25 Natural Ways to Deal With Poison Ivy Rash

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Poison Ivy Treatment

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!

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About Debra Maslowski

Debra is a master gardener, a certified herbalist, a natural living instructor and more. She taught Matt and Betsy how to make soap so they decided to bring her on as a staff writer! Debra recently started an organic herb farm in the mountains of Western North Carolina. You can even purchase her handmade products on Amazon! Connect with Debra Maslowski on G+.

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Comments

  1. Kevin says

    I occasionally trim poison ivy that grows over from a neighboring property and I learned about jewelweed as a child growing up in the 1970’s. I used to drive to the woods afterward to rub jewelweed on my skin when needed but several years ago I planted jewelweed in a wild part of my backyard. I don’t mind that it invades the grass because it creates a nice layer of orange flowers throughout the summer. If I touch poison ivy, I harvest a jewelweed plant above the root within an hour, slice open the juicy stem and rub it on the skin like soap. This chemically neutralizes poison ivy to prevent a rash. Jewelweed grows in low lying wooded areas so it is usually easy to find if you touch poison ivy while hiking in an unfamiliar area.

  2. Marykaye says

    I’ve just had a bout with poison ivy. I used homeopathic tablets which took away itching for a while. This week I used Bentonite clay in suspension. Almost a miracle. It dried up the rash and controlled the itching for hours and hours. Thank you for the discussion.

  3. Carla says

    Anytime I think I have been exposed I take a bath with one cup of Clorox. Since starting that as a child I’ve never had poison ivy since. When my grandsons go hiking through the woods at school they come home to a Clorox bath never had a mission

  4. touchedpainter says

    Here in NH the old time farmers used sweet-fern. It grows everywhere here, & near poison ivy patches. I got it all over my body once & the only thing that brought relief, was the sweet-fern poultices. It was so bad I had to stay immobile, all I could do was lay in bed with my legs, arms, chest, & face coated with the sweet-fern poultice. This was back in the 1970’s before internet, but also Dr. approved.

  5. Kimberly says

    There is an herb called “Cleavers “ taken orally clears mine up in a day or so. If you take it late winter late summer it will help build an immunity.

  6. Kristen says

    Anyone ever use a plain veggie oil FIRST to pull as much oil out of the skin before using a degreasing soap (which is mixed with water)

    This query is based on science of OIL loving OIL.

    I once got peppermint oil out of my son’s eye (he’d been playing w/ a PO gelcap that burst) ONLY with either avocado or olive oil… THEN I used a grease cutting soap to wash his oily face…

    Hope my growing knowledge actually helps someone. We city folk don’t see too much poison ivy. 🙂

  7. L E Payne says

    I have not been allergic to poison Ivy my whole life. In my thirties I was helping a friend pull poison ivy in the late fall. The foliage had dried up and we were pulling it by the roots. Not thinking the oil was drained down in the roots concentrated in storage till next Spring & highly concentrated in the roots we were pulling. 2 days later I was a mess. Both arms a runny bubbly rash & my face was so swollen my eyes were slits, my nose was just 2 holes no protrusion for the nose, and my mouth just a slit & I just sipped Carnation Breakfast & Slim Fast for 3 days through a straw. My doctor gave me some sort of antihistamine tablet & the only other thing I put on the poison ivy was Sweet Fern, which we have masses of here. I was told to stay quiet, and I just laid in bed (watching TV) with poultice of sweet fern on my arms, face, & neck down a little on my upper chest. In a big pot I simmered the sweet fern to limp it & I was draped in the soggy weeds 24 hours a day. I also drank the juice as a tea to work from the inside out. This is an old natural remedy around here for sunburn, poison weed rashes, and other skin inflammations. I pulled the ivy on Sunday, forced to leave work early on Tuesday with the rash. On Saturday my face which only swelled, no oozing rash like the rest of the affected skin, was totally normal. I was told by the Doctor there are three ways poison ivy can affected human skin & I had 2, one on my swollen face & the oozing bubbly rash on the rest of the affected skin. I went back to work Monday with hardly any signs of rash. Sweet fern, you can Google it, was a miracle worker for me. After that I would get a slight, very slight rash between my fingers, that cleared up 2 day later, if I messed with poison ivy. Now I am not bothered with with it at all. What a miserable mess I was, and sweet fern was my hero.

  8. Judy Ann Howell says

    I have a friend whose cat is always getting into poison ivy and while she forgets that sometimes, she has already held him., and she gets it very bad.
    Mugwort grows next to poison ivy and she collects the leaves, boils them and uses it on the poison ivy/oak,, she says it works good, and better if you catch it right away.
    I was told that the antidote to any poisoned plant can be found growing next to it.

