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Poison Ivy Remedies

Updated on July 26, 2010

The Various Incarnations of Poison Ivy, Oak and Sumac

Poison Oak
Poison Oak
Poison Sumac
Poison Sumac
Poison Ivy
Poison Ivy
Uma Thurman, You don't have to worry about touching her, you probably never will
Uma Thurman, You don't have to worry about touching her, you probably never will

What It Look Like

The Calvary

Hot showers daily to deplete those histamines
Hot showers daily to deplete those histamines
Jewelweed Soap, wildcrafted right here in Kentucky
Jewelweed Soap, wildcrafted right here in Kentucky
Use the peel to help heal
Use the peel to help heal

Ohhh, That Itchy Feeling

I got poison ivy last week. Guess what?

It's itchy. Guess what else... It's frustrating, bothersome, awful and irritating. Chaffing, chapping, blistering, boiling... oh the ivy, it leaveth me toiling.

Toiling how? Toiling for some relief and normalcy to return to my epidermal area. Toiling for a cure, or at least some mental trick to get me to forget about it. Here's what I've come up with so far.

The Obvious

Stay the hell away from it! If you don't know what it looks like it is a three leafed little devil that likes to vine up around trees and grow out of the ground. Now you have no excuse cause here are a bunch of pictures of it. If you have to be around it, wear protective clothing, long pants and sleeves. The few hours of miserable heat will be well worth the sanity and comfort of being free of it's itch of two weeks or more. Trust.

First Line of Defense

If you feel like you've been exposed to it, or know you have, the best thing to do is to wash the affected area immediately before the urushiol (the toxic oil that causes your body to make histamines, which makes you itch) can take hold. Use A LOT of COLD water in the beginning. If you only use a little bit of water it will just spread the oil around. You have to use enough to get the oil entirely off of your skin. Also, when you first come in contact, the water you use to rinse off must be cold, hot water will just open your pores and allow more urushiol to get in. Another good first line of defense is rubbing alcohol. Do not use as much as you would cold water as the alcohol strips away some of the natural, protective oil that is on your skin.

You Gots to Chill

Yeah, you can take a tip from EPMD on this one. Use cold compression to relieve the itch. It can be anything from a bag of ice to that trashy bottle of vodka those random kids left in your freezer last year. Just make sure you're not oozing and that you've washed all the oil off your skin before you do. The cold on your skin will be sweet relief for a while.

Hot Shower/Bath

The hot shower or bath remedy should only be used after there's no turning back, once you know the rash has set in and is itching like crazy. Let me repeat, DO NOT use hot water if you are in the early stages of onset as this will open up your pores to the urushiol that is still on your skin. I was skeptical of this remedy until last night. I thought it would only make the itch worse. Well, it does for a little while. You'll have to withstand a couple of minutes of intense itching as heat releases the histamines (chemicals released by the immune system in response to inflammation, which make you itch). Yet, what the hot shower does is depletes the cells of histamine and you can enjoy many hours of itch relief.

Try washing with a more abrasive soap, like dish detergent, or using a blow dryer afterwards, to help dry up the blisters. Another bathing method is to use Epsom Salts or a Collodial Oatmeal Bath, both of which dry up the ivy and relieve itching.

Another water based remedy I've heard of working is to jump in a pool for awhile. The chlorine is said to dry out the blisters and can take your mind off of being plagued with itching, irritation, etc. I've read that laying out in the sun afterwards speeds up the drying process.

Products You Can Buy

There are plenty of products you can simply buy over the counter, here's just a few of them.

