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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Poison Ivy?

Poison Ivy?

Measles make you bumpy
And mumps’ll make you lumpy
And chicken pox’ll make you jump and twitch
A common cold’ll fool ya
And whooping cough can cool ya
But poison ivy, Lord’ll make you itch!

-The Coasters

If you are one of the approximately 85% of the population who are allergic to poison ivy, then you’re probably already familiar with the intense discomfort it can cause from severely itchy, painful, oozy blisters and rashes.

How to identify poison ivy
Poison ivy grows throughout most of North America, including most Canadian provinces and all U.S. states except Alaska, Hawaii and California. It thrives along the edges of wooded areas, which makes it especially prominent in suburban communities.

A poison ivy plant features three almond-shaped leaflets, and may grayish-white berries. The leaves, which are smooth and shiny, are often red when the plant is young, turning light green and then dark green as summer progresses, and reverting to bright red or orange again in the fall. The leaves are generally anywhere from 1” to 5” long, but can, in rare cases, grow to be up to 10” long. Poison ivy vines have no thorns, but will often feature fine reddish root hairs along the stem.

Here are a few rhymes people have used over the years to help them avoid poison ivy:

“Leaves of three, let it be.”
“Hairy vine, no friend of mine.”
“Berries white, run in fright” or “Berries white, danger in sight.”
“Red leaflets in the spring, it’s a dangerous thing.”
“Side leaflets like mittens, will itch like the dickens.”
“If butterflies land there, don’t put your hand there.”

Treating poison ivy
If you are unlucky enough to come in contact with poison ivy, here are some natural remedies to help reduce the itching and pain. Before trying any of these remedies, be sure to first wash the area thoroughly with soap and hot water. Rinse and repeat at least three times to ensure that all of the poison is gone. Urushiol, the substance in poison ivy that makes you itchy, is a sticky oil that is hard to wash away. Make certain to wash all clothes, and anything else that came into contact with the plant, too.

– An old native American remedy poison ivy calls for a paste made from the crushed leaves and stems of the Jewelweed plant, also known as “touch-me-not.”

– Witch hazel applied to the affected area can soothe the itching.

– Cover the rash with a paste made from cold coffee and baking soda. A paste made from water and cornstarch will also work.

– Take a warm bath with oatmeal or Epsom salt. Use about one cup of oatmeal or two cups of Epsom salt in a full bathtub.

– Rub a banana peel or a watermelon rind over the rash and don’t rinse it off. Allow it to dry naturally.

– Make a paste from one tablespoon of turmeric with equal parts of lime or lemon juice and apply to the affected area.

– Whip a potato into a paste in your blender. Spread it onto your skin and cover with plastic wrap.

– Make a paste from one tablespoon of salt, 1/8 teaspoon of peppermint essential oil, 1 to 2 cups green clay, and a little water (just enough to give it a pasty texture). Apply liberally and leave in place for approximately 30 minutes. Rinse. Apply 2-3 times daily.

– Rub dishwashing liquid onto skin area and allow it to dry. Reapply as needed.

– Apply tea made from burdock root or peach tree leaves. Allow it to dry on the skin, and reapply as often as desired.

26 comments

1 Palawonder Menillo { 09.07.14 at 8:47 am }

just discovered natural and effective antidote for Ivy Poison Rash…Cashew Extract..proven and tested

2 Stephen Bradley { 09.02.14 at 11:29 am }

In the past, I would sport a poison ivy rash all summer long from general brush clearing on the farm. Now, I might have a little rash here and there, but I’ve greatly reduced the amount since starting to wash with Fast Orange (the de-greaser soap that mechanics use). I wash with this stuff after suspected exposure then follow by wash with regular soap. If the rash has already started, this still works to shorten the healing and kill the itching.

3 Dawn { 09.02.14 at 10:49 am }

We use homemade lye soap to bath in after exposure or breaking out. It gets rid of it in a hurry.

4 John { 09.02.14 at 6:21 am }

I got poison ivy really bad two months ago, and I didn’t even know how I got exposed to it! It didn’t use to bother me, but the reaction this time was much worse! I tried washing the area, using TechNu, washing my clothes and bedding, and all the usual remedies, but nothing worked! Had to go to the doctor twice. Topical prescriptions did not work. It kept spreading, which has never happened to me before! They had to put me on high doses of Prednisone!

5 Lee { 09.01.14 at 10:56 pm }

Tecnu no longer works for me. I used to swear by it. Now I need a prescription otherwise it just keeps spreading. I believed I washed with Tecnu 2x’s a day for a few days and it just kept spreading. I washed with it *before* any breakout. I can feel the itch before the day it shows any kind of rash… it can be like an allergic reaction to bee stings, or peanuts. Your allergic reaction can get worse as the years go on. Mine has. Nothing topical worked either. Ivarest, Calamine, Rhulicreme, Benadryl .. nothing. I got a steroid cream an it stopped itching …

6 Anne D { 09.01.14 at 9:54 pm }

Got p/I so bad once used GoJo hand cleaner like what mechanics use for grease on their hands. .cleared up fast and stopped the itch. Also pumice soap such as lava soap.once the blisters are broken they dry up faster

7 Jan { 09.01.14 at 7:26 pm }

I have no problem with PI..never had..

8 And { 09.01.14 at 2:37 pm }

Pasture pro. From orschlens mix it slightly heavy and it seems to get it killed as long as generous with coating the nasty plant.

9 Al Pelletier { 07.31.14 at 9:50 am }

Here in Maine, we’ve been applying a tea made with SWEET FERN leaves on poison ivy, oak and sumac rashes for over 300 years. It stops the itching on contact and dries up the rash in a few days. A web search of “SWEET FERN” gives lots of information about finding sweet fern in the wild or on line.

