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Poison Ivy

Deciduous vine that grows in sun or shade and spreads easily underground. Has red berries and red fall color. Do not allow to flower and produce seed. Remove, compost and spray new growth with vinegar based organic herbicides.

The organiphobes recommend spraying 2,4-D and other toxic herbicides, but that's a very bad idea. Toxic products contaminate the soil, the water, the air, wildlife, pets, you and me. Plus, they don't work very well. Besides being very dangerous toxic chemicals for the soil, water, air and you, it will kill your trees. The Scotts company says to spray Roundup. Roundup is dangerous and doesn't work well on poison ivy.

Poison ivy must be physically removed. Goats will eat it into oblivion for you or you can hire someone to dig it out. As it starts to grow back, the young returning growth can be sprayed with the vinegar-based herbicide. Add one ounce of d-limonene and one teaspoon liquid soap to one gallon of 10% vinegar made from grain alcohol. Good Natured Vinegar is a quality commercial product.

The skin rash from the urushiol oil in poison ivy can be treated with the juice of comfrey. When applied early on, it is quite effective. Poison oak has a more oak-like leaf but has the same properties as poison ivy.


Poison Ivy with Fall color.

Poison Ivy: "Leaves of three...let them be!"


Reader photo submitted by Dan M. Roberts


Poison Ivy vine not in bloom.  You can still get the poison rash from this non-blooming vine if you touch it when trying to remove it.

Poison Ivy Rash Solutions


Leaves of three ... leave them be"

We had an interesting show this past Sunday and related dialog on my Facebook about poison ivy rash solutions. I carelessly gave myself a case and started the conversation by offering what I had done so far and what the first web site I pulled up recommended e.g., comfrey, baking soda, vinegar, banana peels, aloe vera, tea tree oil, medicated powders, rubbing alcohol, vodka, neem, raw potatoes, oatmeal paste and cold coffee. Then you’ll see all the suggestions that came in from listeners and readers on Facebook. This newsletter will end with what techniques worked best for me.

Others Comments on Solutions for Poison Ivy Rash:

Daryl Sprout - I’m very allergic and none of the above is good enough. The magic bullet is Impatiens capensis - Jewelweed.

Candy Marshall - Use homeopathic Rhus Radicans 30C and Rescue Remedy Cream. You won't know it even happened after about 4 hours.

Cindy Meyer Belt - Tecnu. Never leave home without it!

Daniel R. Monical - Cortisone shot in the right butt cheek, cleared it up real fast

Temperance Miller - Whatever you use, run hot water over the affected area, as hot as you can tolerate for 30-90 seconds. The itch will momentarily intensify, but that is the release of histamines in the inflammation, which is what you want to accomplish. This will INSTANTLY take away the itching for 2-3 hours. After that, rinse again and reapply whatever topical you use. The heat and water help to release these histamines in the skin and increases circulation to speed healing. This is ONLY recommended AFTER the breakout occurs. When you KNOW you've been exposed, wash off in a cool/lukewarm shower, head to toe with Burt Bees PI soap, then swab down with alcohol, as that does break down any residual urshiol oils left in the skin pores.

Elyse Robleto - Bentonite Clay mixed with coconut oil to keep it moist. Also works on our bug bites.

Daryl Sprout - Wasn't familiar with Tecnu, and haven't tried banana peels (though I've heard it works) but prednisone is horrible for you, and my experience with Jewelweed is this. An apothecary that is no longer open in Arlington carried it, and a case that I could feel going systemic (as I child I was injected with obscene amounts of steroids for systemic cases, thanks doc) and the salve stopped the itching immediately, and the rash was gone in a couple days. Now if one shows up I hit it early and nothing develops. Native Americans knew about it, it grows next to poison ivy in many parts of the country and is the natural antidote, rubbing the plant on the skin is said to impart immunity if you need to crawl through the underbrush.

