Natural and DIY Recipes for Gardeners with Poison Ivy
Poison ivy. If you’re like me, those two words fill you with dread.
As gardeners, it’s almost inevitable that we’ll get exposed to poison ivy at some point in our gardening careers, and if you’re like 85% of us, you’ll have a reaction.
Itching, redness, pain, did I mention ITCHING? UGH! So, what’s an itchy, annoyed gardener to do?
HINT: Apple cider vinegar works and baking soda doesn’t, at least for me. Read on for more……
I’m not a medical professional. If you’re having extreme itching, pain, redness or fever, or your rash is close to your eyes or *shudder* in your mouth or other <<ahem>> sensitive areas of your body, see a doctor. You may need medication like prednisone to help you deal with the infection.
If your young child has more than just a tiny bit of it, I would also suggest medical intervention, just because kids are prone to scratching (although aren’t we all?) and could easily end up with a secondary skin infection.
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What to Do AS SOON as You’re Exposed
The second you realize you’ve gotten into poison ivy, get yourself inside and clean the affected areas with rubbing alcohol. In fact, if you’re in an area you know is infested, why not carry some alcohol wipes with you? Since you need to get the oils off your skin within 10 minutes, carrying the wipes is helpful.
Once you use the wipes, you should also clean your skin with soap and water. You can buy special poison ivy soap, but any soap will do. I use dish soap because it’s specially designed to remove grease from dishes, so I figure, grease and oil are similar, and the urushiol that makes poison ivy itchy is an oil, so maybe it’s a bit more effective. No scientific evidence of this, but….
Speaking of scientific evidence….
What NOT to do when You’re Exposed to Poison Ivy
You may have heard that jewelweed can keep you from getting poison ivy if you’ve been exposed. The story goes that you’re supposed to crush the plant up and rub it on your skin either before exposure (if you know there’s poison around) or right after, and it will prevent infection.
I hate to burst your bubble, but it doesn’t work. There’s actually a peer-reviewed, scientific study to prove it. Here you go.
The thought of letting anyone infect me with poison ivy on purpose…..I hope they paid them well!
So, what does work?
Natural and Homemade Poison Ivy Remedies
Apple Cider Vinegar ~ My Favorite
Since I currently have poison ivy, I decided to test a couple of these remedies for effectiveness.
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is my hands-down favorite. You need to be aware that ACV can irritate your skin, although I have very sensitive skin and haven’t had a problem. Testing on a small area first is recommended, particularly if you’re very sensitive.
You can either dilute it before applying or apply it straight. I did it straight because I was VERY itchy. Just take a cotton ball, put some ACV on it and blot it on the itchy spots.
When I did it, it took the itch away IMMEDIATELY, and kept it away for several hours. ACV also has antifungal and antibacterial properties, so it should help keep any secondary skin infections at bay as well.
NOTE: If you’ve been scratching and your skin has any open areas, the ACV will find them! Hoo boy, will it find them! Just be aware (although the burn helps take away the itch too, so…..)
Wondercide Skin Tonic Spray
This stuff is seriously magic! If you find that the ACV doesn’t work for you, or it irritates your skin, get this spray. In fact, get the spray anyway, because it’s great for any skin irritations and itches. And, another really cool thing, it’s safe for both people and pets.
It contains organic neem, cedar, lavender and lemongrass oils.
NOTE: The spray has a strong scent, so I personally wouldn’t use it in a public place, but once it’s on and has dried, the scent is faint, although discernible. It’s not unpleasant, just strong when first applied.
I love this company (and no, I’m not affiliated with the company itself in any way, although the above link is an Amazon affiliate link ). They have all-natural mosquito repellent sprays that actually work, and a flea and tick spray for dogs that works really well to repel fleas. When I used it, I have to say my dog still had ticks, but not a flea in sight.
Aloe Vera Gel (or fresh juices from a plant)
I broke a leaf off of one of my plants and applied it to an itching lesion. It stopped itching immediately, and the itch has been gone for several hours now, so I’ll count that as a win.
Aloe vera is so soothing that it definitely feels good on irritated skin, so even if it doesn’t keep the itch at bay for very long for you, I would definitely recommend using it in conjunction with one of the other remedies.
Now, on to the remedies that either didn’t work for me or that I haven’t tried (yet!). Keep in mind that everyone is different and what works for me might not work for you, and vice versa.
If ACV, aloe or the Wondercide spray haven’t worked (or you don’t have them handy), give one of the following a try….
