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Poison Ivy (& Oak): Home Remedies For Relief

Contact with poison ivy can trigger an allergic reaction that isn’t a serious risk for most but can be terribly itchy, produce blisters and red, painful swelling. Some react more strongly to it than others with a lucky few not affected by it at all (one can also become desensitized to it over repeated exposures). The plant produces urushiol (a resin or type of oil) and when it comes in contact with skin, the body reacts.

Herbal InfusionHere are few soothing ways to treat the itch and rash along with some tips at the bottom.

*These tips can also be used to treat Poison Oak

First wash the affected area with soap and water to remove any traces of the urushiol (especially helpful if done within the first 30 minutes of contact). Washing contact area in a heavy salt water or meat tenderizer and water mixture is helpful too.

Once the residue has been washed off, and if done quickly after exposure, you may get lucky and have no reaction at all!

If itching, redness or rash, blistering or painful swelling occurs over the next day or so, try one of these remedies:

  • Baking Soda Bath: Use lots of baking soda and hot water (as hot as you can stand it).
  • Epsom Salt Wrap: To help with itching, dip a clean cloth in a strong solution of Epsom salts & water then cover the affected area with the cloth and bandage.
  • Mint Tea Bath: Either toss a few bags of peppermint tea into a tub of hot water or add handfuls of freshly picked mint, let “steep” for a few minutes before soaking in bath. Can also make a batch of “Tea” by brewing a pot of strong peppermint tea, allow it to cool then soak cloths in tea and apply to affected skin as a cool compress (or just dab with a cotton ball). Regular tea can also be helpful (make it strong and chill first before using).
  • Jewelweed Infusion: Either rub the affected skin with the “sap” from a broken stem of jewelweed or fill a pot with the herb (including stems & flowers), cover with water then bring to a boil. Simmer until it has been reduced by half. Strain, refrigerate and use topically on affected skin. Can also freeze into ice cubes or small packs and use as needed so if you have a bunch growing nearby, stock up on it when it’s in season and prepare a batch to use year round.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar & Oatmeal Bath: Add 1 cup of each to a bath and soak. Can try dabbing apple cider vinegar on rash for relief.
  • Oatmeal Paste: Mix water and oatmeal to make a paste then apply to affected area, allow to dry before reapplying.
  • Mint Lard Salve: Roughly tear a handful of catnip or mint leaves, toss them in a pan and add a half block of lard. Melt over medium heat then reduce to low heat and let slowly cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover with lid and allow to cool awhile. While the lard is somewhat warm and still liquid, remove any large bits of the leaves then pour off the lard into a clean glass jar. Allow to set then use as a salve on affected areas.
  • Diaper Rash or Hemorrhoid Ointment: If you’re in a pinch and have one of these on hand, they can help reduce the painful itch and swelling.
  • White Household Vinegar: Either add a few cups to bath water or dab directly onto skin. Can mix with salt before applying.
  • Buttermilk: Add a couple cups to bath water or mix with a bit of sea salt and dab directly onto skin.
  • Honey: Smear over rash area as needed for relief.
  • Banana peel: Rub the inside of the peel over the affected area.
  • Calamine Lotion: Apply generously on skin as often as needed.
  • Aloe Vera Gel: Apply over affected area as often as needed.


StemOld Saying To Identify The Plant:

  • Leaves of three, let it be; berries white, danger in sight.

From Wikipedia:

The leaves are ternate with three almond-shaped leaflets. The berries (actually drupes) are a grayish-white color and are a favorite winter food of some birds.


  • It can take a day or two after exposure before the rash appears and can last up to two weeks.
  • Did you know: A person who has come in contact with poison ivy can transfer the urushiol to another person or another part of their body. If it’s on a pet’s fur, it can be transferred as well. Do not touch eyes, nose, mouth or any other sensitive areas of the body until the skin has been washed first. The rash or blisters themselves are not contagious (even if oozing), it’s the transferring of the urushiol residue that passes it from one person to another.
  • Some people are highly sensitive to it and a severe allergic reaction can occur, including anaphylactic shock. If victim finds it difficult to breathe, develops a fever, or severe swelling occurs within hours, contact a physician immediately.
  • Remove all clothing items that were worn during the exposure and wash in hot, soapy water.
  • Getting rid of the plant: Wear gloves and cover all exposed skin areas, dig up the plants (roots and all) and dispose of immediately. Pour a strong solution of salt and water or vinegar and water over soil where plants grew (be aware this can affect soil quality for surrounding vegetation). Do not burn the uprooted plants since the urushiol can get in the air and this can be quite dangerous if you breathe it in or gets in the eyes. Wash gardening tools with alcohol and launder gardening clothes immediately.

Note: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and is simply a collection of information from my notes.


Published: July 24, 2008
Updated: September 21, 2012

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