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It seems like coming in contact with poison ivy when working in the garden or hiking is almost inevitable. Poison ivy somehow finds its way into our lives when we least expect it. Those encounters are more often than not unpleasant and quite itchy.
Poison ivy causes rash-like outbreaks that usually develop 8 to 48 hours after exposure and can last for up to three weeks. Feeling itchy and sore for such a long time can be emotionally and physically draining. In some severe cases, poison ivy may even require medical attention.
When experiencing symptoms, people often turn to over-the-counter rash creams and gels instead of old but trusty essential oils. As there are plants that will cause you harm, there are plants that will pleasantly benefit you. Essential oils capture the healing value of most precious plants of the world, and they surely can help you on your way to recovery.
What Makes Poison Ivy Poisonous?
Poison ivy, scientifically known as Toxicodendron radicans, is a plant that grows as a scrub or a trailing vine. Poison ivy is one of many plants that cause adverse reactions in humans. According to the American Skin Association, about 85% of all people are sensitive to poison ivy while roughly 15% are severely allergic to the plant.
Poison ivy may seem harmless at fits glance, but the whole plant, from its leaves to stems, is covered in an oily resin called urushiol. Urushiol is a sticky sap that easily absorbs into the skin causing rash outbreaks (allergic contact dermatitis). Since urushiol is an odorless and colorless substance, it is even harder to spot on the skin and on the clothes. Poison ivy is not the only plant containing this compound. Poison oak and poison sumac both contain urushiol.
Once absorbed into the skin, urushiol causes redness, swelling, itching and even blistering. These symptoms usually develop within 8 to 48 hours of exposure. Some people may not develop rash for up to several weeks, all depending on the immune system and amount of urushiol one has come in contact.
Symptoms of a poison ivy rash can be alleviated using essential oils. Potent plant extracts with anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties can help you soothe your skin and boost your immunity for better and quicker recovery. The following list will introduce you to those essential oils.
9 Best Essential Oils for Poison Ivy
1. Lavender Essential Oil
Lavender essential oil is one of the most versatile natural remedies you can get your hands on. Soothing lavender essence is not only great for relieving anxiety but for aiding pain and the symptoms of poison ivy rash as well.
Lavender essential oil is enriched with antibacterial properties (1) that can help you disinfect your rash, prevent infections and further complications. Anti-inflammatory qualities of lavender essence can help you reduce the swelling. It is reported (2) that lavender essential oil boosts blood circulation. Sufficient blood flow will bring vital oxygen and nutrients to the affected skin, helping it heal much quicker as a result.
2. Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Eucalyptus essential oil is a versatile natural agent found in many healing ointments and vapor rubs. Instead of using these pre-made conventional skincare products to fight your outbreak, try using eucalyptus oil in its purest form. Unadulterated active ingredients such as eucalyptol, citronellal, and menthol within the essence will help you alleviate pain, relieve itchiness, and cool down overheated skin.
Eucalyptus essential oil could help you heal your inflamed blisters as well. A 2017 review evaluating essential oils for the treatment of various dermatological diseases came to the conclusion that eucalyptus oil can be used for treating blisters, bacterial infections, inflammation, insect bites and much more.
3. Cypress Essential Oil
Cypress essential oil heals wounds, cuts, and abrasions on the skin pretty quickly. Its antimicrobial properties are able to kill the bacteria which could otherwise prolong the healing process of your poison ivy rash. These healing abilities can be attributed to the compound called camphene.
Cypress essential oil is known to reduce fluid retention as well. It promotes urination and perspiration. In the case of poison ivy, cypress oil may help your blisters heal much faster. Once your blisters have naturally secreted their fluid, the cypress essence will help the new, sensitive skin stay protected. As a natural astringent agent, cypress oil may even help tighten and tone your skin back into its natural form.
4. Myrrh Essential Oil
Myrrh essential oil is obtained from the resin of a tree native to the Arabian Peninsula and Africa. Its healing properties have been known for centuries. Myrrh essential oil is especially suitable for alleviating pain and swelling of poison ivy in its earliest stages. The research suggests that myrrh extract, containing influential analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, is suitable for the treatment of pain and even high cholesterol.
Myrrh essential oil is often used as an ingredient in beauty skincare product because of its moisturizing and nourishing qualities. Myrrh can help your affected skin stay hydrated and youthful looking. Dried and cracked poison ivy rash makes itchiness feel only worse.
5. Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tee tree essential oil derived from Melaleuca alternifolia tree is packed with anti-inflammatory properties that could help aid your poison ivy symptoms. Poison ivy rash is a type of allergic contact dermatitis, and according to the 2013 review, several studies consider tea tree oil to be a great treatment for dermatitis.
Bactericidal activity of tea tree oil helps little cuts caused by scratching stay sterile and free of harmful bacteria. Cellular protection will ensure proper, faster healing without scaring. Tea tree essential oil can soothe different kinds of skin irritations; however, this natural remedy has to be used in low concentrations to prevent adverse reactions.
6. Peppermint Essential Oil
Peppermint essential oil is one of the most effective natural remedies for relieving pain and discomfort. As a refrigerant, peppermint oil generates a cooling sensation when in contact with the skin. This cooling effect comes in handy when treating swelling and itchiness from poison ivy or bug bites.
According to the 2006 review published in the Phytotherapy Research: PTR, peppermint oil has strong antimicrobial and antioxidant activities as well as promising antiallergenic potential. Main active ingredients menthol and menthone are great at disinfecting the skin and making the mild pain subside. Both inhalation and topical application of peppermint essential oil can help you speed up your healing process.
7. Helichrysum Essential Oil
Helichrysum essential oil is a natural antiallergenic substance that packs a punch. The oil’s essence carries skin friendly bactericidal and antioxidant components that are capable of relieving the symptoms of various skin allergies, including poison ivy. Any homemade remedy enriched with just a couple of drops of pure helichrysum will help you protect your affected skin from pathogens that may otherwise delay the healing process.
Helichrysum essential oil is also known for its moisturizing and hydrating abilities necessary for healthy skin renewal. These qualities can sooth your sunburns as well. Needless, to say, pure helichrysum essence promotes healing regardless of the inflicting cause of the skin ailment.
8. Roman Chamomile Essential Oi
Roman chamomile is known for having calming effects on the human body and mind. You are probably used to drinking chamomile tea to lower your anxiety and stress but have you tried using much stronger essential oil to calm your nerve endings in skin tissue.
Roman chamomile essential oil can help you soothe the symptoms of poison ivy, symptoms of different seasonal allergies, and inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema.
Anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties of Roman chamomile oil are great for preserving the health of the skin. Tonic properties of the oil may also help your skin heal back into its normal state without scaring.
9. Calendula Essential Oil
Calendula essential oil promotes quick healing of wounds, cuts, and even skin ulcers. For that very reason, you can find calendula as the main ingredient in many anti-scarring creams and gels. You can make your own healing balm using pure calendula essential oil.
Use your home remedy to treat poison ivy rash, scraped knees, chapped skin, and other skin irritations. Calendula essential oil will help your cells regenerate much faster and as a result, help your rash blisters and scratches heal much quicker.
Anti-inflammatory properties of calendula essential oil practically come in handy when treating a number of skin outbreaks from eczema, to perioral dermatitis and contact dermatitis, whether it be inflicted by a poisonous plant or a strong chemical cleaner.
4 Homemade Remedies for Poison Ivy
Note: Following essential oil remedies are not a recommendation or a substitute for the treatment provided by your medical specialist. If you are experiencing shortness of breath or your skin is severely affected by poison ivy seek medical help immediately!
1. Soothing Oatmeal Bath
- 1 cup baking soda
- 1 cup oats
- ½ powdered milk
- 12 drops of lavender essential oil
- 12 drops of Roman chamomile essential oil
- Turn baking soda, oats, and powdered milk into a fine powder using a blender.
- Add essential oils to the mix and blend some more.
- Store the remedy in a glass mason jar.
- Fill your bathtub with lukewarm water.
- Use ¼ cup of your remedy and hold it under running water to make sure everything is dispersed thoroughly.
- Keep stirring the water while soaking to prevent the remedy from settling on the bottom of the tub.
2. Quick Tea Tree Blend
- 5 drops of tea tree essential oil
- 1 tablespoon of carrier oil (olive, jojoba, coconut oil etc.)
- Dilute tea tree oil in a carrier oil of your choice.
- Gently massage your affected skin with the remedy to reduce inflammation.
