Poison Ivy - Editor's Choice

Over the years, Earth Clinic readers have sent us many reports about their treatments for Poison Ivy. The editors at Earth Clinic consider the below posts to be some of the most helpful and informative and have named them 'Editor's Choice'. We hope that you will find this useful.

Ionic Zinc

Posted by Suzy (Indiana) on 09/07/2019

Last summer I had a long and nasty outbreak of poison ivy.

This past July I got it again though in 66 years I've only had it twice. Looking for relief, I remembered zinc in pill form clears up my granddaughter's eczema. I had a bottle of ionic zinc and knowing it is good for skin I decided to see if it would offer some relief from the blistering and itch. Ionic zinc is a liquid. Mine came in a blue bottle with a dropper. I put a bit on every tingle, pimple and start of an outbreak.

I immediately had what felt like an electrical charge or tiny pin pricks. It was a bit overwhelming at first and I wondered if it was a very smart idea but the sensation eased and in a short time blisters appeared. Poison ivy takes days to blister and you aren't on your way to healing until your skin is a full blown mess. What got me to apply the ionic zinc again that evening was the fact that once I applied the zinc the itching stopped.

I applied it morning and night, a small amount. It is like water with a bit of oil, you need to shake the bottle and pump the dropper so you have the mixed ionic zinc in the dropper. I don't know the science behind it but I know it worked. If you've had poison ivy you know how long it takes to surface, blister, weep and finally start to go away. The ionic zinc got rid of all of it within a week, full cycle, start to finish. It surfaced, dried up and went away with no itch.

The only side effect I experienced was that the skin on my arms, after the poison ivy healed, was wrinkly and very dry.

I probably could have been more careful applying the zinc only to the poison ivy, maybe have used a q-tip. I put coconut oil on the dry patches and used a soft skin brush when I bathed. After a few days my skin was back to normal. Ionic zinc worked for me. Last year it took me three weeks to just get feeling ok with the poison ivy starting to clear.

I'm hoping this might help someone else get relief. Take care and stay smart.

Ice Water

Posted by William (Texas) on 02/12/2019

I have had poison ivy many times in my life!! My "go to" remedy is ALWAYS "ICE WATER". Why? Because it is instantaneous relief from misery. 100% relief in a split second! Just leave your hand, arm, feet,... in the icy water for about one minute or two full minutes.

The relief is immediate and lasts for two to ten hours (depending upon how severe your poison ivy reaction is). Repeat as many times the first day as needed. The second day you won't need many.

By the third day you are almost home. WHY does it work? Heat is a catalyst for ALL biological reactions. Heat speeds up biological reactions. Heat is required for all biological reactions including poison ivy. When you put your hand/arm in ice water (approx. 33 deg F), the ice draws the HEAT out of the area with poison ivy. Essentially, shutting the poison ivy reaction down and giving your skin time to heal. HOW I do it: Just say I have a poison ivy outbreak on my forearm. I take a large ice chest. Fill it with water up to about 4 inches from the top. Then put in a full bag of ice. Maybe two bags. S

wish the ice around with your hand. If all the ice melts, then you should add another bag. When ready, I just submerge my entire forearm into the ice water. I like to leave my arm in the ice water for at least a full minute. Two full minutes is better. I had a friend who once had poison ivy on almost all areas of his body. He took quick baths in the bath tub in ice water. It worked and in 3 days he was done. That's it. Works 100% of the time. William Note that heat is a catalyst for chemical, bacterial, and biological reactions.


Posted by Mama To Many (Tn) on 11/07/2018

My son has poison ivy on his hands. This morning the poison ivy had caused enough swelling that he was not able to make a fist. This was going to make work today difficult. I suggested hydrotherapy.

He put cold water in half of our double sink and warm/hot water in the other half. He set a timer for 7 minutes and alternated hot and cold, beginning and ending with cool. It brought relief to the itching and to the swelling.

