Poison ivy and poison oak produce a painful, itchy rash in most people. The oil from the plant clings to the skin and causes a skin reaction. Unfortunately, most people spread the oil before they realize what the problem is. That little itch gets scratched and the oil is transferred to other parts of the body, becoming a major itch.
While the rash isn’t contagious, the oil does spread easily. It can stick to your clothes, tools, and other surfaces to cause new reactions later. So, what can be done to stop the rash and the horrible itch? Here are a few natural treatments that work for poison ivy and poison oak.
Dress for the Job
Unfortunately, many people don’t recognize poison ivy or poison oak until they are already in contact. So, it may be too late for this suggestion. If you are going out to get rid of a patch of poison ivy or poison oak, cover up as much skin as possible. Wear long pants, socks, boots, long-sleeved shirt, and face-covering if available. Then wash your clothes thoroughly when you are done along with your tools and anything that may have come into contact with the plant.
Clean the Area Completely
Washing the oil away is necessary to stop further rashes. Unfortunately, the oil clings to the skin well, so you need to wash the skin thoroughly with soapy water or rubbing alcohol. Your best strategy is to rub down affected areas with rubbing alcohol, then immediately take a shower and scrub every part of your body. This will help make sure you didn’t miss a spot. Washing the skin won’t stop a rash in an exposed area, but it will remove the oil so that it doesn’t spread and hopefully make your reaction less severe.
Jewelweed plant often grows near poison ivy, so look around the area to see if this plant is nearby. It is known for its soothing properties and is a very effective treatment for poison ivy, poison oak, stinging nettle, or any other plant induced rashes. It is believed that jewelweed counters the chemicals in the plant that cause the irritation.
I have experienced good results using jewelweed for poison ivy and for other skin rashes. You can use it to make soap, salves, or lotion. It helps the rash clear up quickly, much faster than it would on its own.
To use the plant, slice the stem open and rub the sap onto exposed skin. You can also make an infusion by brewing chopped jewelweed in boiling water until it turns dark orange. Strain the infusion and pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze. Rub the affected area with the jewelweed cube to soothe the skin and help relieve the rash.
Relieve Pain and Itching with an Oatmeal Soak
Soaking your rash in a cool bath containing oatmeal or oatmeal-based products is soothing and helps relieve the itching. You can make an oatmeal bath by grinding a cup of dry oatmeal in the blender. Wrap the powder in a clean cloth and tie it under the stream of running water. Fill the tub with cool water and soak for about 30 minutes.
Alternately, apply a cool oatmeal compress several times a day or make a paste of ground oatmeal and water. Apply the paste in a thin layer to the affected area. Let the paste dry on the skin before washing it away. Use several times a day, as needed to relieve the itch.
Either method helps dry up the blisters so that they heal faster. Expect the rash to take two to three weeks to heal, however.
Calamine lotion is a commercial product made from a century’s old recipe. Today’s version usually contains benedryl, which is also helpful for allergic reactions and zinc oxide which is good for the skin. Calamine lotion has a drying effect on the blisters and relieves itching. Let the lotion dry in place and leave it on the skin if possible.
Bentonite clay or whatever clay you have available, applied as a paste, is also drying. Like calamine lotion, it draws moisture and toxins from the blister and helps relieve itching.
To use clay for relief of poison ivy or poison oak rash, mix a cup of clay with 1 teaspoon of salt, a few drops of peppermint oil, and enough water to form a smooth paste. Spread a thin layer on the rash and leave it in place until it dries, at least 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse it off and re-apply another layer. Store the remaining paste in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for future use.
Related: 15 Survival Uses for Bentonite Clay
Baking Soda Paste
A paste made from baking soda and just enough water to moisten it can also help relieve the itching. Baking soda helps draw out the toxins and neutralize the oil while also relieving the itch and pain. Apply the paste to the rash and let it dry in place. Peel off the dry paste and apply another layer. Repeat this process until you experience relief from the itching and pain.
To make this paste even better, mix the baking soda with cold coffee and following the process. Coffee contains chlorogenic acid which helps reduce the swelling and pain.
Cucumber slices placed on the rash are soothing.
I sometimes blend cucumber into pulp and use the pulp to make a poultice.
The result is cooling and relieves the itch temporarily.
Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe is very soothing on any kind of skin rash or irritation.
Slit the aloe leaf open and scrape out the gel inside to use as a cooling remedy for poison ivy or poison oak rashes. It is also a good way to soothe the skin after any of the above treatments.
Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is an anti-inflammatory that helps relieve the rash caused by exposure to poison ivy and poison oak.
If you are using an undiluted oil, dilute it a ratio of 1 part tea tree oil to 9 parts carrier oil (olive oil or coconut oil). Apply a thin layer of the diluted oil to the affected skin.
Apple Cider Vinegar or Lemon Juice
Apple cider vinegar and lemon juice are both astringents that help relieve the pain and itching of poison ivy and poison oak. Both can be used in the same way. Dab a cotton ball into the vinegar or lemon juice and apply it directly to the rash or use the vinegar or juice to make a paste with baking soda. Apply it gently and allow it to dry in place. When it dries, apply more vinegar or juice with a spray bottle or cotton ball.
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