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Poison Ivy

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  • Poison Ivy

    A couple of weeks ago I was out clearing some brush. I didn't see any poison ivy. However one of the plants must have been really grumpy about being dug up. I've been eat up with contact dermatitis on my legs, arms and stomach. I actually don't think it's poison ivy because the blisters haven't been as pronounced as I've typically seen with PI. This seems to be very tenacious and aggressive. It's more likely to be sumac. The itching has been so bad it's been waking me up every hour and a half for the past several nights. I've tried all the regular treatments of Calamine lotion and spray, Neosporin, Hydracortisol, Benedryl cream without any effect at all. Historically I've had really good results from using alcohol wipes to dry it up. But, not this time. The only thing I found in the medicine cabinet that offered any relief at all was hemorrhoid cream took the sting out of the massive itching. You can probably tell I was getting desperate. My hands were itching so bad that I would wear Nitril gloves all night long trying to find relief.

    I have learned a few new things that I want to share,

    First, if there's the slightest possibility of exposure to a poisonous plant, the #1 priority has to be to get rid of any plant oils on your skin, clothes, towels and anything else you may have touched, AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to limit the spread of the contact dermatitis. I found an interesting bar soap (sold in the laundry detergent section for removing stains) called Fels-Naptha. The name is rather ironic. It was originally made by the Fels Soap Company and has been sold a couple of times to different companies. It originally contained naptha which is a Volatile Organic Compound that was put on the cancer agent list. So instead of containing naptha it now has terpenes in it. So Fels-Naptha is neither owned by Fels or contain naptha. However it does still receive high praise for fighting poison ivy. I tried it late in the course of this exposure. It provided a slight reduction in itching, but not much. I think it would probably be wonderful when initially dealing with getting rid of the raw plant oils. I've heard that a lot of hikers, lumberjacks and preppers carry a piece of Fels-Naptha with them in the field and use it at the slightest provocation.

    Surprisingly, there has been a strong correlation with taking Quercetin, vitamin C, Zinc and Advil. I started taking those every 4 hours and every time the itching symptom would subside. It may have been a coincidence. But, it's been working so I've been sticking with it.

    The last thing that I found was a spray called Tecnur. The reason I tried it is because it has an ingredient called Calendula Officinalis extract. A few days earlier I made a salve from Calendula Officinalis tincture which was better than the hemorrhoid cream, but still not what I really needed. Anyway, this Tecnur spray with the concentrated Calendula extract provides almost instant itching relief that lasts several hours. It's interesting that Tecnur lists Calendula as an inactive ingredient

    My initial exposure sites have finally turned the corner and starting to get better. The secondary contact areas are still raging. But, at least I have some good tools to fight back with now.

    From here on out I'll keep stocked up on Fels-Naptha and Tecnur to fight future bouts with poisonous plants.

    Of course this protocol may not be right for you. I'm just sharing what I experienced for me. Everyone's different. Many people are actually allergic to poison ivy and need to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

    Hope I haven't given you subliminal itching. That sounds like an ancient curse. But, at least you have a few ideas how to deal with it.

  • #2
    YIKES! Hope you're fully recovered soon!
    Sticky Icky Ickys (I think I'm in love )
    Spruce 120's (they served me well)
    Trikke Skki


    • #3
      Ohh, that's a rough go!

      Poison ivy is relatively rare around my neck of the woods, and I've seen it but never tangled with it. Stinging nettle is a bit more common, but it's a completely different beast... doesn't attack you with nasty oils, just injects you with formic acid. At least nettle's good to eat in the spring... most of my stings are admittedly due to picking the shoots without gloves. Makes your fingertips tingle for a day or two.

      Interesting on the calendula... I'm a fan of the plant. I bet the 'inactive ingredient' listing has more to do with the fact it's a naturally occurring and non-patentable plant that isn't listed as a drug, so can't be labelled as having curative properties. The irony is that the 'officinalis' specific marks it out as a plant that has a long history of medicinal or culinary use. I use a calendula cream for the winter itch that gets my legs (probably mostly from long johns, ski socks, and ski boots).
      Drop the STICK, ride the SICK!


      • #4
        I'm glad that Calendula story resonated with you. The past couple of years I've been learning about medicinal herbs and making medicines. This year I've planted more medicinal plants than vegetables. I think growing food is extremely important. But, being able to use medicinal plants is a skill set that could prove to be an important asset in the not too distant future.

        Some of the plants I'm growing include: Brigham Tea, Comfrey, Echinacea, Lobelia, Lungwort, Marshmallow, Meadowsweet (Spirea), Rudbeckia, St. John's Wort, Valerian, Viburnum Opulus (Cramp Bark), Absinthe Wormwood and Yarrow. I talk to each one as often as I can trying to get to know and understand them.

        I've been buying various premade tinctures from a reliable source. But, my goal is to be able to grow and wildcraft my own medicines.

        I've not had very much success with essential oils. But, going back to the plants themselves to understand the medicine seems to be a winning strategy so far.