- If the dilution is too strong add less tea tree oil to the same amount of carrier oil.
- You can replace tea tree oil with any other essential oil suitable for treating poison ivy.
3. Moisturizing Myrrh Balm
- 1 oz. of raw, organic shea butter
- 5 drops of myrrh essential oil
- Using a double boiler gently melt your shea butter.
- Remove the pot from heat and stir in myrrh essential oil.
- While still in the liquid form, pour the mixture in a glass jar.
- Let the mixture harden.
- Gently apply the mixture on the affected skin.
4. Cooling Aloe Vera Gel
- 2 oz. of aloe vera gel
- 6 drops of helichrysum essential oil
- Mix both ingredients thoroughly.
- Transfer the gel into an appropriate container, preferably a glass jar.
- Store the gel in a refrigerator for better cooling effects.
- Apply the gel on your poison ivy rash to lessen itchiness and swelling.
Conclusion + Last Tips
Essential oils are a great alternative to the conventional over-the-counter rash creams and gels. They are natural, safe and they get the job done. A number of medical studies have confirmed the common knowledge of people who lived before.
Essential oils do carry one-of-a-kind anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties which can alleviate the swelling, itchiness, and pain associated with poison ivy rash and other skin conditions.
As with any other medicine, essential oils have to be used properly in order to yield the desired results. Volatile oils are highly concentrated substances that can worsen your rash if used incorrectly. These last tips will ensure the effectiveness of your treatment:
- Always dilute essential oils before topical application. 2% dilution is sufficient for adults. Add 12 drops of essential oil per every fl. oz. of carrier oil.
- Do a skin patch test to make sure you are not sensitive or allergic to the homemade remedy.
- If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, consult with your doctor prior to use of essential oils.
- Wash your whole body with a strong soap to make sure you remove all urushiol from your skin. The faster you remove the oily sap the better.
- Wash your clothes, socks, and shoes after you have come in contact with poison ivy. Also, regularly wash your gardening attire including your gloves. Traces of urushiol oil can stay on fabric for years.
- Apply a cold compress to your poison ivy rash a couple of times per day, 15 to 20 minutes at a time. Make sure your compress is not too cold! You can enrich your cold compress with lavender essential oil.
- If a large area of your skin is affected by poison ivy rash and/or if you are experiencing shortness of breath, seek medical help immediately.
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2 Responses to “9 Best Essential Oils for Poison Ivy”
Run hot water on the rash. Start off warm, increase the heat carefully and don’t scald yourself, but you will find a point where the heat is actually pleasurable for a minute or two, after which you will have a couple hours relief from the itch and burn. I have been to the ER twice with poison ivy, I’m a big dummy. Oils are good, avoid all treatments like calamine that dry the rash out, and learn what the dang plant looks like in winter time. And if it’s really bad, go down to the ER for a cortisone shot and you will heal up a lot quicker.
I have most of those essential oils on hand; I’ll have to try some the next time the children have poison ivy (we have the dumb stuff growing everywhere!). I know this isn’t an eo, but it has worked wonders on the children: apple cider vinegar. Yes, it will sting. But, the inflammation goes down almost immediately and the itching is gone in a couple days. The rash itself may stick around like a scab for a week, but it won’t look any worse than a scratch. As far as I can tell, the vinegar cuts the oils and helps with healing. Aveeno oatmeal lotion works well for any itching after the vinegar has been used (I know it’s not completely “natural”, but it works). If it looks like there may be a little infection, put a dab of coconut oil on it. Don’t put the oil on before you’ve used vinegar, though; it seemed to make the rash worse when I mistook my son’s rash for just a scrape on his arm and put coconut oil on it instead of using vinegar. When I realized it was poison ivy, I used the vinegar. The next day, it looked so much better! He scratched it more than he should have (he’s 4yo), so I put some coconut oil on it then and it healed up very well.
Sorry for the long comment. Just wanted to share what’s worked for us. I had looked at various natural remedies for poison ivy, but didn’t have any handy at the time. But, I had apple cider vinegar, so that’s what I tried out of desperation (my 6yo daughter was so itchy she couldn’t sit still and was almost covered in a poison ivy rash). Now that I know what it looks like on my children, I can “beat” the poison ivy with the vinegar and save us all the frustration of the rash. =)
Thanks for the great article!