Josel Theurer - I used baking soda in the past and just left it alone. I am so allergic I actually got it on my face one summer when I was pregnant and on bed rest. I still don't know how it managed to get to me inside the house! I have found that you can pull it by hand and not have a reaction as long as you get to plain soap and water within the hour. I have done that without a problem. Best thing is to just get it all dug up and gone.

Sylvia Cross - Washing with Fels Naphta soap.

Laura Helfrich - I am all for home treatments; however, I tried so many things. I had it twice. The baking soda and burn sprays helped a little bit, but really nothing worked as well as Zane. It’s a scrub that stops the itch super quick. It gets in there and removes the oil quite well. I even was on steroids and every other things, then my doc got me a prescription ointment called Halobetasol. These helped keep the spots moisturized and finished off the remaining spots.

Georgia B Owen - I got a really bad case this year and did what I always do...wash a lot and put soda paste on it. Everyone threw all the remedies at me, tried them all, it worsened, and I had to get a shot. They prescribed prednisone, but I never took it. I went back to washing in cold water, then the soda. What I learned was that different remedies work on different people. I read to clean any area that might be exposed immediately with alcohol. I'm doing that and it's working.

Kelly Baker Cave - Burt’s Bee Poison Ivy Soap and Oatmeal Paste.

Mary McMahon - Oatmeal bath - Aveeno is good. Every day, soothing, and it seems to help all day.

Dan Holt - As others have said, to relieve the itching, hot water... same or better results with heat from a hair dryer.

D'Ann Smith - Any degreasing soap to remove oils from skin and clothing asap, using cool water. Jewelweed soap is an excellent one because it will both remove the oil from your skin and the jewelweed counteracts the effects. RhusTox or similar homeopathic remedy will also help; Grandpa used RhusTox pills as preventive measure for systemic response and used Clorox bleach as topical for small topical breakouts. I bought some Tecnu but didn't read the box til I got it home; it's loaded with petroleum-based stuff. I don't want to put it on my skin so I've never used it. Jewelweed remedies and soaps are readily available on the internet if not at a local health food store.

Charles Witherspoon - I always use Tecnu any time I'm around poison ivy. Yesterday I mowed poison ivy down while wearing shorts. Used Ivy Barrier (a lot of natural ingredients) on my legs and arms before and showered off with Tecnu. No reactions at all today.

Warren Sippel Jr. - Burt’s Bees poison ivy soap.

Rick Ladelle - Go-Jo hand cleaners.

Terry Claxton - Coconut oil.

Dallas Larae Greer-Silvas - Rodan & Fields Soothe lotion.

Cindy Abel - Absolutely Tecnu.

Keith Garrett - Prednisone. Fels naptha for post exposure (within a few hours), but other than that, everything I have ever tried failed to help.

Gary Kellam - Cleanse skin well and any clothing that may have come in contact. Corn starch soak or colloidal oatmeal paste will help relieve the itching. There is also a method of using heat such as from a blow dryer. Careful, use for short periods of time to avoid skin burns. Apparently the heat will exhaust the histamine stores and you're good to go for a couple of hours or more. A soak in real warm water. Corn starch mix might also be tried.

Carolyn Gonzalez - I’m immune to poison ivy, but to get rid of chiggers, paint the affected area with nail polish. It suffocates the little critters.

Molly Kathleen - Tecnu is fantastic. Running a zero turn mower I ran over poison ivy often. I had tried everything before Tecnu. Now I always keep some of that stuff on hand. Washing right after exposure, and then if you are like me and seem to love covering every exposed surface with fresh cut leaves, bathe at least once more using Tecnu.

Rebecca Novakovich Gray - I've never had it, but read that jewelweed works.

