Get to know Jewelweed

Few herbs have the long and storied history of Jewelweed. Known by many other names, it is a plant worth every minute of your study.  In addition, if you are able to find a source of wild grown Jewelweed, you will have found a goldmine for your homeopathic medicine cabinet.

Native American tribes of Mohicans, Cherokees, and Ojibwas believed strongly in the power of Jewelweed.  Most widely known for its anti-itch properties, these tribes used the plant for far more than that.  Medicine men employed the plant for reducing inflammation, (including headaches) redness, bug bites and applying salves on wounds resistant to healing.
In general the medical community considers Jewelweed a by-gone folk-remedy, which is sad within itself.  As someone who has need steroids to stop the spread of poison ivy, poison oak & sumac, I have found Jewelweed to be an amazing gift.

The chemistry of Jewelweed

You cannot argue with success when something works.  In an attempt to cut through the dispute on this herb/flower, we are going to delve in to the science of why it actually works.  Several universities** and the National Park Service recognize jewelweed as helpful for poison ivy rashes. A natural compound by the name of  Lawsone is found in the roots and the leaves of the jewelweed plant. Lawsone has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and most importantly anti-histamines for the itching. In addition, a member of the quinone family, balsaminone also has strong anti-itch properties.

Working together, these compounds put up a strong defense against urushiol, the compound in poison ivy that inflames on our skin.  Last but not least, and most exciting of all, is that recent research by Wilkes University has found two anti-cancer compounds and anti-microbial chemicals.

Some of our customers have reported success using jewelweed to treat athlete’s foot, mosquito bites and bee stings and sunburn!  Given the anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory chemical compounds it is but a short leap of faith to see the benefit.

How to use Jewelweed

So how do you use it?  As soon as you know you have been exposed to poison ivy, it is important to clean off the urushiol off the skin as soon as possible.  Quick removal may lessen an allergic reaction.  If you have access to live jewelweed, crush the stems and apply the juice to the affected area.  Jewelweed is best in full-flower for harvesting, usually June – August.

Look for jewelweed where the woods back up to a stream or creek bank. Areas with sporadic sunlight are best. This plant loves love damp-ish areas. Sometimes it grows right next to poison ivy!  At maturity, plants can be 3-4 foot tall.  Choose the plumpest and juiciest plants.  Put them in your blender or juicer and add a little distilled water.  Puree, and then drain the fluid through cheesecloth.  If you have a few bits of plant here and there, no problem. Paint the fluid on the rash at least twice a day. This fluid will spoil fast, so refrigerate it if you cannot use it immediately.

If searching for real jewelweed plants along a creek-bank just isn’t in your playbook, starting May 1st, we will be carrying unscented Jewelweed Soap and Jewelweed Spray, both made from real Jewelweed. Don’t suffer unnecessarily this year, stock up with a homeopathic remedy that has real science behind it.

Quick Tip!
Never, ever burn poison ivy to get rid of it. (Get a goat, they love to eat it)!  The urushiol is carried in the smoke and will deposit on your skin and can be inhaled.

**Brevard University, Harvard University, Wilkes University, University of Arkansas, University of Buffalo