The Japanese used to coat pottery with my oils, Captain John Smith found me in America in 1609, I’m the inspiration for Mustard Gas, and I’m related to yummy things like Mangoes and cashews. What am I?
For those of you that guessed Poison Ivy, good job! For those that didn’t, I don’t blame you. Who would’ve known that something that causes an allergic reaction to roughly 85% of the world’s population is also related to something as wonderful as mangoes?!
The Poison Ivy image above shows what the plant typically looks like when it is on the ground or climbing up a tree as a vine. It grows nearly everywhere on the East Coast, ranging from roadsides to stream sides. View a range map and more plant pictures here! This little rhyme may help you to identify the plant at any time of the year:
Leaves of three- let them be. Berries of white- run in fright. Hairy Rope- don’t be a dope.
All parts of the Poison Ivy plant produces an oily resin called urushiol and when it comes in contact with your skin it can be absorbed through your pores. Our immune system fights it off causing an itchy rash to form. Do not scratch at it! Even though the blisters are not filled with the oil, broken blisters are prone to infection. If you think you may have come in contact with the plant, put your clothes and garden gloves in the laundry and wash your hands or take a quick, cold shower (hot water will open your pores, allowing the oil to enter the skin quicker) with degreasing soap that will remove oils.
A big concern with this dangerous plant is that it thrives in high CO2 environments. With the increase in CO2 production and the decrease in plants that convert CO2 back to oxygen, there’s a very strong chance that urushiol will become more potent and that the plant will grow even more rapidly.
Fortunately, there are many natural methods to treat your rash. Crushed up Jewelweed applied to the rash is the best remedy (plant ID here!). Other remedies such as cold coffee, lavender oil, saltwater, and mouthwash when put on cotton balls and rubbed lightly on the rash will help to dry it out. Oatmeal baths will help soothe the skin and aloe and banana peels can help relieve the itching and burning sensation.
Once you’re feeling a little better, you may be feeling rather vindictive and want to get rid of the plants that caused you so many problems. Luckily for you, there’re natural ways to kill it. If you don’t have goats that will eat anything, you can try a spray concoction made with a gallon of white vinegar with 1 cup of salt and 2 tblsp. of dish soap. Dissolve the salt in the vinegar, put the mixture in a spray bottle and go to war! The liquid will kill any leaf that it touches, so make sure to only spray poison ivy and not accidentally your prized rose bushes! Be patient as the plant needs to suck the mixture up through its roots before it will die. You may need to wait two weeks and spray once more before it’s completely killed. Never ever attempt to burn the plant! The oil can be carried through the smoke and into your lungs.
With some luck and preparation, you’ll be able to go this season without feeling the need to itch, but if you need some more DIY remedy recipes or are just curious, check these great links out!