By Becky Rupert, ND, CNC, CCH from Ohio
As with any medication, do your homework and ask around for other opinions before embarking on a medication course you are not familiar with.—Ed
Whenever we go out to cut up wood, my husband (like many others) has to deal with poison ivy. Now, luckily we have homeopathy to care for the itchy rash. We find that he can use a home remedy for poison ivy before we go out, or if he forgets, it can be quickly dispatched by the proper remedy after the fact. Thankfully, I am not allergic to the plant, it seems that most of the ladies in the family are immune, but the guys suffer horribly!
I’ve been using homeopathy and home remedies for poison ivy for years with great success, and I hope you find them useful as well. This information is just as good for poison oak and sumac as it is for poison ivy. The offending substance in the plant is called urushiol, one of the most common methods of contact is direct contact, but did you know that there are other methods as well? The oil from the plant finds its way onto clothing when you walk through it, but it also gets on your pets, too! Animals are immune to urushiol, so guess what happens when you pet your dog or cat!
It would take much space to teach you how to identify all of these plants, as they come in many shapes and sizes. Poison ivy plants are not just the three-leaf variety, but can be found in five or even seven leaves as well. There are varieties that climb the trees like a vine with tiny hairs that cling to the bark, or it can look like a shrub. Sometimes they are shiny, sometimes not. The best place to get an education on these plants is your local park system, field guide, or even online. It’s especially important to teach children how to identify these plants, and other poisonous plants as well, and to never eat anything that grows outside.
The rash can take from a few hours to days to show up, but the first sign is usually burning and itching, which is followed by a red rash with swelling, more intense itching, and then blisters that ooze a light-colored fluid followed by crusting. Scratching (almost impossible to resist, especially for kids), usually spreads the infection further, and often the rash can be seen in a line where the person scratched.
If you suspect that you have contacted poison ivy, the most important thing is to try to remove the oil as quickly as possible. Remove clothing and shoes within 10 minutes and throw them in the washing machine in hot water. Shower in hot water and use a soap such as Doc Bronner’s castile soap, or another soap designed to remove the oil. You might also consider learning how to make castile soap for your homestead so you have it on hand. Keep in mind that if you don’t remove the oil from objects or clothing, it may keep reinfecting you! Many people rub themselves down with jewelweed as a home remedy for poison ivy.
If you do end up with the rash, here are some common remedies usually found in health food stores that should do the trick. Note that if you have an extreme case, or you have much redness, swelling, or fever, or the rash is near the mouth, eyes, or genitals, seek medical care. If you have burned wood with poison ivy on it, or have tried to burn out a patch of the poison ivy (definitely not recommended!), you may have the substance in your lungs, and it’s very important to seek medical help—most likely the local emergency room!
In using homeopathy for acute problems, it’s important to remember this:
• It doesn’t matter how many pellets you use as more pellets doesn’t mean a stronger dose.
• It is important to take the remedy only as you need them.
Here are the guidelines for taking the remedies:
Use a 30C potency. These are the most common, but if you can only find a 12C, 12X, or 30X, then you may use that, but you may have to use it more frequently.
Take the remedy as needed only (for itching or pain). If you take a dose, and you get better, then only take the next dose when you feel the problem recur. If that is in two days, or10 minutes, then that’s fine. This is not like taking an aspirin every four hours. Dosing is individual!
If you are unsure of any response, try taking the remedy three times a day for two days.
If you are not better, you have chosen the incorrect remedy, and need to select again, or consult a professional.
Keep in mind that sometimes you may experience a temporary aggravation of your itching, but this is a good sign, and should resolve quickly and you should get much benefit after the aggravation is gone This can be a good sign that you chose the proper remedy.
Look at the remedies listed, and choose the one that fits your description the best. If you would like to keep a remedy on hand, just in case, the best two to have are sulph, and rhus-t. Rhus-t is also used as a preventative, sometimes taken about once a week if you are out in poison ivy often.
Here are the four most common poison ivy remedies:
The person who needs rhus-t has itching that makes them restless. The pain or itching just makes them unable to sit still. There are prickling, tingling tiny blisters which are scratched until raw. Use this one when you are not sure which remedy to use. The itching seems to be relieved with very hot bathing—the person only feels better when there is hot water touching the skin.
The person who needs this remedy often has a dusky red rash that is intensely itchy. Just like rhus-t, the person tends to scratch the skin raw and bloody. The rash is often found in the folds of skin, face, or palms, but if the location isn’t exact, it doesn’t matter. The thing that makes the person feel really itchy is at night when they get hot in bed, or perspire. They are benefitted from icy applications, or uncovering the area to keep it cool. Cool air also is helpful. Here are some additional home remedies for rashes.
This is a common remedy for bee stings, but it is also used for poison ivy. What the person who needs apis notices is increased swelling and heat of the skin. There is a burning but also a stinging sensation, and they feel better with cold applications and ice. They are worse with heat, but the differentiating factor here is the burning and stinging. It will feel almost like a bee sting. Here are some additional home remedies for bug bites and stings.
This remedy is a little more difficult to find locally. I love this remedy for mosquito bites. If I happen to get a bite, I take this remedy and the itching, and the welt is gone with in 15 minutes! The person who needs this remedy has intolerable itching which is improved by gentle rubbing, and cool bathing. The skin is usually thickened with a yellow fluid exuding from the sores, and the skin feels tight to the person The things that make this rash feel worse are night time, touch and washing in general. If you have thickened skin, aren’t content to rub, and your eruption is in skin folds, then you probably need a similar remedy, called graphites (graph).
Becky Rupert, ND, CNC, CCH is a naturopath and homeopath with her own practice in West Salem, Ohio. She uses homeopathy for her family and her pets, and provides healthy alternatives for people nationwide.
We hope these homeopathic home remedies for poison ivy ensure you have a speedy recovery when you encounter poison ivy on your homestead or out exploring the wilderness.
Originally published in Countryside January / February 2005 and regularly vetted for accuracy.