Q. Just thought I would let you know about a home remedy for poison ivy. My dad was a Boy Scout for 75 years (he got his 75 year pin the year he died).
I get poison ivy badly and so did he. We always tried to get rid of it whenever we found it and he told me to use borax (the only activated borax I’ve ever found is 20 Mule Team) and just sprinkle it on near the roots. This kills it and it doesn’t come back.
There is a cure that also works if you get into the stuff in the wild and can’t get to a bath or shower to wash off the oils. Dad always said that jimsonweed would fix it. He would snatch up some of the plant and crush the leaves and rub it on his arms where he might have gotten the poison ivy. I have also seen him take it in the house and put it in the blender with a little water and then sluice down his arms. It seemed to work for him.
Jimsonweed, however, is hard to find any more. Dad always let the little patch in the back yard grow but I truly can’t tell you where to find it now. I haven’t seen any in years.
If you just want to get rid of poison ivy in your yard and don’t want to use herbicide, just sprinkle borax. It is also cheaper than commercial weed sprays. Hope this helps someone.
A. This is the time of year that a lot of folks are suffering from poison ivy. It is everywhere and dogs and cats can bring it home with them. Petting your cat or dog can transfer the oils to your skin and lead to all sorts of misery.
We have grave reservations about using jimsonweed (Datura stramonium) to treat poison ivy. This is a poisonous plant also known as thorn apple. It belongs in the nightshade family of plants. Chemicals in the plant include atropine, hyoscyamine and scopolamine. When taken orally, jimsonweed can cause dilated pupils, anxiety, hallucinations and even death. Rubbing it on the skin might lead to some absorption. The motion sickness medicine, Transderm Scop, contains scopolamine and comes as a patch that allows the drug to be absorbed through the skin. This reinforces our fear that rubbing in on the skin could cause toxicity.
We suspect that what your father may have been using for poison ivy was actually jewelweed (Impatiens capensis). Native Americans and herbalists have been using the juice from the leaves and stems of this plant for centuries to treat poison ivy as well as for insect bites and minor skin irritations. Old-timers have been telling us for years that if you suspect you have been exposed to poison ivy while hiking or working outside, you should search for some jewelweed, mash up the leaves and stems and spread the juice all over the area that was exposed.
For those that may have trouble identifying jewelweed, another reader suggested taking along some old-fashioned brown soap on outings so that poison ivy oils could be washed off immediately. The only problem with that strategy is that you need water.
Another option is individual packets with alcohol wipes. You can find them in the first aid section of the drug store. You may also find products like Ivy Wash Poison Ivy Cleanser, Tecnu Poison Ivy Outdoor Skin Cleanser or Zanfel Poison Ivy Wash can be helpful.
When it comes to using borax to kill poison ivy, please be careful. Too much might damage other plants. Here is a link to the Iowa State University Extension Outreach Service for a borax formula that may avoid this complication.
Of course the best solution to preventing poison ivy misery is to stay far away from those shiny leaves. That is not always so easy.
What is your favorite poison ivy prevention or treatment? Share you experience below.