Natural Solutions for Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy
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Dear Annie, my friend’s son got into poison ivy.  He did get steroid cream and is still having a hard time controlling the itch.  Is there anything that could help?

About Poison Ivy:

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac share the genus Toxicodendron and are members of the Sumac or Cashew family (Anacardiaceae).  Not surprisingly the botanical name for this group of plants means “Poison Tree.” Toxico means poison or toxic and dendron means tree. 

Poison Ivy
Image by JamesDeMers from Pixabay

Anyone who has had personal experience with these plants understands the terrible lingering, itchy rash that accompanies direct contact.  The rash is an allergic reaction to an oily resin called urushiol (u-ROO-she-ol) in the leaves, stems and roots of poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.  Contact with the oil urushiol to the skin or mucous membranes cause the reaction and come from 3 common sources;

  1. Direct touch. Touching the leaves, stem, roots or berries of the plant.  (The oil is even present in the winter when the plant is dormant.)
  2. Touching contaminated objects. If you walk through some poison ivy and then later touch your shoes, you may get some urushiol on your hands.  Then you may then transfer the oil to your face or body by touching or rubbing.  Pet fur can become contaminated with urushiol which can be transferred to hands or objects in the home. 
  3. Inhaling smoke from the burning plants. The smoke from burning poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac contains urushiol and can irritate or harm your nasal passages or lungs.
Poison Ivy rash
From Webmd

The easiest way to prevent exposure is by wearing clothes that cover legs, arms, hands and feet when hiking or gardening when these plants are present.  Then, immediately remove and launder all exposed items.  I always rinse with a wash of baking soda and water after hiking and foraging, especially when any kind of itch is present (this works for chiggers too.) A simple wash with soap and water is often enough and will remove the offending oil. 

Still as careful as we are, exposure sometimes results in allergic dermatitis. It comes on about 12 to 48 hours after exposure.  We get an itchy rash with puss filled blisters that can last up to three weeks.

Natural Solutions: Here are some natural things you can do:

The herbs that seem to work best for the rash and itch of Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac are Plantain, Grindelia, Feverfew, and Kava Kava.

  • Plantain (Plantago major) helps to heal the rash.  It also helps cool and sooth the itch. Plantain is a mild astringent, anti-inflammatory and anti-infective.  That means that is protects, heals and sooths the skin.  It helps relieve swelling, and redness.  It also helps to dry any puss. and prevent or heal infection.  Plantain works well on all sorts of poisons and bites.
  • Grindelia (Grindelia spp).  Grindelia and/or Calendula flowers will help heal and soothe skin conditions, like contact dermatitis and Poison Ivy.  Grindelia is a wound healer and tissue restorative that is specifically indicated in cases of Poison Ivy.
  • Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) is an excellent herb to use for any allergic reaction (in this case allergic dermatitis.) It is anti-inflammatory and analgesic to reduce swelling, itch and other uncomfortable reactions. Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) and White Willow (Salix alba) contain salicylic acids that can be used as soothing herbs to help to with the itching.
  • Kava Kava (Piper methysticum) may help control the symptoms by reducing sensation, slightly numbing or desensitizing the area.

The herbs above can be made into an infusion and added to a cool bath. (To learn all about infusions click here for FAQ and here for our Free introductory class about infusions). The herbs can be used as a wash, poultice or compress. Below is a recipe given by my teacher Katia Lemone in her class formulary. 

Poison Ivy/Oak/Sumac Remedy (submitted by Nikki Hess)

Indications:  Poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac. It also works well on fire ant bites.

 1/4 cup plantain                         
 1/4 Cup Grindelia flowers                        
 2 Cups Apple Cider Vinegar          
 *Optional Additions could be 1/4 cup Kava and 1/4 Cup Feverfew 
Instructions:  Infuse herbs into vinegar for 4-6 weeks (but if your in a hurry it works amazingly well after only 24 hours).  Strain herb. Application: Use a cotton swab or gauze pad to apply to affected areas on the skin.  Apply 3 or 4 times in the first 24 hours.  It will dry up the rash in about 24 hours.  continue to apply 2x per day for a week or so.   

