Crisp, clear fall weather is perfect for outside activities, but that often means encounters with poison ivy.
Poison ivy has grown faster, stronger, and more resilient as the level of carbon dioxide has increased in the past 50 years, according to new research. Even the itch-inducing oils seem to get more noxious. It’s hard to get rid of too, rebounding quickly from pulling, slashing, deer browsing and probably even herbicide use.
There are several effective home remedies for poison ivy, especially if treated right away. Try immediately pouring vodka on the exposed skin. The alcohol will wash away the urushiol oil, which causes the itching. Straight rubbing alcohol works as well. You can also apply warm oatmeal to the affected area or baking soda. Mix 3 teaspoons of baking soda with 1 teaspoon of water to form a paste, then apply. (This remedy also works for bee stings.) For severe poison ivy, full immersion in a baking soda bath offers relief. Vinegar helps get rid of the itching if liberally applied. Vinegar helps draw out the “poison” from poison ivy and spurs on healing. White or apple cider vinegars seem to work best. The inside of a banana peel rubbed on poison ivy rashes also brings relief. Dishwashing liquid is effective and accessible; the anti-grease agents make it a good remedy when applied at full strength, then washed off.
Mother Nature thinks of everything though. You will often find Jewelweed, a plant known for its skin healing properties, growing right alongside poison ivy. Herbalists use the leaves and juice as a treatment for poison ivy and other skin rashes. If used immediately, the jewelweed will neutralize the urushiol oil. But even poison ivy with all the discomfort it can cause has a place in the ecosystem – birds feast on its berries and rabbit and deer eat its leaves.