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Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is a plant you can find on the edges of the woodland where there is plenty of sunlight. It is low by growth, and sometimes, in spring you can see green berries and green-yellow flowers on it. The reason why I’m devoting this article to it today is that this harmless-looking plant can indeed do some harm to your skin if you touch it. Maybe you haven’t been in contact with it yet, so you don’t know it, or maybe you’re well familiar with it already, and you’re looking for a treatment and protection from it.
Whatever the case might be, you should know that according to statistics, about 85% of the population is allergic to poison ivy, and about 10 to 15% of those are extremely allergic. Namely if these people so much as touch it accidentally, they will develop a severe rash. The remaining 15% have no reaction but need to be careful as the chance of getting one increases with age and repeated exposure.
What to avoid in Poison Ivy
The truth is, the sap is found in nearly every part of the plant, including the leaves, stems, and roots. It contains an oil called urushiol, a pale-yellow, oily substance, and if any of this oil touches the skin, it can cause a blistering skin rash. A reaction to urushiol can happen when there is direct contact from touching contaminated objects, such as shoes after walking, and from breathing in smoke from burning poison ivy. The most dangerous exposure is the one when the person inhales burning poison ivy.
So, bottom line, you need to be careful around every part of the plant, whether you are allergic or not.
Symptoms of exposure
When a person is exposed to poison ivy, a rash can appear between 12 and 72 hours after exposure. The more allergic to poison ivy you are, the faster it will appear.
Signs of a reaction to poison ivy include:
- intense itching
- red skin or red streaks
- red bumps, called papules
- blisters, often developing in lines and oozing
- crusting skin
NOTE: The rash is not contagious, and it does not spread. If it appears to be spreading, this is because of a delayed reaction.
Poison Ivy treatments
While there are no specific medical treatments for a rash caused by Poison Ivy, natural medicine has essential oils as an answer (thank you Mother Nature!). Now, be aware that the rash by the plant diminishes on its own within 2 to 3 weeks. But I still warmly recommend using these essential oils to make the whole thing more bearable and to speed the healing process.
Best Essential Oils for Poison Ivy
This essential oil boasts some powerful active ingredients including menthol, which can remove the heat and pain from your poison ivy rash. It will quickly soothe inflammation and promote faster recovery of the damaged skin.
HOW TO: This oil isn’t toxic, so you don’t need to dilute it before applying. It absorbs fully within minutes, and it’s best to apply 4-5 drops of the oil to the inflamed areas 1-2 times per day until the symptoms subside.
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One of the best things about this oil is its restorative and healing properties. When you use lavender oil on poison ivy symptoms, you can significantly speed up the healing process and soothe inflammation.
HOW TO: There is no need to dilute this oil, unless you have sensitive skin. Simply apply 4-5 drops of the oil on the site of the rash or inflamed skin, and regularly re-apply until the symptoms have faded.
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There is always the danger of secondary infections with poison ivy, as people are prone to scratch those areas of skin. Cypress oil has strong antiseptic qualities, meaning that it can protect the rash as it heals, while also soothing inflammation and pain.
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The anti-allergenic qualities of geranium oil can help quickly soothe the rash or itching that is caused by contact. By preventing additional histamines from being released and returning the immune system to normal, geranium oil is a quick and effective solution for poison ivy.
HOW TO: Do not use this oil in an undiluted form; instead, mix 5 drops of this oil with 1 tablespoon of coconut oil and then gently massage the mixture into the affected areas on the skin.
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Tea Tree Oil
Widely considered one of the best essential oils for poison ivy, tea tree oil can reduce inflammation, prevent secondary infections, eliminate pain and promote a faster healing process when you’ve brushed up against some poison ivy.
HOW TO: You should always blend tea tree oil with other carrier oils, as it can worsen inflammation in some cases. After mixing 5 drops of tea tree oil with 1 tablespoon of olive or jojoba oil, gently massage the oils into the inflamed skin.
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If you want to relieve inflammation and soothe a burning and itching sensation on the skin, few things are better than peppermint oil. Packed with antioxidants and active ingredients such as menthol, it can cool and soothe inflammation, while also protecting against secondary infections and reducing your urge to itch.
HOW TO: You can use undiluted peppermint oil directly on the site of a poison ivy rash, but if you tend to have sensitive skin, you may want to dilute the oil slightly with olive or coconut oil.
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Poison Ivy Treatment Recipe
Now that you know all about the essential oils that help soothe the inflammation from poison ivy, why not make yourself a stronger remedy to speed up the healing? It’s easy peasy lemon squeezy (without the use of lemon though), and it will last you through the season:
- 2 Tablespoons Distilled Water**
- 2 Tablespoons Natural Apple Cider Vinegar, with the mother
- 1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 3 drops Lavender Essential Oil (for itch)
- 3 drops Tea Tree Essential Oil (antiseptic)
- 3 drops Peppermint Essential Oil (soothing menthol)
HOW TO: Mix everything, making sure the salt dissolves. Stir well before each use and apply it to the affected area as needed. Keep it in a cool place (preferably in the fridge) as the vinegar works best when cold, plus, it feels better when putting a cool, soothing cotton ball over the irritated area.
How to avoid contact with Poison Ivy
As a bonus part, I thought it would be useful to share some tips on how I stay safe from this plant. I mean you know the right treatments now, but that doesn’t mean that you should go on and infect yourself with it just to try them on, right? True that, so read on my friends and stay safe:
- Learn what Poison Ivy looks like so you can distinguish it and avoid any contact
- Wear long pants and high socks and gloves when you know you’ll get in contact
- Clean all pieces that came in contact with poison ivy, including shoes
- Wash your skin immediately with warm water and soap, rinsing thoroughly
- Use OTC skin cream containing bentoquatam before going outdoors to an area with poison ivy, as this can block urushiol from affecting the skin
- Protect your pets from going into areas with poison ivy as they might be sensitive to the toxin as well, or if nothing else, they will transfer it to you afterward
To Your Healthy Skin,