He is now able to make a fist and and can go to work. (He needs to be able to hold hand tools.)

If poison ivy is over a large part of the body, hydrotherapy can be done in the shower alternating warm and cool. Of course if poison ivy is over a large part of the body, medical attention may be needed as well. It can get out of control and become systemic, and even cause fever.

~Mama to Many~


Posted by Mama To Many (Tennessee) on 08/31/2018

My son wanted to try some jewelweed for some poison ivy on his face. I pulled up a couple of plants worth and chopped them up and put them in a large basin. I added about a half gallon of hot water. When it was cool I had him splash some of the "jewelweed tea" onto his face every couple of hours. He found it to be really helpful and his face was pretty cleared up the next day.

At the end of the day, I strained out the plant material and took the remaining orange jewelweed tea and froze it in ice cube trays. These ice cubes are now in the freezer, ready for the next need. Cold is usually soothing for poison ivy, anyway.

Most herbalists agree that jewelweed should NOT be used internally.

~Mama to Many~

Fels Naptha and DMSO

Posted by Mama To Many (Tennessee) on 06/20/2016

For over a decade I have been experimenting with different remedies for poison ivy. I have had successes, failures, and a lot of theories. Well, I have a new theory with some interesting support for it. I am in the "early stages" of learning about it as I see it. I have not yet tested it on a severe case of poison ivy so the jury is out. But I will share my thoughts and maybe they will be helpful to you and maybe you will have some more ideas or experiences to share with me.

My son, who does lawn care, had a bad case of poison on his leg. I did my usual comfort measures, at least as much as I could given how infrequently he was home and able to actually treat his leg. He mentioned that a lady I know has kids who get poison ivy badly (I didn't know this) and she had some good remedies. So I checked with her. She has used some things I have not tried. One of them is an OTC product called Zanfel. Goodness, that stuff was $35 for a one ounce tube at the drug store. I bought it anyway because I would pay quite a pretty penny for a great poison ivy cure; all the while, hoping I can figure out the secret to its sucess and make it myself cheaper.

It didn't take my son one day to get into some more poison ivy at work. (On his arm.) It wasn't severe at all; he knows what it feels like at all stages. It was just itchy, no blisters yet. We followed the Zanfel directions, which included rubbing the product on the poison ivy for at least 3 minutes and then rinsing. So we did that. It did seem to bring relief to the itching.

So I started to research the product. It certainly gets a lot of praise. It claims to break down the urushiol, the oil that is causing the reaction. A few people seemed to have reactions to the product, at least one severe, from what I could read online. As best I can understand, the product is made up of soaps, detergents, solvents, what have you, to break down the oil. I was also reading some about the success of Fels Naptha soap for poison ivy. Another soap. I feel safer using Fels Naptha than the Zanfel and had some on hand. So next I had my son use Fels Naptha on his poison ivy, being sure to clean the area with the soap for 3 minutes.

About this time, I got to thinking about some things that Robert Henry has said. He has talked about DMSO being a solvent. Then I remembered that he had reported a cure using DMSO for poison ivy. Hmm...

So after my son washed with Fels Naptha, I put DMSO on the poison ivy. The next day he reported that the poison ivy was definitely improved, though he would have expected it to be worse. There was an area that we had missed with the DMSO that was worse than the other parts.

I kept reading. Somewhere I read that you have to wash off the poison ivy oil from your skin within 15 minutes of contact to prevent the reaction, because after that the oil will bind to the skin.

I am finally getting to my theory (you all have been patient to get this far! ) So maybe certain soaps (Fels Naptha) certain products (Zanfel) and certain chemicals (DMSO) are breaking the oil down into its components that are no longer the ururhiol that keep the reaction going. Maybe the reactions get so bad because you really have not deal with the urushiol, even when you think have.