Lindy Rainer - Don't bathe...use the shower with hot water and strong soap...even something like Tide as soon as you can after you realize that you've been exposed. Be careful removing your clothes...turn them inside out as you remove them so that you do not get more contact exposure from them. Wash them in HOT water and strong soap to remove all of the oil. The sooner you get the oil off of your skin, the least likely you are to have outbreaks. Wear long pants and long sleeves when there's a chance you might run into some. "Ivy Guard" and other products used ahead of exposure do work. If you're sweating a lot, be extra careful because the Urishiol gets into your bloodstream easily when your pores are open.

Leah Jeffries - Homemade lye soap is the best.

Mindy Arledge - Jewelweed is the best remedy ever. Use it just like aloe leaves. Usually grows in the same regions as poison ivy.

Beth Tate - My son is HIGHLY allergic. Wet skin with vinegar, and then sprinkle wet skin with salt. Scrub as much as you like and rinse. Use as often as you itch. Instead of 3 weeks, it’s only about 3 days.

Jutta Preston - Baking soda helped, as well as Epsom salt. I have learned the hard way to never lose sight of my surroundings when working in the yard. The "just-wanting-to-get-the-job-done" attitude has cost me many "itchful" nights.

Rebekah Benson - Half Melaleuca, half lavender essential oil sprayed on worked the best for me.

Yvonne Streeter - Believe it or not, hot water just under the temperature to burn. You can tell the temp is right by the relief you feel. That will stop the itching for a long time. Thus there's no scratching and the rash dries up really fast. I just stick my arm (usually wrist) under the hot water and let it dry by itself. Sounds crazy, but just try it!

Cameron Holmes - Warm bath with tea tree soap from Dr Brommers and Epsom salt.

Carolyn Nicklas Johnson - Always make a lather of fels naptha soap and apply to the affected area asap and leave on a bit, then wash - you should not get a rash.

Janice Stanfield - The husk of a walnut will stop it in it tracks. Mother use to keep the husk in the freezer. It will leave a brown stain on the skin. Good luck.

Patty McKinney - I got into it a month ago. Knowing the rash was going to get super bad and spread (it was inside my arms and upper arms), I went right to my new stash of Lie Soap. I wet the area of skin, then wet the soap and rubbed it lightly to coat the affected area. The rash did breakout in other areas but was not as horrible as it usually gets for me. I used the soap two to three times a day without much itching and wanting to scratch. Also I cut the sleeves off an old long sleeve shirt and put them on as if I were wearing the shirt to cover at night to keep soap from rubbing off.

Doloras Compton - my husband uses bleach.

Amber Loyd - Fels Naptha Heavy Duty Laundry Soap is used for laundry soap, stain removal, poison ivy treatment, garden fertilizer and insect control.

Brenda Meyers Wiederkehr - My husband had it all over his legs; we poured apple cider vinegar over it and let it dry; then poured more apple cider vinegar on gauze and rubbed well. Then he soaked in bathtub with warm water and 2 cups of Epsom Salt twice a day; In 2 days it was dried up and itching stopped.

Linda Anderson - At the age of 65, I somehow got poison ivy! Three different doctors could not tell me what was wrong. While talking to my very outdoorsy cousin who had at one time worked for the Forest Service, I mentioned my oozing itchy bumps. She told me it was poison ivy and to spray it with Benadryl. It immediately cleared up.

Jocelyn C S Allen - Zanfel. It dries the rash after a couple of cleansings. Expensive, but worth it.

Jenni Allen - My son watched an episode of Myth Busters that vodka was tried. They found when applied to the infected areas, the vodka pulled the oils out and dried it up.

Christine Stewart - We spray the area with Propolis Spray from Honey Gardens and then use the Comfrey Salve from For My Kids. We apply several times throughout the day. The blisters that are already there go away quickly.

Mickey Kleinhenz - Impatiens capensis is all over here in Missouri. Works great.

Toni Nagel-Smith - We put New Skin on it...shuts out it so bad I had to miss work I guess about a month ago the maintenance man was cutting it down and I walk right in the middle of it not realizing what I had done. I broke out with it in my nose and mouth and all over my feet. I used an oatmeal bath.