Baking Soda Paste
Mix baking soda and water to a ratio of about 3:1 and apply to the itchy areas.
I tried this and it did nothing. In fact, when I realized it wasn’t working and washed it off, the abrasive nature of the baking soda irritated my lesions so they turned bright red and they itched even more!
This is one remedy I would NOT recommend, at least for those with sensitive skin.
I haven’t tried any of the following, but have read about them and offer them to you to try at your own risk (Don’t worry, they’re not risky, you just might not get relief).
Add 1 cup of oatmeal to your bath water.
Two tips: 1. Run the oatmeal through a blender or food processor to make a powder that will dissolve easily in the water. 2. DON’T run a HOT bath. Hot water is irritating to your skin and will make the itches worse. Make it lukewarm to cool (depending on your comfort level). You’ll be happy you did.
Peel a banana and rub the inside of the peel over the rash. Let it dry right on the skin.
Hey, even if it doesn’t work, at least you get to eat the banana.
Turmeric Powder + Lemon/Lime Juice
Make a paste with 1 Tbsp of turmeric powder (if you have capsules like I do, you can open one and use that) and a little bit of lemon or lime juice. The acid in the juice combined with the anti-inflammatory properties of the turmeric are said to be effective.
Mash a potato into a paste and apply it to the rash, then wrap plastic wrap around the area.
This one seems a bit unwieldy and annoying, but if you do it, let me know how it goes!
Although jewelweed has been proven not to work to prevent infection, there are those who swear by using it for the itching from a rash that’s already present. Just chop or crush the plant and apply it directly to the itchy areas.
Vitamin C and Pantothenic Acid
Supposedly, taking oral Vitamin C (and presumably eating foods high in Vitamin C) will help a poison ivy infection. This article takes a fascinating, in-depth look at taking Vitamin C and pantothenic acid orally for poison ivy (and includes the author’s personal experience).
As I read her article, where she discussed using Vitamin C and pantothenic acid for their anti-inflammatory properties, it occurred to me that taking turmeric orally may do the same (or similar) thing. Turmeric is strongly anti-inflammatory (as I can attest from previous experience). Hmmm….off to take a turmeric capsule. I’ll let you know how it goes in an update.
NOTE: Turmeric is not recommended if you have certain medical conditions or take certain medications, as it is a blood thinner. Please consult your doctor before taking oral turmeric.
If you’re really miserable, particularly for the first few days, Benadryl taken orally (follow the label directions!) is helpful to relieve the itch and let you get some sleep. I usually use one pill a night for the first 3-4 nights after I get the rash.
You can also try hydrocortisone cream or calamine lotion. I’ve found calamine helpful in the past, but it’s very drying, so be sure to wash it off (gently) every now and again to give your skin a break.
TIP: I’ve discovered from my reading that applying Benadryl (diphenhydramine) cream to the rash will not help with the itch. In fact, it can make it worse. It doesn’t make my itch worse, but it doesn’t do anything for it either. No idea why, but it’s true.
A couple of final notes:
- Scratching won’t make the poison ivy spread, on you or to someone else. However, you could end up with a secondary skin infection. The only way you can give someone else poison ivy is if you’ve still got the original oils on your skin (before you wash it off), so if you got into some in the garden, don’t touch anyone until you wash, just to be sure.
- The urushiol oil that gives poison ivy its itch can last on clothing and tools for years. Yes, YEARS! This means that you MUST wash clothing and disinfect any tools that have come in contact with the oil. I’ve gotten poison ivy from my hubby’s clothes in the past. Now, when he weed whacks where there’s poison, he immediately comes in and puts his own clothes into the washing machine so I don’t touch them. Regular washing with detergent then takes care of the oils.
- You might find the rash spreading to places you KNOW weren’t exposed. When this happened to me, I assumed I had spread it by scratching and I asked the doctor. He said that, if you’re particularly sensitive and you get enough of a rash, the rash will go systemic, meaning that it spreads via your bloodstream to anywhere on your body. Yup, lovely, huh? It doesn’t always happen to me, but if I get enough of a rash, it does. The systemic infection lasts about 6 weeks until everything clears up.
I hope today’s post has been helpful. Please let me know in the comments if you’ve tried any of these remedies and how they worked for you.
I’ve included a couple of pinnable images below, please pin to your Natural Home Remedies or a similar board for future reference.
As always, smile and have a crazy organic day!