vera and honey. While both of these will help heal, both are humectants. They will pull moisture out of the air and attach it to whatever they are applied to. You don’t want to add moisture to something you’re trying to dry out. However, at the end of the rash, after the weepy stage has passed, you can use either of these to help with continued healing.
Have you tried a natural treatment for poison ivy rash?
Share your methods that have worked!