Ask Kitty Magoo: Natural Poison Ivy Remedies

Dear Kitty,

It seems like I stumble into a patch of poison ivy every year. Can I treat the itch naturally?

Signed, Itchy in Iola

Dear Itchy,

For those of us who spend lots of time outdoors during the summer months, poison ivy is definitely near the top of the “This sucks!” list. Obviously, avoiding the plant (identified by its distinctive three-leaf clusters) is ideal, but it’s good to be prepared just in case. Thankfully, there are some natural poison ivy remedies.

When your skin comes in contact with poison ivy, a rash characterized by inflamed and intensely itchy red patches usually appears within 12-48 hours. The rash begins with red lines or streaks and develops into blisters or bumps that in time break into open, pus-oozing sores. Gross!

To treat exposed skin, immediately wash contact area with soap and water. Once the rash sets in, you have a number of options for treating symptoms. Try applying a poultice, with fresh herbs if possible, of crushed mugwort, plaintain, and comfrey root. A paste made from freshly crushed jewelweed leaves can also be very helpful; poison ivy and jewelweed usually grow close together, so you should be able to find some quickly.

If you don’t know your jewelweed from your ragweed and don’t have access to dried herbs, try swabbing the skin with tea tree oil to help alleviate itching and dry up the rash. Salves containing chickweed are also excellent itch-relievers. Only areas of the skin exposed to the plant will develop a rash, so scratching doesn’t cause the rash to spread. (It can, however, lead to infection and should thus be avoided.)

It’s very important to know that if exposure to poison ivy causes you to break out in a rash and begin to swell in 4-12 hours instead of the normal 24-48, you may be having a severe allergic reaction to poison ivy. This is a true medical emergency and you should get to a hospital ASAP.


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