Why does experience have to be the best teacher? I am severely allergic to poison ivy. Just typing the words makes me itch. Well, maybe it's because I currently have poison ivy that I itch. And burn. And hurt. I look like someone held me by my toes and dipped me in hot bubbling oil. I had to cancel my appointments for this week because I can't stand clothing to touch me. And, because half my mouth is caked and cracked. You get the picture. So, I look at the glass as half full...once again I have the perfect candidate for experimenting with herbal poison ivy remedies! In my many bouts with this innocent looking ivy, I have tried the drying lotion route, the healing salve route and now I'm on to the spraying route. I have a bottle of potion I'm spraying periodically all over my upper torso and face...I'll let you know how it works out.
Now, as my daughter so aptly pointed out, how is it that an herbalist always gets poison ivy? I am very adept at recognizing it in its various disguises..it can be a vine, a bush, a shrub; it can be green or red, with or without green or white berries; leaves can be shiny or matte, notched or not; vines can be hairy or smooth depending on the size. One form I failed to recognize--the invisible urushiol oil on my dog Sophie's coat. I'm pretty sure that's how I got this latest batch.
So, now she gets rubbed down with Kitty Klean, a product I developed for my cats, each time she comes in from outside. (It's good for dogs, too!) The urushiol oil can get on gardening tools and clothing --pretty much anything that comes in contact with it. It's particularly clandestine in winter with no tell tale three-leaved growth to warn you. Poison ivy has become more virulent than in years past; the oil is stronger and nastier.
One of the best treatments is the homeopathic "rhus toxicodendron" by Boiron. Its side effect, and what they market it for is joint pain improved by motion. Isn't that great?! One of the most informative web sites is www.poison-ivy.org. They have a skin rash hall of fame, and yes, I'm in there.
My herb teacher taught me to WEAR CLOTHES from toes to nose when gardening or "weed walking". When you're working with plants is not the time for sun-bathing. We love our herbs, but respectfully recognize the incompatibilities of raw nature with our human skin.