Many a family picnic or outing has been cut short because someone ended up with a case of itchiness from coming into contact with poison ivy. Poison ivy, and its companions, poison oak, poison sumac, poison elder, poison dogwood and markweed, are the most common allergenic plants in North America. They occur in every state, except Alaska, and are common along roadsides and streams, in forests and pastures, and even in gardens. Contact with these plants produces an almost instant burning and itching, followed by an intense rash and in extreme cases, blistering of the skin, swelling, nausea and fever.
While there are many over-the-counter preparations available, one doesn’t always have them with one when taking a walk on the wild side. For this reason, it’s good to know of natural remedies that one can access in the wild and use immediately, so as to limit the discomfort.
Here are 11 natural remedies that can help:
1. Washing in cool water
If possible, gently wash the affected skin in cool water (avoid hot water as this can intensify the itchiness) as soon as possible after touching the poison ivy. Poison ivy’s active ingredient is an oily substance called urushiol and washing immediately can help remove this before it has time to penetrate deeply into the skin. If soap is available, it can help to dissolve the oily sap. Do not rub the area harshly, this will stimulate the itching, rather rinse repeatedly and gently wipe with a soft cloth.
2. Cold coffee
As weird as it sounds, there are references to cold coffee being used to alleviate the itch and pain of poison ivy. Coffee contains a substance known as chlorogenic acid, which is a natural anti-inflammatory and it can help to reduce the swelling and discomfort. Simply soak any soft item, like a cotton ball, a tissue or a clean handkerchief, in a strong solution of cold coffee and hold it on the affected area. Do not rub, this will only aggravate the problem. The coffee will help to soothe and minimize the discomfort.