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15 Natural Ways to Soothe and Heal Poison Ivy

by Tiffany in Health & Healing

15 Natural Ways to Soothe and Heal Poison IvyWhen I came home from New York City this week I came home to a rather nasty surprise. My youngest kiddo was covered in poison ivy. He must have gotten it on a fishing trip he took with his Dad and the itching apparently went unnoticed until I came home so it has spread pretty far along…from his lower limbs to his arms, chest, and face. We actually went through this a month ago with my oldest boy but at 12 he is pretty savvy about not itching and it healed quickly without any interventions from mom. With my six year old though, it has been a struggle.

Conventional over-the-counter remedies have some unsavory ingredients. The Calamine sprays are mostly alcohol and the gels/creams have alcohol, parabens, and fragrance. There are some products that we can find in our pantries that can be just as effective though in healing and soothing the itchiness and pain associated poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. We don’t need a pharmacy, we need to shop our own pantry and our local FARMacy.

Baking Soda – This can be sprinkled in bath water daily to help clean the skin. Baths are very soothing and should be indulged in often while suffering with poison ivy. Afterwards you can create a paste using baking soda and water that can be rubbed on the skin to prevent itchiness. Works like a charm.

Aloe Vera – Aloe does amazing things for the skin because of its anti-inflammatory properties. We use it often to soothe burns and other skin ailments so it only makes sense that it will help soothe the itchy, irritated skin associated with poison ivy. You can use an aloe cream/gel or cut open the plant and use it directly. Aloe growing in the kitchen window is a must have around our home…something I learned form my mom growing up.

Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) – Soothes the skin and helps pull toxins from the skin. Works best if you use it on a compress and apply directly to the skin. A vinegar rinse is also effective after hand washing.

Cold Compresses – A very simple and easy way to get some relief. Chill some damp cotton washcloths in the freezer and then press them to the infected areas. Get fresh ones often though and don’t let these washcloths come into contact with unaffected skin. ACV compresses can also be chilled.

Soap and Water – Many doctors claim that scratching does not make the infection spread but I think that is a bunch of hogwash. How else do to people end up with it on their faces??? Most people wade though the offending plants at ankle and lower leg level, not eye level! Frequent hand washing, with scrubbing under the nails, is vital to keeping it localized and not having it spread all over. Every single time I see my kiddo scratching, I take him to wash his hands. Also clean towels and bed sheets daily in hot water.

Oatmeal – This is used much like baking soda. It can be used in a soothing oatmeal bath and it can be powdered and made into a paste that can be spread all over the infected area.

Cornstarch – Used the same way oatmeal or baking soda is. Just mix with water to make a paste.

Banana Peels – Eat the banana and then rub the peel all over the skin. This helps with skin irritations such as acne and also itchiness and irritation caused by poisonous plants.

Coffee – Mixing coffee with baking soda to make a paste is another anti-itch skin treatment.

Jewelweed – This weed often grows near poison ivy and helps to soothe the irritations associated with it. Coincidence? Perhaps not. Just boil the plant and roots and make a tea that can then be applied to the skin. Or simply crush the leaves/flowers to release the juices and apply to the skin. You can also buy a Jewelweed Poison Ivy Rash Relief Spray.

Green or Bentonite clay – This clay soothes the skin and dries it out. Use it to make a paste and add essential oils for even more soothing /drying action.

Essential Oils – Mix oils such as peppermint, tea tree, or cypress with water or vinegar to rub on the skin and dry the affected areas. Apply with a cotton ball or small washcloth. Essential oils can also be added to bath water.

Witch Hazel – Apply to skin for help with swelling and itch.

Tea – Drinking teas that are cool and mildly sedating will help with flushing and itchiness. Try chamomile or skullcap. You can also add tea leaves to bath water (allow the water to cool after seeping) or apply tea directly to the skin with a cotton ball.

Turmeric – This amazing plant is anti-inflammatory and the powder can be used to make a paste that will help with skin ailments. You can get organic turmeric at Mountain Rose Herbs.

Another option is the itch soother bath in the wonderful ebook Herbal Nurturing. I adore this book and it has make-at-home herbal remedies for everything from fever/cough to pink eye. Good stuff!

Have you or your kids had poison ivy lately? What did you do to provide relief?

Want a recipe for a homemade poison ivy paste? Click below!

homemade poison ivy paste

  • Karen

    In the early spring my son’s legs were literally covered in poison ivy! I used several of the above as well as Tea Tree Oil — either in a bath or directly on the skin.
    Burt’s Bees also makes a poison ivy soap that contains various natural ingredients (tea tree oil and jewelweed are two of them). The smell was a little too funky for my little guy, but reviewers raved about it.
    I must say I truly believe that scratching does NOT spread poison ivy. It is the oil that causes the rash. Once the rash has come out, it means the oil has been absorbed into the skin and touching the skin alone (even if oozing) will not spread the rash. It may seem as if it is spreading if the oils are still on other items the skin comes in contact with. In addition, it can actually take up to two weeks for the rash to surface in some areas. Thus what appears to be spreading is actually still rash from the initial exposure.
    Note — prior to the oil being removed from the skin, it CAN be spread via touch. That’s how it gets on peoples faces — they touch the plant or the exposed skin and then touch their face prior to having washed the oil from the skin. Thus the best treatment if you know you were exposed is to try to get the oil off the skin to minimize the future rash. If my little guy ever tromps through poison ivy again I will try to be much more proactive — rinse him with tons of COOL water (not warm — it will open the pores and let the oil in) and wash him down with the Burts Bees.
    Also important to clean all clothing or other items that came in contact with the poison ivy. I washed his contact clothes and his sheets in hot water with a cup or two of vinegar and wiped down his shoes with vinegar as well. Don’t forget any toys little ones may have dragged through the patch with them!
    Hope your little guy feels better soon Tiffany!

    • Thanks for the tips Karen!

  • Vegetarians

    These natural remedies are amazing. I used to purchase over the counter medication but now, I would certainly try these suggestions of yours. Is it alright to try two different remedies at a time?

    • Sure is. You don’t have to worry about things like bananas and oatmeal not playing well together.

  • Jillian

    I completely agree with you. All of these remedies should be in everyone’s cabinet because they offer so many benefits for so many ailments! I love natural skin/body care and make all sorts of natural skincare goodies. I have a salve for this if anyone wants one made. I’ll post a link if anyone is interested, not trying to promote myself just healthy and effective natural care. I love this blog! :) Keep up the great work!


    • Your salve looks wonderful! Thanks for sharing. :)

  • Anna @GreenTalk

    Dirt. Seriously! I didn’t find jewel weed to help. Maybe I was too impatient.

    • Thanks for the recommendation. I will have to try it this summer. :)