        Yeah, Linneaeus started naming plants with Latin names in the 18th century and used Officianalis in the names of the plants that he found in monk's officinas (office/libraries). They had already been used medicinally for hundreds of years so he just went with it. Anytime you run into an Officianalis, you know you're looking at something special.

        My skin used to itch so bad in the winter it would hurt. I now take a daily cap of flaxseed oil that I get at Sam's and my dry itchy skin is a thing of the past.


        • #5
          Hmm, I neglected/forgot that Viburnum is Cramp Bark... I've got it growing at my place. I've moved onto 5 acres of mixed forest that is highly biodiverse and has a lot of medicinal and food plants already there, and have been madly planting gardens to keep myself fed (the local fauna is quite edible if it really comes down to it as well.... grouse, deer, elk, black bear and I'm about a 5 minute walk from a glacial river with decent fishing for bull trout and whitefish).

          I made a bit of birch syrup this spring by tapping a couple of trees at a time (and drank a lot of sap), have candied some spruce tips and collected pine pollen this year. Berry season's starting up, with snackable amounts of trailing raspberry and wild strawberry, plus LOTS of thimbleberry. Planted some haskaps and a few plum trees for the long haul, but will do a bigger fruit bush / tree push next spring. Might just use the 'bear method' of planting huckleberries if I can find a good crop elsewhere this season. There's also a lot of chaga in the surrounding woods, and a few places on my patch, which is quite valuable. Plugged a bunch of logs with shiitake and oyster mushrooms last spring but haven't seen any results yet. The fall went from very dry to very cold last year.

          Literally scattered 150,000 yarrow seeds for ground cover around the place, but haven't seen much of it come up yet. Just trying to cover up the clay in the cleared area as fast as possible... the clover is starting to take.

          One of my favorite concoctions for sore throats is based on black poplar buds, extracted to ethanol, and mixed with buckwheat honey, peppermint oil, vegetable glycerin and a wee bit of ghost pepper tincture (AKA 'Pure Evil'). It really works well.

          I don't use a lot of essential oils, but peppermint oil is a staple for everything from headaches to colds to digestive issues.
          Drop the STICK, ride the SICK!


          • #6
            I just pre-ordered some ginseng seeds from
            They may not ship to BC, But, that could also be a pretty good longer term cash crop.

            Schrooms are definitely on my to-do list.

            If I had the room I'd love to put in some Honeycrisp, persimmon and sassafras trees.

            I've been following this guy to learn practical uses of herbs.


            • #7
              What's your favorite homesteading book(s)? I'm trying to have a decent library of hardcopy references. Keeping pdf backups in an EMF/EMP bag may help. But nothing, really beats an old school book.

              My current read is The Grow System by Marjory Wildcraft, founder of

              My favorite physical herb books are:
              - The Homegrown Herbalist, Dr. Patrick Jones
              - Medicinal Weeds, Dr. Patrick Jones
              - The Natural Remedies Encyclopedia, seventh/heritage edition

              That last one is pricey. But weighs about 10 lbs, 1227 pages, covers 730 diseases & disorders with 11,000 remedies, 570 color pictures and 7000 cross references

              Another pretty cool reference I just picked up is a new bible. I have bibles from several different religions. But, this one certainly stands out as something historic. Did you know that The New Testament has been added to the Jewish bible and that about half of the Jewish faith is now accepting Jesus? That blows my mind. In 2007 a group of Rabbis and Christian leaders got together and used original New Testament Greek manuscripts to create the Tree of Life Version (TLV) Bible. The one I got is called the Messianic Jewish Family Bible. IMHO it's really interesting. It has sections that explain the history and meaning of Hebrew/Jewish words, festivals and readings.


              • #8
                Had considered getting some cultivated ginseng roots the next time I'm in a city (Asian markets carry them) and plopping them in the forest. Hadn't thought about growing from seed. My place is full of Aralia nudicaulis (wild sarsaparilla), which is related. There was a lot of ginseng farms around where I grew up... we used to go 'ginseng jumping' on the tarps at night as teenagers. Think of square miles of trampolines with less springiness, 6 ft in the air.

                Some of my favorite books on the subject are The One-Straw Revolution - Masanobu Fukuoka and Stalking the Wild Asparagus - Euell Gibbons (the latter is about foraging, and he's got a few others on the subject), plus some good local plant guides. I don't have a copy yet, but The Boreal Herbal - Beverly Gray is excellent for this area. A former roommate had it, and I'll probably add it to my collection at some point. Do read the One-Straw Revolution if you can find it... it's been my biggest inspiration on permaculture. It's not so much a how-to as an approach to the subject.

                I grew up gardening in what I call a subrural community (in a neighbourhood, but with a hayfield out back and walking distance from the forest. Ma said I could name most of the plants in the garden by 2, and have always been interested in wild plants.