    • Debra Maslowski says

      Funny you should say that, Judy Ann, I just started using mugwort! It seems I have a lot in my back yard and there is a lot that has naturalized around here, so I can find it nearly anywhere. I use that in my poison ivy remedy too.

  9. ROSIE says

    I USED JEWELWEED ON A FRIEND WHO DOES TREE WORK AND GOT POISON IVY BAD… HIS EYES SWELLED UP FACE ARMS LEGS. I HEARD ABOUT JEWELWEED WHEN I WORKED AT A HEALTH FOOD STORE. HE WOULDN’S GO TO THE DOCTOR AND I WAS WORRIED. I GOT SOME JEWELWEED AND APPLIED IT ALL OVER THE IVY, AND CLEARED IT UP.
    ANOTHER FRIEND HAD A FRIEND THAT HAD NO HELP FROM THE DOCTOR CLEARING HERS UP SO I TOLD CYNDI TELL HER TO GET JEWELWEED AND SHE DID. NEEDLESS TO SAY HER FACE HEALED AND HER BODY, AND SHE WAS SO GRATEFUL BECAUSE SHE HAD CRIED OVER NOTHING WORKING FOR HER. I HAVE USED IT AND THE SOAP ALSO, IT IS A GIFT FROM THE HEAVENLY FATHER! TY

  10. Rob says

    I am EXTREMELY allergic to poison ivy type plants. I used to get it badly just being outside and not touching the plant. Several years ago, I read about a wonder cure…rubbing the inside of a banana peel on the affected area. My poison rash healed up overnight. I used it several times the next few summers and so far this year have not gotten any poison rash. But as good as it works on me, my sister says it did not work on her. So I’m not sure what the differences were. My sister does not usually follow thru on things very well so maybe that was it, OR maybe it depends on your own blood make-up or something. I don’t know but I use it every time I break out and it always seems to do a great job.

    • Debra Maslowski says

      I’m not sure of the exact compound that may be working in the banana peel, Rob, but it may be the malic acid. I’ll have to do some research on it. Thanks for the tip!

      • Shirley says

        Read old mountain man claimed green peel of the banana works. Ripe ones don’t.

  11. Donna says

    I make my own rosemary soap. I wash with it when I have been exposed or think I have been exposed. I also take a detox bath and then use a mixture of lavender, tea tree and peppermint oils for healing and to stop the itch. Usually dries up the poison ivy and never itches.

  12. Sue Smith says

    My son ‘s rash was once so bad the welts were weeping down his legs non stop. I looked online and found an easy recipe for making a tea with white yarrow. Once cooled we soaked clean clothes in the tea and applied them to his legs and sat for about 15 minutes. It really helped soothe his legs and seemed to dry the rash out.

    • Debra Maslowski says

      Yarrow is one of the herbs I use in my poison ivy remedy, Sue. I can’t remember if I mentioned it above. It’s astringent, so helps with skin related problems. And the white grows wild around here!

  13. Marcie says

    My go-to thing for poison ivy is Jewelweed – it’s amazing! I seem to get poison ivy worse and worse every time I get it, and I’ve been amazed at how wonderful jewelweed is with it’s natural anti-itch and cortisone-type properties. Look it up online then go find some – it likes shady moist spots. It’s incredible!

  14. Becca says

    Sounds like a good excuse to go to the beach and soothe with salt water! I also agree with tea tree oil. It’s great for bug bites too.

  15. Amanda says

    I am sad that there wasn’t anything about homeopathic remedies in this. I used http://www.hylands.com/products/hylands-poison-ivy-oak-tablets. I had been exposed to poison oak during the winter, heating with our wood stove. I touched it and was exposed to the smoke. I was 2.5 weeks into the torture when I found this homeopathic remedy at our health food store. I ended up going through 2 bottles, but it was worth it. It is #1 for me on relief and healing. I have tried a lot of the other natural remedies and they do help a bit, but nothing like this. PLUS I am able to walk through poison ivy barefooted and not get it now 🙂

  16. Jen Larson says

    I’ve never had poison ivy but I read that briskly rubbing burdock or plantain leaves on the site for a few minutes brings relief. I’ve used both of these for insect bites/stings and nettle stings on myself and my kids with great results.

  17. Marie says

    As soon as I realized I touched it I got out my lotion of thieves oil and aloe vera. It was all I had. I never got any irritations.

  18. DeeDee says

    Fels Naptha soap but homemade lye soap even better to wash oil off. Also, kaopectate applied with cotton ball like calamine lotion good to dry up blisters.

    • Betty says

      Yes, I know Fels-Naptha soap will dry up poison ivy. Just wet the soap and rub on the break out and let it dry. Do several times a day and soon it will be gone.