Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Poison ivy remedies

I love my new house, but I have a love-hate relationship with the yard. When we closed a few months ago, the property looked like a jungle. Vines were growing all over the house and carriage house. Half of the back yard was a tangle of shrubs and volunteer trees. Worst of all, poison ivy was EVERYWHERE: under bushes, growing up trees, even creeping all over the lawn.

This was bad news, since I am extremely sensitive to poison ivy. Once I get it, it spreads all over my body. I've had to go on oral steroids just about every time I've been exposed. I use Tecnu Outdoor Skin Cleanser after I've been doing yardwork in infested areas.The main ingredient is deodorized mineral spirits. That makes sense; mineral spirits is a solvent used for thinning paint and dry cleaning. You could probably wash with low-odor mineral spirits from the painting aisle; you'd just smell like paint thinner for a while!

(My aunt swears by rubbing undiluted bleach on the rash as soon as it appears. Any other remedies you've heard of?)

The problem is, I don't always know where the poison ivy is--or was. Even dead leaves, stems, and roots can release the oil (urushiol) that creates the itchy rash. I've gotten into poison ivy in the most unlikely places. What I needed is something that will keep me from reacting to it in the first place.

The last time I saw my family doctor for a steroid prescription (three months ago), he mentioned that there used to be an injection for poison ivy. You would get a few shots at the beginning of the growing season. It contained small amounts of urushiol and would decrease your body's sensitivity to the oil. Unfortunately, it is no longer manufactured.

About two months ago, a friend of mine called and said she'd seen a poison ivy tincture at a compounding pharmacy in Peoria, IL. I talked to a pharmacist, who explained how and why it worked. Taken orally once a week in a glass of water, the tincture contained small amounts of urushiol and would decrease your body's reaction to poison ivy. A large portion of their customers are landscapers; they report that their reaction to poison ivy either disappears or is greatly reduced when they are using the tincture. I ordered a bottle of Preckshot Professional Poison Ivy Preventer right away (around $30 with shipping).

I've been taking the tincture (15 drops in a glass of water, weekly) for about five weeks. I wasn't about to rub poison ivy on myself to test it out, but a few days ago I got into it by accident. I saw and felt the familiar rash appearing the next day.

Would the tincture really work?

This time, the rash only spread to a few places, and only in small bumps. I had a huge smear of poison ivy inside my arm, and it never even blistered. In the past, the rash has continued to blister and spread for at least 1-2 weeks past the initial exposure. This time, the rash peaked about 2-3 days after exposure and then started to fade. I stayed comfortable using two OTC anti-itch creams and never had to go on steroids.

I'm still careful to wash with Tecnu after possible exposure, but I am much less afraid of my yard now that I am taking the poison ivy tincture. This product definitely gets a thumbs-up.


  1. sarah dutton8/16/11, 11:52 PM

    sounds like it's working, i'd stick with it. i also think that you can put tecnu on prior to exposure, if you know you're going to be in it. i bet a combo of the two & you'd be smooth sailing! good luck

  2. Any idea if there is a similar product for poison oak? My mom gets horrible, huge blisters from it, and with a lot of property and outdoor pets, she gets it fairly often!

  3. Interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

    My DH is also extremely sensitive to poison ivy. He got some on his face accidentally once and his eyes swelled shut. It was awful.

    We keep lots of Tecnu around; it's great stuff. But it's good to know about other options. Thanks!

  4. Interesting! I will share with my gardener sister.

  5. Wow, that's interesting!

    I used to be super sensitive to poison ivy. I've had it in my eyes, throat, ugh. I used to actually go get a shot (and oatmeal baths) immediately after known exposure to try and prevent as much as possible. Terrible.

    Either I've become less sensitive over the years (or through getting it so often) or I haven't been exposed - either way, I'm happy. :)

  6. my granpa told him that an indian (native american, not sure which tribe...this is in OK, USA) told him that you could eat the root of the poison ivy and it would help with not getting the rash so obviously there is something to it. are you sensitive to mangos? i had read that mangos are in the same family as poison ivy so typically a highly sensitive person will eventually develop an allergy to mango as well. i am highly allergic to PI (i have to use steroids too) but the only part of the mango that seems to bother me is the pit. i cannot get the pit close to my mouth or i have a horrible PI like rash all over my lips and cheeks.

  7. I've never noticed a sensitivity to mangoes, but then again I haven't gnawed on mango pits all that much. I've heard from a few people that eating part of the PI plant can help you become immune to it, which is why I was so glad to find the tincture.

  8. I have seen at random health food stores a soap you are to wash with BEFORE going out when you are in known danger. Friends in AR always said it worked. But sadly, I have no idea what it is called. Wait, I do have an idea. It was something really benign like "Poison Ivy Soap". True story.

  9. You could try EFT (www.eftuniverse.com) It's very effective for allergies, but sometimes you need a good practitioner to get fast results.

  10. My grandma always said to wash with Fels Naptha, a bar form of laundry soap, and it works for me. And outbreaks that I miss are decreased by applying whiskey, or at least they don't spread.

  11. Fels Naptha works to get it off our dog. For people, I also like a product called Zanfel (hideously expensive, at about $30/tube). It has spared me from steriod shots after an accidental exposure to PI. Thanks for posting this about the tincture!

  12. We use Jewel Weed. It growl wild next to our stream on the farm. We harvest a bunch of it every summer. Break it into pieces that will fit a large pot. cover with water and boil. we boil till liquid is dark green or orange. (The jewel weed that is orange with red spots is the stuff you want, not the yellow with orange spots though that works ok) Then we pour into ice cube trays and freeze. I then transfer to a freezer safe bag and keep in there all year. Whenever someone gets even a little poison ivy we break out the ice cube and apply till cube is gone. It works every time! One year I had poison ivy so bad I had to be on steroids, but when I used the jewel weed it goes away quickly

  13. I didn't know about Tecnu. But then we don't get poison ivy here in the UK :)

  14. This is awesome information. My oldest got a horrible poison ivy rash ALL over his body the first time he was exposed. They say each reaction will be worse then the one before. It makes me so nervous when he goes on hikes (which is a lot as a scout) I may have to try this, though taking it daily may be a challenge for a teenager.

  15. You only have to take it once a week, so even your teenager should be able to keep up with that!

  16. They still make the shot (series of three shots)...my son has gotten it the past 2 years.

    1. That's funny--my family doctor said it's no longer available. Maybe it varies by region.

  17. I am like you and have to go on oral steroids whenever I get poison ivy. Then when I was still in elementary school, my Mom talked to a Homeopath Healer and she gave us this 'tincture of jewel weed.' I don't pretend to know why it works, but you drink a little in a cup of water (It's gross, so chug) and then put it liberally on the rash whenever it itches. On steroids it used to take me a month to get rid of a rash, on the jewel weed it was gone in a week and didn't spread. To this day if I start to get a rash I'll rub some sap from a jewel weed plant (they grow like weeds in marshy areas) and it'll stop spreading.


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