Chinese Medicine and DIY for Poison Ivy

August 18, 2012 by  
Filed under Hot Topics


Poison Ivy sufferers desperately search for remedies to relieve the intense and awful itching caused by contact with this plant.

Chinese Medicine is a valuable asset in their search for antidotes. Acupuncture relieves itching immediately. Chinese herbs are used to make washes and to take as medicines. The herbs in the wash cool, alleviate itching, and moisten the skin. The formulas may be taken as decoctions (teas) or granules stirred into warm water or mixed into food such as applesauce or yogurt. The topical herbs can also be ground up applied as a poultice. Treating poison ivy is an example of Chinese herbal medicine applied to a condition rather than a constitutional type. However, most Chinese herbalists (including myself) will add a few herbs to your formula for your personal constitutional make-up.

Now that you know Chinese Medicine can help, here are some practical things for the do-it-yourself part.

Clean the area as soon as possible after contact! This is an important step in controlling the rash from poison ivy, oak and related plants. Fels naptha is the classic bar soap for this. Like calamine lotion, it is a famous poison ivy treatment. Tecnu is modern soap that my patients have been giving me good reports about. Use these to wash the skin as soon as possible after exposure. Fels naptha and Tecnu remove toxic oils of poison ivy or oak from your skin.

Rhus tox is a common homeopathic remedy. It is easily purchased in 30c and 200c from health food stores and some pharmacies. Follow the dosage directions on the bottle or consult a homeopath or western herbalist. Many people use this before they come in contact with poison ivy as a way of strengthening their immune system against it. Rhus tox, which is a homeopathic dilution of the oil of the plant itself, is well worth trying once you have the poison ivy rash. Rhus tox is also said to be good for arthritis, joint pains & body aches and flu symptoms, among other things.

Calamine lotion is an old standby for poison ivy. Apply it on the affected area and let it dry. Calamine lotion fans find that it decreases itching and cools the rash. You need to apply it several times a day. As always, keep out of the reach of children. It should not be ingested. Avoid the eyes and mucous membranes. To remove the lotion, dab the site with witch hazel or wash with water and pat dry. Don’t rub the rashy area.

Calamine lotion is not herbal at all, but composed mainly of calamine which is a mixture of zinc oxide with a small amount of ferric oxide.
I came across this article for making your own “calamine lotion”. Other internet sources suggested combinations of water and baking soda, sometimes with oatmeal; sea salt baking soda, bentonite clay, chamomile or tea tree oil, and water.

jewelweed leavesJewelweed is a plant that grows near poison ivy and has long been used as an antidote. The stems and leaves are crushed or mashed and applied immediately to skin that has come in contact with poisonous plant. Because it is found close by its unfriendly neighbor, jewelweed can be cut and applied right away, as soon as you notice the poison ivy.  Jewelweed can be recognized by its beautiful flowers when in bloom.


When out in nature be aware of the plants around you. First and foremost, avoid contact with poisonous plants. When the inevitable happens, these precautions will help you recover with less suffering.

People affected by poison ivy and related plants (poison oak, sumac, etc.) will almost certainly benefit from Chinese herbs and acupuncture. While poison ivy is usually inconvenient, in some cases it can be dangerous. Anyone who is highly allergic or has a severe case must consult their doctor.

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