poison ivy plant, poison ivy rash

Did you know that Vicks VapoRub has been around for more than a century? It can be found all over the world. We have been collecting Unique Uses fo Vicks for decades. Here is one that we never heard before: Vicks against poison ivy itch. At first blush we thought it was odd. On further reflection, we think we have an explanation for why it might work.

More Vicks history at this link:

Vicks VapoRub Has a Venerable History

A New Use for an Old Remedy:

Q. I’d like to tell you about a new use for Vicks VapoRub. I got some poison ivy on my legs when I was mowing the lawn, and I just couldn’t get it to stop itching.

When I slapped some Vicks on it, the rash stopped itching. The next morning the redness had diminished.

How Could Vicks Relieve a Poison Ivy Itch?

A. Skin cells that encounter a stimulus like a mosquito bite or a poison ivy reaction use nerves to send the message (“it itches!”) to the brain. These nerves contain transient receptor potential (TRP) channels that are sensitive to itch (Neuron, May 2, 2018).

TRP channels respond to certain chemicals in addition to temperature and itch. Overwhelming them can shut down the sensation of itch for a while. That is why a short blast of hot water works so well to stop an itch.

Capsaicin, the hot stuff in hot peppers, can do the same thing (Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, online Feb. 10, 2018).  Other TRP channels respond to menthol and camphor, key ingredients in Vicks VapoRub (Neuropeptides, Feb. 2010).

We suspect this might help explain why Vicks eases a poison ivy itch. We have been embracing the TRP channel hypothesis for a number of home remedies. If you find this interesting, check out these TRP-related remedies.

Hot Water for Itches: TRP explanation?

Rediscovering How Hot Water for Itches Works for Hours

HotShot for Muscle Cramps: TRP!

Find out how we learned about the TRP connection with leg cramps at this link:

Show 1054: The Scientific Explanation for a Weird Remedy (Archive)

Hiccups and TRP?

Will Your Hiccups Go Away If You Reach and Sip?

How Could a Cold Mouth Stop Your Migraine? TRP perchance?

How Could a Cold Mouth Stop Your Migraine?

There are lots more possibilities for the TRP hypothesis of home remedies. They include soap for nerve pain and leg cramps.

Skeptic Discovers Benefit of Soap for Neuropathy

and aromatherapy: Can a Sniff of Alcohol Relieve Nausea?

Aromatherapy | Can a Sniff of Alcohol Relieve Nausea?

It’s entirely possible that TRP channels may explain other mysterious home remedies, including Vicks VapoRub on the soles of the feet to halt a cough. Anyone who would like to know more about the science behind alternative therapies may find our newest eGuide of interest: Graedons’ Favorite Home Remedies. It is available at this link.

Perhaps the idea that Vicks VapoRub might help ease a poison ivy itch isn’t so strange after all.

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  1. Daniel
    Manteo, NC

    For mosquito bites, I have found that applying vinegar, as suggested by the People’s Pharmacy, to the bite will stop the itch. I have used vinegar many times for mosquito bites with good results. But, I have no idea whether it would work for poison ivy, and I hope I never have to find out!

  2. T

    I wonder if Vicks vapor rub would help relieve the agony of fire ant stings. I have developed a fierce reaction to the stings of these nasty critters. Does anyone know? It’s worth a try.

  3. Ron
    Southern California

    I use cheap Analgesic Gel (One dollar at Dollar Store). It contains menthol 1% and camphor. It works very well.

  4. Martha

    My sister has received a recent diagnosis of trigeminal neuralgia. She’s read on MayoClinic.org that it is often chronic, meaning a possible lifetime of pain. She is 71 years old and recently had her life partner of 46 years die of Lymphoma and a variety of other chronic diseases.

    What is the cause of this condition and are there any natural treatments for it? The list of treatments on the website are lots of medications and possible surgery that could lead to nerve damage/facial droop. Please help if you can! Thanks.

  5. Guido S

    Does anyone have a suggestion for ichy, sore psoriasis that has erupted on my lower leg after I had a bout of pneumonia? Do you think Vicks will work for that?

  6. Susan

    Keep an ALOE plant or two around, break off a ‘spine’, and spread some of the inside contents onto the clean, affected area the way you’d use salve or ointment. It feels like a gel. You don’t need a large amount. Allow to dry.

    Apply morning and at bedtime and /or after showering. I left it exposed to air rather than covering with a bandage. Try not to scratch and don’t swallow the stuff. The Aloe helps the itching and speeds healing. My poison ivy rash was gone within two days.

    • Daniel
      Manteo, NC

      Coconut oil applied to the area of psoriasis might bring some relief. I believe a search of this website might also provide some other suggestions that might help.

  7. Virginia

    I developed Neuralgia on the inside of my upper leg. It was extremely sensitive so I put Vick’s on it. I have used it for everything else. Including on my arm after it was slammed in a revolving door. It didn’t even produce a bruise. I carry it with me all the time.

  8. Donna

    Try a teaspoon of peanut butter to stop hiccups.

  9. Bob
    South Carolina

    As suggested by The People’s Pharmacy some time ago I used hot water to get rid of the itch and it worked and it was permanent. However, you have to be careful with the water temperature as you get used to higher and higher temperatures and at some point you then start to burn your skin so careful.

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