Andy Alexander - Heard that goat’s milk soap with tea tree oil in it is supposed to help all kinds of skin rashes.

Rob Elmore - I am highly allergic and use Zanfel. It works very well.

Mike Bedell - Tecnu is the real deal. We use it out in the field on a daily basis as a preventative, and unfortunately, sometimes as a curative. Feel better soon!

Ruann Hamilton Ring - I'm terribly allergic. I always took the hottest bath I could stand before bed. It made it so I could sleep a few hours without itching. I stayed away from anything that dried the skin. It made the itch worse. I used moisturizer instead because it seemed the oozing dried out my skin. It helped. I make a salve of coconut oil and comfrey and rub it on. Nothing else on the market worked for me and these three things were lifesavers.

Karen Green Holmes - I use the blow dryer. It itches it without scratching, relieves the itch for about 8 hours, and helps dry it up. Use caution not to burn yourself, but I do use the high heat, just keep it a respectable distance from the skin. Works on chiggers too, but not as thoroughly, I am sad to say.

Jill Gregg-Eder - Zanfel. Not sure if it's organic or not, but it works better than anything I've ever tried and I have had numerous rounds with it.

Lois C. Kuykendall - Tecnu is great. But once you have poison ivy, soaking in Epsom salt with water really works great!

Adam Moore - There's a plant in northern California called soap plant I believe. The root looks like a medium small brown husk of corn. We would put it in a sock and crush it with a hammer - then bring the whole sock in the shower and scrub everywhere with it. You can even put it in the laundry if your clothes have oils. You probably have to ask a local to help you find one but if you do you might be able to grow them.

Debby Burgett - Wash in regular blue Dawn dish soap after you have been outside. Apply Doterra pure lavender oil on any spots that itch. Count to 30 and the itching is gone. Reapply every few hours as needed. These methods have worked wonders for me after trying everything else!

Bickie Box - Clear Calamine lotion....the best for so many things.

Cheryl Hayes - Hot water relieves the itching tremendously, or at least it did for me.

Monica Bortolotti Swift - Plantain leaf, which is in your yard, chew it up to mush, then apply it on your rash. It worked for my son who had poison ivy. It also works great for any insect bite that causes itching; you can also make a tincture out of it so you always have it on hand! Just gather a bunch of plantain, put it in a mason jar and cover with vodka. I use organic vodka, let steep for a few weeks, strain out the plantain and use it for rashes and itching.

David Lucas - poison ivy extract Ivy Dry, don't use too much or you will burn your skin.

Judy Lindley - I am terribly allergic and live where is grows prolifically. I keep Tecnu and anytime I think I even remotely might have come in contact with it I use it to wash. It is the first thing I have ever found that absolutely works every time.

Purpose Kasoff - My friend has a ranch and is very sensitive to PI. They use the jewelweed soap and swear by it.

Here are some of the recommendations that came in during the radio show:

Applying calamine lotion and then drying it with a hair blow dryer.

Maalox taken internally and applied topically.

Coconut oil applied to the rash to dilute the toxic oil from the poison ivy. This suggestion came from Maria Atwood.

So - what’s the best solution in my case? First of all, I think the steroids and other harsh chemicals do more harm than good. The rest of the suggestions all seem to have some merit. The approach that I used and worked well, because the rash is basically gone after 3 days, is coconut oil. I take it internally daily anyway, but also applied it topically to the rash spots. I did use baking soda paste and vinegar the first day before hearing Maria’s suggestion. I also took a Benadryl tablet the first night since the rash was breaking out all over me. Although it probably helped, I don’t know if I would do that again.

The main point to leave with you is that you shouldn’t be foolish, as I was, and work around poison ivy (or poison oak) without protective clothing, but if you get poison ivy, then immediately shower with one of the recommended soaps mentioned above.

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