10 Leliel { 05.29.14 at 10:18 am }

2nd on the Tecnu soap. Note that it’s not a remedy-it’s just to help get the PI oils off your skin *before* you start to react, and it does so much better than regular soap.
Be sure to also diligently remove PI (using Mary’s bag method above) from areas your pets may play. They won’t react to it, but the oils will stay on their fur so when you pet them you come into contact with it.

11 Adam { 05.29.14 at 8:22 am }

The Tecnu poison ivy wash is very effective. It’s mainly deodorized mineral spirits, so it breaks down (rather than spreads) the oil. I used it last summer when removing an old fence and tree in an infested area of the yard. Used on my skin, boots, tools, jeans. I decant some into a smaller container for hikes and camping. It is stocked at our group very store, but I’d ordered it from Amazon before I realized that.

Evidently the oil stays active on surfaces (e.g. your shovel handle) from r years. Also, the roots contain the oil as well, and even after killing the plant, they can cause a reaction (some sources claimed it stays active for decades). Even brushing by a plant in winter can cause a reaction. Don’t mess around with PI!

12 Carol { 05.29.14 at 8:22 am }

look for a homeopathic product: rhus tox … you can take it preventively or as a remedy. :)

13 Betsy { 05.28.14 at 3:27 pm }

I don’t understand how to put rock salt ” on the roots”. How?

14 Carly { 05.28.14 at 1:48 pm }

Ok, Says to “wash the area thoroughly with soap and hot water”. NO WAY!!! Have just discovered that spreads it. Was confirmed by the doctor. That opens your pores yes and brings the oil to the surface but only to spread it on across your body. I have tried the bleach etc etc etc. Shot from the Dr usually followed by a week long dose pack is the only thing that does the trick for me. Seems that once you get a good dose of it every time after seems worse. Obviously I am an extreme case, I have scars from it, but every case is different and what seems to work for someone doesn’t always work for others.

15 Mary { 05.28.14 at 7:28 am }

I am looking for a way to get rid of it, too, but I think being on the edge of the woods, I will always have some because the animals spread it. When I do get a rash, I spread tooth paste on it and it takes the itch away and dries it up so fast! It has to be paste, not gel.

16 Ed { 05.27.14 at 9:26 pm }

Whatever you do, DON’T BURN IT!You run the risk of inhaling the smoke!

17 Shanon { 05.27.14 at 9:25 pm }

I actually take a “prevenative” orally starting in spring right through the last mow of fall. The one I use is called Oral Ivy, but there are others. I may get a “dot or two” in the spring when I start taking it, but it’s not a real case of PI, and is usually gone in 2-4 days. Then, no more PI all summer. I haven’t had a real case of PI in 2+ yrs. This is my 3rd summer living in the country…and I get it when the wind blows poison Ivy pollen or if the mowed debris touches me. I’ve even gotten it from touching WASHED AND DRIED (on high heat) clothing . Best thing since tegu discontinued the poison Ivy vaccine.

18 Tracie C { 05.27.14 at 5:43 pm }

Thanks very much for this article! After moving to this rural property almost 2 years ago and being told to “watch out for it, it’s everywhere!” we have been fortunate not to have come into contact with it (yet). We’ve both dealt with it as kids and never knew of these remedies, the doctor sent me home with steroids and that was over 40 years ago!

19 Mary { 05.27.14 at 5:21 pm }

The only sure-fire way I have found to absolutely rid it is to pour bleach and/or rock salt on the roots. If you use rock salt, nothing will grow there for a while. If you’d rather pull it, put your hand way down into the bottom of an empty garbage bag, pull the ivy with the bagged hand. Once you have a handful of ivy in your bagged hand pull the bag down over your bagged hand of ivy, essentially turning the bag inside out, and the ivy will now be inside the bag.

20 Cecily { 05.27.14 at 4:39 pm }

Please use natural remedies instead of supporting companies like Bayer who are responsible for the demise of the plant world

21 Steve { 05.27.14 at 3:53 pm }

There is a new product out called ( Domeboro ) made by Bayer that really works well. It comes in a powder form mixed with a few drops of water makes a paste applied you can tell the difference within 24 hrs.

22 Sherry { 05.27.14 at 3:47 pm }

Be sure to put disposable gloves on, then clean the lawnmower that you driove through the stuff – cause it’ll still be there next time to get you!

23 Clark Bunch { 05.27.14 at 2:49 pm }

The Coasters went on the say “You’re gonna need an ocean
of Calamine lotion.” Very clever.

24 debbie { 05.27.14 at 1:54 pm }

boil strong vinegar and pour on the roots can spray cooled vinegar on the vines and leafs.Real vinegar, made from grain alcohol, in 10% or 100 grain concentration, is the proper vinegar to use for killing weeds. It is sprayed straight with no water dilution. For a more powerful product, add 1-2 oz. of orange oil and 1 teaspoon of liquid soap per gallon of vinegar. I use the Bio Wash product as the soap. Vinegar is a non-selective herbicide and especially effective on weeds in cracks and in gravel areas. It will kill broadleaf plants and grasses. If the mix is used, keep it shaken during the spraying.

25 Kevin D { 06.03.13 at 4:21 pm }

I second the question from Linda…I’m not so concerned about curing it…rather, how do we get rid of it in the garden. It seems to return each year with great resolve to conquer the garden and our back yard! I’d prefer not using chemicals but they are the only device that seems to work, aside from clipping and tossing. My wife will be forever grateful for a way to get rid of this stuff for once and for all.

26 Linda { 05.15.12 at 8:16 pm }

Any tips on eradicating it from our gardens? It is very persistent in my yard.

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