Jewelweed is a very potent remedy for poison ivy rash. But what if it’s out of season? Here are a few ways to preserve jewelweed for use all year round.
If you’ve ever had poison ivy, you know that Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is one of the most potent remedies to use for poison ivy rash. Evidence suggests that applying jewelweed to the skin before encountering poison ivy, that the urushiol, the oil that causes the rash, won’t be able to penetrate the skin, so it can be washed off very easily. Jewelweed is a tropical plant and dies as soon as the first frost hits. So what do you do in the winter?
It’s best to use Jewelweed fresh, however, there are several ways to preserve it. You can only find it fresh during the warmer months of the year. It is best harvested in early summer because later in the summer the leaves tend to dry out more and the stems are knotty and fibrous. Does that mean you can’t use them? No, you still can, but it’s harder to extract the components that make it work.
Jewelweed can be used fresh, right off the plant. Or it can be made into a tincture, at about 40% alcohol. I have a blend that I make (“my secret potion!”) that I tincture for six weeks, then cut it with distilled water. Add equal parts of water, making it a 20% alcohol blend.
I also chop fresh jewelweed and make soap with it. The combination of the soap itself and the jewelweed is enough to keep poison ivy rash from spreading.
Using jewelweed fresh is the best way to go, but what if it’s winter? Or what if you live in the desert or another place where it doesn’t grow? Here are a few ways that you can preserve it to use later in the season.
Preserve Jewelweed by Freezing
Fresh jewelweed can be frozen and used like fresh. I’ve had no problem with bringing it up to room temperature. It gets limp, but it also does shortly after being picked so it’s no big deal. You can freeze it whole, or chopped. I put mine in ziptop bags and squeeze all the air out, then I freeze them flat. Doing it this way takes up less space and allows me to have several bags on hand at all times.
Freezing In Cubes
You can also run the jewelweed through a blender or food processor and freeze it in cubes. Then remove the cubes and store in an airtight container. Jewelweed will keep for many months like this. It may be more watery when you thaw it out, but you can strain it if it has too much liquid.
Preserve Jewelweed In Glycerin
Last fall I chopped a bunch of jewelweed and may a glycerite from it. This is basically the same as making a tincture, but you use liquid vegetable glycerin instead of alcohol. It does turn browner, but the quality is near the same as fresh. Let it drain a bit before adding the glycerite.
I’ve found that you can preserve jewelweed for a few weeks by placing it in the refrigerator. You can either leave the roots on and place it on a towel, dampen it a bit, and roll it up. Or you can cut the ends off and stick them into a jar with some water. Change the water every other day. With both methods, it will keep for a few weeks.
Preserve Jewelweed by Drying
This is my least favorite method as it seems that the active constituent is greatly reduced. But if this is your only option, drying jewelweed may be your best choice. Be sure it is thoroughly dry with no rubbery parts. Store in an airtight container.
Now you don’t need to be limited to the summer months to continue with your jewelweed options.
Have you found a unique way to extend the season? Tell us about it!
- Abrams Motz V. The effectiveness of jewelweed … in preventing post poison ivy exposure contact dermatitis. Pubmed. Aug 2012.