Since I have been thinking this way about poison ivy, I have had opportunity to test it a little bit. Another son had had poison ivy on his neck for a few days and it was getting worse. (He hadn't bothered to tell me about it yet.) I had him wash the neck in the shower to the count of 100 with Fels Naptha soap. I then used DMSO on it a couple of times. This child does get poison ivy badly that can last weeks. That poison ivy is almost gone. He had a couple of small bubbles of poison ivy a couple of days ago on his toes. I had him wash a couple of times with the Fels Naptha. I meant to use the DMSO but we didn't. The bubbles are now gone on his toes.

I am pretty hopeful that this "solvent" theory is the solution to our decade plus of poison ivy. I think I have been doing a lot of symptom treating over the years without getting to the root of the problem. I will keep you posted. And let me know if you try DMSO or Fels Naptha for poison ivy. I would love to hear your ideas about this as well.

~Mama to Many~


Posted by Robert Henry (Ten Mile, Tn.) on 10/13/2015

HI U OLE PATOOTS, , , , , , , , have gotten poison ivy all my life and tried every remedy known to man. All will eventually dry it up, but I have never used anything that worked as quickly as DMSO.

Last week while cleaning out brush at the farm I must have gotten the juice on my glove and rubbed my cheek because Sunday it was swollen and running blisters. My tractor driver suggested DMSO because it had healed her ringworm when the tincture of Walnut would not. I applied it Sunday and Monday. Tuesday, it is totally dried.

So you get a twofer with this post.


Mama's Herbal Tea

Posted by Mama To Many (Tennessee) on 06/01/2015

Several in my family have been dealing with poison ivy in the last couple of weeks. We have used many natural remedies for poison ivy over the years with success. An herbal salve, oatmeal, apple cider vinegar, and many other things! But some of my children balk at salve, don't like the smell of vinegar...they want the least intrusive remedy. So I made a tea that I put into a spray bottle and kept in the fridge. They could pull it out and spray their poison ivy whenever it was bothering them. This was especially nice for my daughter, who had it around her eyes. She would spray them often for relief and the tea spray was completely safe when it got into her eyes. My son had poison ivy on his arms and legs. His arms healed faster because he sprayed them much more often since he wore jeans during the day and wasn't bothering spraying his legs.

For the child who had poison ivy all over his arms and legs, I also gave him several tea baths. I would make a gallon of strong herbal tea and add it to his bathwater. He would soak for about 30 minutes a couple of times a day. (This was not convenient to him but he was pretty miserable and therefore willing. In fact, in spite of diligent home treatment internally and externally, he ended up needing prednisone. We continued the spray even when he was on prednisone.)

Recipe for Herbal Spray for Poison Ivy

  • 1 Tablespoon dry comfrey leaves
  • 1 Tablespoon dry plantain leaves
  • 1 cup boiling water

Put dry leaves into a mason jar. Add boiling water. Let steep for 30 minutes. Strain leaves out of tea. Store in a spray bottle in the refrigerator. Make a fresh batch of tea each day.

Recipe for Herbal Tea Bath for Poison Ivy

  • 1/2 cup dry comfrey leaves
  • 1/2 cup dry plantain leaves
  • 1 gallon boiling water

Bring 1 gallon of water to boil. Remove from heat. Add dry leaves. Cover. Steep 30 minutes to 2 hours. Strain out leaves. Add to a tub of water. If water is very hot, be careful not to let very hot water hit the skin of the child in the tub, if he is in there already. :)

One morning my three year old woke up and said, "I want a comfrey bath!!! " He had poison ivy and had seen his brother have many "comfrey baths." He wasn't feeling too patient, so I put him in the tub with warm water and a cup of baking soda (which I find helpful for itching and nearly everything! ) I put 1/2 cup comfrey leaves into an old sock and tied it off, like a giant tea bag. I put it into his bath water (since I didn't really have time to make the bath tea on the stove because he wanted his bath NOW.) Periodically I would squeeze the sock to release the comfrey tea. By the end of his bath, the water was tea colored! It worked quite well. And he felt a good bit better and was in a much better mood.

~Mama to Many~