jewelweed

We all know summertime can come with certain…bothers. Mosquitoes. Bee stings. Sunburn. They’re just a part of taking part in the great outdoors. Whether you go camping, head to the lake or just take a walk, you could accidentally brush up against that bother of all summer bothers: poison ivy.

When poison ivy comes into contact with your skin, this sneaky plant can give you a red, blistery and awfully itchy rash. Caused by an oily resin called urushiol found on the plants’ leaves, poison ivy can leave you itchin’ and scratchin’ for weeks. Luckily, it will clear up with time. You’ll just have to test your willpower for a while to keep from scratching your skin raw.

The other downer? You can’t exactly rock a sun-kissed beach bod with a red, blistery rash on your leg. And, who wants to frolic in the sun when you can’t stop scratching anyway? Calamine lotion and other salves and balms will ease the itch, but Mother Nature can provide you with one even better. Get instant relief and clear up a rash faster with the only poison ivy treatment you’ll ever need: jewelweed.

A jewel of a weed

This handy little plant has long been known as a folk remedy for poison ivy. Native Americans used it to treat and prevent skin irritations caused by poison ivy. Some even drank a tea made from jewelweed in late August because they believed it would protect them from poison ivy the following year. (But ingesting jewelweed isn’t recommended.)

Jewelweed is even said to prevent an outbreak of a rash caused by poison ivy if applied to the affected area quickly. This natural remedy also treats poison oak, bee stings, wasp stings, mosquito bites and other minor skin irritations.

How to use it

The simplest, most effective way to use jewelweed to treat a poison ivy rash is to pick a bunch, crush its leaves and stem and then rub the juices directly on the affected area. Of course, in order to do this, you’ll need to know what jewelweed looks like. It isn’t a plant most of us can point out through common knowledge.

You can spot jewelweed by its oval, serrated leaves and its distinctive trumpet-shaped flowers. These yellowish-orange flowers hang slightly from the plant, like a jewel from a necklace. Jewelweed’s leaves are also water resistant, so dew often accumulates on them.

Jewelweed likes wet conditions. You can often find it near pools of water or streams. The plant tends to grow in the same wooded areas as poison ivy. Its said that where poison ivy grows, you’ll also find jewelweed. This folktale isn’t always true, however, because poison ivy can handle drier conditions and direct sunlight, unlike jewelweed.

The chemicals in jewelweed that work against uruishol lose their potency quickly after picking the plant. If your skin seems to be drawn to poison ivy like a magnet every summer, consider stocking up on jewelweed. Preserve it by making a tea and then freezing the mixture. Simply boil a bunch of chopped jewelweed in water and then freeze the liquid in an ice cube tray. Then, all you need to do the next time you meet Mr. Poison Ivy, is whip out a cube from the freezer for instant relief.

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image: lhalstead