Alternative Nature Online Herbal

Jewelweed, Nature's Poison Ivy Remedy Plant

Impatiens capensis

What is Jewelweed ?

Jewelweed flower picture, plant used for Poison Ivy

Jewelweed is a native plant that has been used for centuries in North America by Native Americans and Herbalists, as a natural preventative and treatment for poison ivy and poison oak rash and itching. It is a folk remedy for many other skin disorders. Learn to find and use Jewelweed below.

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What is Jewelweed used for?

The Jewelweed plant is best known for its skin soothing properties. Many people use Jewelweed soap (product link) as a soothing wash for irritated skin. It is safe for daily and facial use as a regular bath soap. The leaves and the juice from the stem of Jewelweed are used by herbalists as a treatment for poison ivy, oak and other plant induced rashes, as well as many other types of dermatitis. Jewelweed may work by counter-reacting with the chemicals in other plants that cause irritation. Poultices and salves from Jewelweed are folk remedies for bruises, burns, cuts, eczema, insect bites, sores, sprains, warts, and ringworm.

Jewelweed plant with two orange flowers

Jewelweed plant blooming in late summer. I gather the tops and leave plenty of branches and flowers to make seed.

Jewelweed Plant Identification and Habitat

Jewelweed is a native annual found in the eastern part of North America from Southern Canada to the northern part of Florida. The Jewelweed plant is found most often in moist woods and is a common plant of shady wet areas. You will often find Jewelweed in ditches, along creek beds, or in shallow water growing in large colonies. Also known as Touch-me-nots, Jewelweed that grows from 2 to 6 feet tall, or taller in rich soil, and bears hundreds of seeds per plant over the growing season. It is commonly said that wherever you find poison ivy, you will find Jewelweed - however this is not always true as Jewelweed will not grow in dry places for long, and does not thrive in direct sunlight. Poison Ivy will grow in sun or shade.

Jewelweed impatiens plant touch me nots garden balsam

Jewelweed leaves are oval, usually round- toothed; lower ones opposite, upper ones alternate. They have a waxy surface coating that repels water like a newly waxed car. The veins in the leaves end in the notches between the teeth.

A bit trumpet shaped, Jewelweed flowers hang from the plant much as a jewel from a necklace, Pale Jewelweed has yellow flowers, Spotted Touch-Me-Nots have orange flowers with dark red dots. The flower is unmistakable, the only flower I can think of that even resembles Jewelweed is Trumpet vine flower, and even that takes some stretch of the imagination.  Trumpet vine climbs trees and has pointed pinnate leaves.

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The Jewelweed stem is succulent , hollow, and usually reddish at the joints. Jewelweed has very shallow reddish roots with stringy tan rootlets. The seeds will 'pop' when touched , that is where the name Touch-Me-Nots came from. Jewelweed seeds are edible and said to have a mild walnut taste. The Spotted Orange Jewelweed variety is most commonly used for treating irritated skin and poison ivy rashes although the Pale Jewelweed may also have medicinal properties¬†.

There is plenty of jewelweed in the wild, and it is not hard to find once you learn to identify it. It can sometimes become invasive, but is easy to pull up because of the shallow roots.

How to Use Jewelweed

When you are out in the field and find you have been exposed to poison ivy, oak, or stinging nettle you can reach for the jewelweed plant and slice the stem, then rub its juicy inside on exposed parts. This will promptly ease irritation and usually prevents breakout for most people. Jewelweed or an infusion made from boiling leaves of Impatiens capensis may be frozen for later use.

The easiest way to use it is to brew chopped jewelweed in boiling water until you get a dark orange liquid. Yellow Jewelweed will not yield orange color and may not be effective. Strain the liquid and pour into ice cube trays. When you have a skin rash, rub it with a jewelweed cube and you will be amazed with its soothing, healing properties. It will keep in freezer up to a year. You can also preserve the infusion by canning it in a pressure cooker. Jewelweed does not dry well due to its high moisture and oil content. If you make salve from Jewelweed, it is best kept refrigerated for long term storage.

Do not make alcoholic tinctures from Jewelweed because some people have had a bad reaction using jewelweed in alcohol based preparations. More isn't necessarily better with Jewelweed, and a strong concentrate should be diluted for use on skin, as some people have had reddening of skin with strong concentrations of Jewelweed.

Informative Link

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Clinical Study on Jewelweed

Recent clinical studies have failed to find scientific evidence for the effectiveness of Jewelweed preparations.

"The Results of a Clinical Study,in which a 1:4 jewelweed preparation was compared for its effectiveness with other standard poison ivy dermatitis treatments was published in 1958 (Annals of Allerty 1958;16:526-527). Of 115 patients treated with jewelweed, 108 responded "most dramatically to the topical application of this medication and were entirely relieved of their symptoms within 2 or 3 days after the institution of treatment". It was concluded that jewelweed is an excellent substitute for ACTH and the corticosteroids in the treatment of poison ivy dermatitis. The active principle in the plant responsible for this activity remains unidentified."
by Varro Tyler, PhD in his book HERBS OF CHOICE


Author, Photographer: Karen Bergeron Copyright 1999 - 2018

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