  • Band Aid Anti-Itch Gel- A Johnson and Johnson product that has menthol in it to cool away the itching. It should be reapplied every six hours or so.
  • Calamine Lotion- Active ingredients are calamine and zinc oxide. This is a well known remedy that cools the skin and dries up the oozing of poison ivy.
  • TecNu- A clear wash solution that works best if you use as soon as you think you've been exposed. Put it on, wait for about five minutes and then wash it off. It breaks up the oil and dries the blisters.
  • Zanfel- I haven't used this product but have seen many a forum post about how it works wonders. It can be obtained at Walgreens, CVS, and Wal-Mart pharmacies. Their website claims: "It is the only product known to remove urushiol, the toxin responsible for the reaction, from the skin after bonding, enabling the affected area to immediately begin healing."
  • Burt's Bees Poison Ivy Soap/ Jewelweed Soap- The active ingredient in these soaps is Jewelweed, a natural plant remedy that grows near poison ivy. I've been using a locally made, Eastern Kentucky brand called Brammer Gap Kettle Jewelweed Soap. It will dry out the blisters and relieve the itch.
  • Cortaid Hydrocortisone Cream- Reduces the swelling, inflammation, and itching of poison ivy rashes, slow acting but effective in the long run.
  • Anti-Histamines- Most effective if taken orally, but can cause a bit of drowsiness. The topical anti-histamines can cause a rash of their own and should not be used by persons with sensitive skin.
  • Ivy-Dry- Active ingredients are Zinc Acetate, Benzyl alcohol, Camphor and Menthol. Don't use on any areas of broken skin and don't cover the affected area with a compress after you've sprayed it. The cooling effect of the menthol is good for the itch, and it dries out the ivy with frequent use.

As with all of these products you should only use them externally, and keep them out of children's reach. With Tecnu, don't apply it to oozing areas of the rash and DO NOT use if you've applied hydrocortisone to the area in the past three days.

Natural Remedies

Here are some more natural remedies that are not only effective but creative. Enjoy.

  • Honeysuckle Leaves-I haven't tried this before, but have heard that it relieves itching and dries up the rash. The flowers are used as a medicinal wash and help to cure up inflammation, and skin rashes. A recipe I found says : "about 3 cups of honeysuckle leaves/flowers, 1 cup of water Put in blender and puree, strain leaves with cheesecloth and save the juice. Apply Liberally."
  • Banana Peel- This is one I have tried. It sounds a little weird but you just eat a banana, take the fresh peel, and rub it on the itchy outbreaks. It forms a kind of film over them and relieves itching, giving you a cooling feeling that causes goosebumps.The film may turn brown over time, so if you're a little self conscious about things like that... well- just get over it.
  • Tea Tree Oil- A natural antiseptic, antibacterial and fungicide, tea tree oil is also a great anti-itch relief when poison ivy strikes. I have used it with good results in terms of itch relief and drying up of the rash. You can buy tea tree oil in your local health food store or wherever you know aromatherapy oils are sold. The smell is a little strong but no more than rubbing alcohol.
  • Vitamin C- I took one of those pills with 1667% of the recommended value of Vitamin C yesterday, and did notice that the rash had diminished quite a bit this morning. It could be due to the fact that I'm now officially past my first week with the rash and have been using other remedies as well. However, I do think it's worth a try. Be sure to drink it with a lot of water, and for best results just keep dosing up on it throughout the day.
  • Vitamin E- I broke open a gel cap of vitamin E yesterday and rubbed it on the affected areas of my rash. It forms a protective seal around the rash and seems to reduce redness and swelling. It is great for your skin in general and gives it back any oil lost from excessive showering or use of rubbing alcohol, etc.
  • Honey- Eating local, raw honey in the springtime is said to have positive effects on your "allergic-ness" to poison ivy. The reason being that the poison ivy pollen is in the honey, your immune system becomes used to it being in your body and doesn't react to it when and if you come into contact with the plant.
  • Vinegar- Used this remedy once so far and it worked really well. Just apply white distilled vinegar to the rash many times a day and it relieves the itching and helps to dry it out. Combine with salt to really get your sting on... which is followed by sweet relief.
  • Baking Soda- I applied this along with the vinegar. Brought me back to the first little science experiments learned in elementary school where there would be the paper mache volcano made to look like it was exploding with the mixture of the two substances. Anyway, it worked pretty well. I have also read that putting in a 1/2 cup to 1 cup of it in a hot bath is effective as well.
  • Salt- Best used with vinegar, but have also read that putting a cup or two of sea salt in a hot bath is effective as well.
  • Oatmeal- Another one I have yet to try, but apparently it works miracles. Just whip up some instant oatmeal and put it on the rash while it is still hot. Read that using saran wrap or gauze pads reduces the mess when it dries.
  • Onion and Cucumber- Not necessarily combined but I'm sure you could. You'll need a fairly fresh onion that still produces juices when you slice it and a cucumber that isn't dried out either. Just apply the onion juice to the affected area and/or the cucumber slice multiple times a day for itch relief.

