My son was furiously scratching the skin from his arm. I examined his arm to discover the itchy culprit. What was it going to be this time- mosquito bite? Gnat bites? Fire ant bites? Measles? Nope, he had brushed up against poison ivy. We've tried different remedies for poison ivy but unfortunately, none have seemed to be too effective for itch relief. But, I have found a new weapon in my anti-itch arsenal for poison ivy relief- the pretty Jewelweed plant.
This plant is an annual that grows by stream sides or in damp, shady meadows. It blooms from July to September. The common name of Jewelweed seems to indicate the earring appearance of the blossom that dangles loosely from the stem like an earring from an ear.
The Jewelweed has other interesting common names as well: Touch-Me-Not, Lady's Slipper, Snappers, Lady's Eardrops, and Snapweed.
The common names of Touch-Me-Not, Snappers, and Snapweed all describe the peculiar actions of the plant's seedpods- when the seedpods are disturbed- they burst open and spew their seeds up to six feet or maybe greater. To see just how light a touch it takes and to see how fast these seed pods explode- I made a video of the seed pods "popping" and posted them to You Tube. (Note- for whatever reason, YouTube currently does not allow for embedding videos in high quality- so the following embedded video is low quality. To see the high quality video visit here.)
But, as I mentioned earlier- there is more to this plant than just being a parlor trick for kids playing with the snapping seed pods. It is also a very important food source for hummingbirds. (As if to confirm the point, a hummingbird flew into the picture just as I was snapping a photo of a Jewelweed blossom.)
Many books from the early 1900's mentioned the efficacy of rubbing the fresh leaves of the plant onto the poison ivy affected areas of the skin.
Here is an excerpt from the book Medical World, published in 1913:
The Medical World
In the delightful book Southern Wildflowers by Laura C. Martin, she describes how her aunt had taught her how to extract and preserve the juice from the Jewelweed plant for poison ivy relief. Simply add the leaves and flowers into a pot, cover with water, and then heat to a simmer and then cook for 30 minutes.
Pour the resulting orange liquid into a bottle and freeze for future use. So, of course, I had to try this- the resulting liquid was indeed orange- sort of an Orange Fanta color. Unfortunately (or perhaps, fortunately) no one around here has gotten into poison ivy- so I can't give a first hand account of the effectiveness of the juice.
It isn't always handy to go looking for a plant when you need it, so perhaps thankfully, the Jewelweed juice is available as a commercial product at Herbalremedies.com.