                I keep a fairly wide range of books of faith, and on the subject, around as well (think I've got some Hitchens and Harris too, for good measure - used to like Dawkins when he stuck to biology, but then he just got cantankerous and I lost interest). Heck, I think I've even got a copy of the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster around (used to be quite active on the FSM forums, which is where a lot of my interest in different faiths comes from). Most of my books are still in bins till I get some bookshelves, and I'll have to be careful because I worry some might burst into flames if placed next to each other. Karen Armstrong has always been a favorite writer on subjects of faith.

                Cross-referencing bible versions can be informative, as each is made for a particular audience and is interpreted a little differently. Think I usually gravitate towards the New International Version when I need to look something up. You may be interested to know that Islam also recognizes Jesus as Messiah, although not in a Christian context. I didn't make it all that far through the Koran, but it did strike me a more contemporary historical document than the Old Testament or even some of the New.

                On a completely different book note, I found something on the graphic novel shelf of the library recently called Shirtless Bear Fighter... it's utterly ridiculous but had me laughing out loud multiple times. I'm not a comic book guy, but I went to my local shop and ordered two copies. I'll have one lent out to friends at all times, I'm sure. Don't plan to fistfight the bears on my property, but I do have a bad habit of running them off with whatever gardening tool is closest to hand, or singing Tom Waits songs as loud as possible to scare them.

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                Drop the STICK, ride the SICK!


                • #9
                  That's funny. I've got both of John Cooper's graphic novels and the book he just won a KLove award for.
                  I got to see Skillet (John Cooper) in person last month. They've rented a bunch of drive-in movie theaters and they set their stage up next to the huge screen and have at least six cameras projecting the show onto the big screen. They put on a great show. Some of them are on youtube if you've never seen them.

                  Thanks for the book suggestions. I'll certainly check those out.


                  • #10
                    Cool, hadn't heard of him, but the multimedia aspect is interesting. My library's got his albums but not the books.

                    Thought of one other herb reference you might like... check out Maria Treben's stuff if you can. Quite traditional and anecdotal European writing on herbalism, but there's a charm to her style. I've had Health through God's Pharmacy for quite a while, and recently stumbled across the German version in a free bin.
                    Drop the STICK, ride the SICK!


                    • #11
                      If you like multi-media, check out his podcast channel.
                      Those videos will give you a whole new perspective on Skillet's music. I listen to them on x1.5 speed.
                      You'll get a kick of out of just reading the podcast titles.
                      Episode 68 with Kyle Thompson recently resonated with me and helped explain why I don't really care for most modern Christian music (and U2 & Cold Play).


                      • #12
                        Haven't had internet at home in dang near 6 months, but should get around to it one of those days, will check it out then (use the wifi after work once in a while). Also overdue to upload some more video... have been going through last season's runs lately to get a list of the best together.
                        Drop the STICK, ride the SICK!


                        • #13
                          Push The Possible, here's one for ya. Just finished a book you'd find interesting - Backyard Winter Gardening by Caleb Warnock. This guy was born, raised and lives outside Provo Utah at about 6000' in the high desert and grows veggies all year round without a greenhouse. He did recently build what he calls a geothermal greenhouse where he grows exotic stuff like orange and banana trees, He learned to be food self-sufficient from his grandparents in Utah. I've already taken up my veggie plants for this year and I've been wondering what to do with my raised beds this winter. Now I'm stoked with ideas on things to try.


                          • #14
                            Cool! Daylight could be a bit of an issue in the winter here - would probably need some supplemental light during the dark days (when I go to work in the dark, and come home in the dark); I looked a bit into what it's about and it seems like he's no stranger to snow. Think it was at least 3 or 4 ft deep last year, with 2 ft on the ground well into April.... "Spring" started around May 1st, when the majority of the forest plants started to emerge from the ground.

                            Bet he's got some good tips for season extenders, at least! I've hoarded a couple of used skylights that I'll be using for cold frames next spring, and plan to use some of the charcoal I've saved as a by-product of burning material from clearing to help melt out the snow and warm up the soil early (I'm keen on biochar; don't have a proper retort, but my turbo burn barrel accumulates a fair bit. Have been inoculating a bunch of it in the pit of the currently-unused outhouse, and mixing in my compost). Will certainly be setting up some hoop houses to get the cold-weather veggies started early.

                            I'd love to get into a combined heat & power setup at some point... a little beyond my skills at the moment, but the technology is improving and backyard sized units will probably be a reality in the next decade. I've got a more or less unlimited supply of firewood, so if I could burn biomass to offset my electricity use and produce heat for a greenhouse, I'd be set. Putting a wood stove in wasn't worth the expense given the size of my place. There's a lot of extra equipment required these days due to building codes and how air-tight new houses are - most new places with a wood stove also require a 8 - 10kW make up air unit to be installed around here, which is comparable to an electric furnace and kind of defeats the point.

                            Huckleberry season's started around here... picked a gallon and a half or so last weekend and will plan to get more soon. They should keep getting bigger as they ripen. Had a lot of smoked beaver chili and huckleberries in my lunch last week.
                            Drop the STICK, ride the SICK!