Things I Try to Avoid

Hey, I'm not a doctor. But I have noticed a few things that typically aggravate my symptoms. One is sweating a lot outside. This is like being in a super hot shower except that the histamines are released more slowly causing a consistent itch. I've found that being in the hot, muggy and humid conditions that are a trademark of Kentucky summer weather, simply just aggravate the itching more. It could be different in areas that receive "dry heat". An obvious avoidance is scratching, which will just cause your rash to open up and spread over time. Worrying, being stressed and constantly thinking about it are no-nos in my book too. The extra strain on your body and mind doesn't do you any good.

Mind Over Matter

This is one of those simple, yet not-so-easy tricks that you have to really hone to be effective. Try taking your mind off of your symptoms for a while. Engage in one of your favorite creative activities, watch a movie, don't look at it and act as if it's not there. This seriously can work, but you have to have a little faith that it will. Our experiences are based on our beliefs, so if you believe you're on the way to recovery, it will speed up the process. Try thinking about it in a positive way: "I can feel my rash getting better every hour." Instead of a negative one: "I don't want this to be here" or "I can't wait until this goes away." I would tell you "not to think about it" but that will just make you think about. Just have confidence in the fact that all things come to pass, even that gross rash on your arms, covered in tea tree oil and banana.


I've found that using a combination of the above suggestions works the best for me. I encourage you to experiment with what you think might work/ is easiest for you. It's all about testing the healing waters and realizing what works for you and your woes. Just be aware that it will pass in due time, just like everything else does, so don't go too crazy or get too frustrated with it, as it just aggravates the problem. Thanks for reading, please rate up and comment if you found this information helpful!


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    • Elder Spirits profile image

      D L Caraway 

      7 years ago from Manitou Springs Colorado

      Great Article and very informative! I also am highly allergic and 15 years ago after painful blisters from head to foot I did tons of research and was on a mission. I have quite a crop out my back door on the mountain and I always carry a bottle of rubbing alcohol and wet wipes when I hike. Also if hiking long distances a bar of soap & scrubber is good to have on hand. Of course wearing pants helps but if need be stop within 10 or 15 minutes of contact and scrub!

      Tea Tree is an excellent essential oil but can be a bit harsh for some full strength. Along with Tea Tree I carry a bottle of Lavender in all my First Aid Kits and my backpack. Full strength Lavender will immediately stop the pain and itch as well and also will speed up the healing process once blisters are formed. Lavender also helps with scaring and can greatly reduce this. All mentioned remedies are great, finding what works best or combination I agree.

      I also carry a spray of 8 OZ Aloe Vera Juice, 3 droppers full or 90 drops of Lavender and 1 dropper or 30 drops Tea Tree. It’s a great sunburn spray, bug repellent, antiseptic & antibiotic for scratches and works incredible with burns. We keep one in the cooler when boating or camping. It’s very healing and soothing

      A good rule to follow is whoever is in your group must all strip down and not sit on any furniture until a good scrub in the shower. Put contaminated clothing in a trash bag until you can wash.

      The oil of Poison Ivy has been known to produce a rash even years later after exposure to a contaminated object, furniture etc. Thanks again for a great read!

    • Dr irum profile image

      Dr irum 

      8 years ago

      That's so great information . i rate up your hub .


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