Sunday, July 26, 2009

A Gift From The Native Americans

Out here in Coastal California, Poison Oak creeps across hillsides and down into valleys below. Sometimes it forms a nearly impenetrable mass.

Poison Oak

Poison Oak isn't just bad news if the oils come in contact with your skin. Wildfires can inject the oils of the Poison Oak plant into the plumes of smoke that surround coastal wildfires. Breathing in the oils can cause severe respiratory distress.

In other parts of the country, Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac create just as much havoc among the unwary who stumble through their territories.

Poison Ivy

Poison Sumac

These three plants create an allergic dermatitis in most people who come in contact with them. This is due to an oil called Urushiol.

Many different remedies have been offered over the years. Calamine lotion, antihistamines, and others have shown effectiveness of various degrees.

The Native Americans have used Jewelweed as a topical solution to the irritation caused by the oils.

Jewelweed is also known as Impatiens and Touch-Me-Nots.


Jewelweed, Impatiens, and Touch-Me-Nots can be found growing wild in many areas of the country. If you are not able to find any wild, seeds, and live plants can be found in many garden centers as they are often a favored ground cover among gardeners.

The Jewelweed, flowers, stems and leaves, were gathered and crushed and placed over the affected area. The compound was bound in place with a clean cloth.

Stories from those who have used this method of relief have often related that the itching, blisters, bumps and weeping sores were relieved overnight. Some have said that several applications were necessary.

I've suffered from Poison Oak more than once. If I ever come in contact with the plant again I plan on trying this method first. I'll let you all know what my first hand experience is.


HermitJim said...

I have never been infected before, but it looks painful!

I don't know if I am naturally immune or what, but many times I have been with a group and everybody got a rash but me...

Maybe I'm just very lucky!

Bitmap said...

HermitJim, some people are lucky and never react to it. Some people always do. Some react to it when they are young and then when they get older they quit reacting. Some people don't react when they are young and then start reacting as they get older. I'm in the last catagory. I never reacted to poison ivy until I was in my 30s. Funny, I never had allergies to much of anything until I was in my 30s.

I've never had it as bad as in that pic and I don't know about anyone else, but it doesn't hurt me. It just itches until you want to gouge your own eye out with a fork just to take your mind off the itch. It is about like a really bad heat rash for me.