Poison ivy and poison oak cause much suffering to those who make contact with the irritating oily sap that oozes from the stem, roots, flowers, leaves and berries of these plants. Symptoms include itchy, blistery skin that can cause misery for days. Extreme cases of poison ivy and poison oak should, of course, be treated by a physician, especially since doctor Andrew Weil says that between 50 and 80 percent of the population have severe allergic reactions to poison oak especially. But if your skin issues are not truly severe, you may be interested in fighting nature with nature, using natural products to ease your discomfort and speed your healing.
Here are some of the natural remedies for poison ivy and poison oak. (Keep in mind that everyone reacts to poison ivy and poison oak differently, so natural remedies may work for some, but not for others.) To be sure your chosen remedy will not interact badly with any medication you are on, it is a good idea to check with your physician before using any natural remedy. However, if your exposure to poison ivy and poison oak occurs from inhaling smoke from burning wood, brush or leaves that contain poison ivy or poison oak, causing dangerous and severe symptoms to the eyes, nose and lungs, see your doctor immediately.
When applying pastes or remedies to your skin, be sure to throw away any cotton balls or gauze pads, since oils from poison ivy and poison oak can cling to these applicators and spread to other parts of your body or affect your loved ones.
These remedies are not offered as replacements for medical advice. Use at your risk and responsibility.
--Aloe vera. Simply break open the leaf of an aloe vera plant and apply the gel to affected areas for quick relief, courtesy of one of the most effective natural remedies. Use this after your skin has stopped oozing, since adding moisture to oozing skin isn't ideal.
--Baking soda. Mix 3 teaspoons of baking soda with 1 teaspoon of water to make a paste, and apply to your affected areas to help draw out the poison. When this paste dries, the baking soda part just flakes away, leaving you with a noticeably calmed skin area. You can also steep a gauze pad in a solution of 2 teaspoons of baking soda and 1 quart of water and apply these pads to your blistered areas up to four times a day. Keep these gauze pads away from your eyes, though, for more safety.
--Tea tree oil. The experts at DIY Natural suggest tea tree essential oil to help heal the poison ivy rash once it stops oozing. "This treatment may sting at first, but that will fade quickly," say the DIY Natural experts. This remedy is also slower to deliver results, taking several applications to allow it to work from the inside out. Since essential oils are often too strong to apply directly to skin, dilute yours a bit before using.
--Witch hazel. Witch hazel is an astringent, which makes it soothing to irritated skin. It can help calm the itch and promote healing. Apply with a cotton ball.
--Oatmeal bath. Oatmeal is naturally soothing to skin issues, especially when you prepare it using old-fashioned oatmeal (unflavored, of course). Grind 1 cup of old-fashioned oatmeal in your blender until it turns into a fine powder, and then pour the powder into a piece of cheesecloth. Knot the cheesecloth and tie it around the faucet of your bathtub so that water runs through it. Fill your tub and soak for 30 minutes for healing effects. You can also make a paste of your oatmeal with water and apply this directly to your affected skin areas.
--Cold coffee. Coffee contains a substance known as chlorogenic acid, an anti-inflammatory that can help keep the swelling down. Apply cold coffee with a cotton ball.
--Aspirin. Grind up aspirin and mix it with a small amount of water to make a paste. Apply this to your affected areas and allow it to dry. The salicylic acid within can help speed healing.
--Cucumbers. Blend cucumbers to make a paste, and then apply for a soothing effect.
--Watermelon rind. Similar to the cooling, soothing effect of organic cucumbers, applying watermelon rind to the skin can bring relief.
--Apple cider vinegar. Apple cider vinegar helps to heal the skin by breaking down the oils. It can also be cooling. Since it is vinegar, it may sting at first.
--Manzanita leaf tea. Since manzanita is an astringent, it can help to dry blisters. Crush a handful of fresh Manzanita leaves and boil them into a thick tea. Then apply this to your skin as hot as is comfortable and let your skin air dry. Re-apply a few times per day.
--Jewelweed. The juice from the stem has long been known to reduce the effects of exposure to poison ivy and poison oak. Just crush the stem of the plant and rub the liquid into your skin.
--Mugwort. Either crush the leaves between your hands and apply them directly to skin or make a tea in which you'll soak gauze pads to apply to the skin.
--Rhubarb. Not just an ingredient in pie, rhubarb can be snapped open at the stem and rubbed onto your rash two or three times a day for relief.
--Milkweed. Pull the leaves off the plant and apply the sap to any rash and blisters. Let to dry, this remedy can help heal blisters as well as itching.
And of course, you might find extra relief via a hot shower, which can pull histamines away from your skin, as a temporary relief. If a shower isn't possible at the time you'd like relief, just run your affected hand, arm or leg under hot water from a sink faucet for a few minutes every few hours.