Herbal Formulas may be purchased at Wonderment Gardens LLC. I am always happy to personally make what you need.  If you’d like to purchase poison ivy relief (or any other herbal formula) from Wonderment Gardens please click here.

Product Suggestions

Below are a few good products and herbal links from other sources.

I am an affiliate marketer with Amazon and some other companies. If there is a link please assume I am an affiliate. That means, if you purchase a product through one of the links I make a commission at no additional cost to you. Rest assured I will only suggest products I feel confident about. Thank you for your support.
Herbs Etc Itch Releaf

Other Suggestions

Oatmeal helps to soothe irritated skin and may help to dry and relieve the symptoms of the urushiol rash. 

  • Make thick oatmeal, let it cool and place the mash over the affected area.  You can add powdered herbs above or herbal extracts to the mash for a heightened effect.
  • Fill an old sock with dry uncooked oatmeal.  Place in a lukewarm or cool bath squeezing the sock regularly as the bath fills. Remember cool temperatures are our friend. Hot may irritate the rash further. While in the bath, gently stroke the area with the oatmeal filled sock.

Apple Cider Vinegar helps dry and cool the rash. Many have reported a reduced level of discomfort with its use. (Always use the raw unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar, with the mother.) You can get it here.

  • Mix equal parts apple cider vinegar and water. Dab affected area with gauze or cotton swap 3-4 times per day or place in a spray bottle and spray area.
  • Infusions of the above herbs may be used to replace the water.
  • Essential oils of chamomiletea treelavender and/or helichrysum may be added. Add 2 or 3 drops of essential oil total (single or mixed) per ounce of liquid.

If you have any of the following, go to the emergency room immediately: They are signs of a severe reaction that require immediate medical care.

  • Difficulty breathing or swallowing
  • A rash around one or both eyes, your mouth, or on your genitals
  • Swelling on your face, especially if an eye swells shut
  • Itching that worsens or makes it impossible to sleep
  • Rashes on most of your body
  • A fever


These statements and products have not been evaluated by the FDA. They are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or condition. If you have a health concern or condition, consult a physician. Always consult a medical doctor before modifying your diet, using any new product, drug, supplement, or doing any new exercises.

Herbs taken for health purposes should be treated with the same care as medicine. Herbal remedies are no substitute for a healthy diet and lifestyle. If you are serious about good health, you’ll want to combine diet, exercise, herbals, a good relationship with your doctor and a generally healthy lifestyle. No one of these will do it alone.

This information is designed to be used as part of a complete health plan. No products are intended to replace your doctor’s care, or to supersede any of his/her advice or prescriptions.

2 thoughts on “Natural Solutions for Poison Ivy”

  1. Rhus Tox is a homeopathic sugar pill poison ivy remedy that is dissolved under the tongue. It can be taken as a prophylactic dose when you know you may be exposed to poison ivy in the next few days. (ie. garden clean up or hiking) or after you have come in contact with poison ivy. It can make you photo sensitive, but doesn t cause itching, in fact, relieves it within 20 minutes. Dawn dish soap, first rubbed on dry skin and then well rinsed, is very effective at removing the urishol oils that cause the breakout. Full strength glyphosphate, painted on the cut stem of a poison ivy plant, can effectively kill the roots with a minimum impact to surrounding soil. This approach allows a minimum of contact with the plant. Recycle plastic grocery bags and newspapers by using them to first grab, then wrap the vine while avoiding contact with skin, then disose of it in recycled cat food bags. Virginia creeper, English Ivy, and wild grape will pull down your trees and should not be a recommended groundcover! But having some jewel weed nearby in a waste space or field seems like a good idea.(far enough away from cultivate beds so as not to reach them with spewing their seeds).

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