When our family set out to live a life free of the constraints that society seems to burden the world with, we had to prepare ourselves to at a minimum learn to adapt to the rules of nature. One of the biggest hurdles to overcome was preparing for hazards with a minimalist attitude. Between my wife, two boys, myself and Chester, our red merle Miniature Australian Shepard, we had a lot of ground to cover. Naturally we started with the basics, acclimating to the foliage we lived in.
When Chester led the boys and I through the closest wooded area by our cabin during our first week, we all emerged with a rash we hadn’t anticipated, poison ivy. Despite being familiar with this from years past, when we were faced with treating poison ivy for the first time without the comfort of the local pharmacy, we needed to learn how to overcome this familiar ailment under a new set of rules. Through trial and error, and with help from our trusted neighbors we developed a new set of skills that are worth passing on.
When you first discover that you have been in contact with poison ivy, poison sumac or poison oak, remove your clothes. The primary culprit is the oil that comes off the plant. Get the clothes ready to wash. Include hats, gloves, shoes and laces amongst the things that need to be cleaned. A cotton shoe lace will hold the oil for a long time, and you will certainly touch it when you get dressed to head out.
Wash Chester, or your dog. The poison plant probably won’t affect your pet, but they will still carry the oil. Even if you don’t think the animal is affected, be prudent, because dogs jump, and cats rub. The best time to do this is immediately. The longer you wait, you increase the likelihood of spreading the oil. Also, when the rash takes a strong hold on you later, you won’t want to mess with these tasks. I like using a grease penetrating dish soap, dish soap, one of the staples I like to pick up when I’m in town. Adding fresh lemon juice, or alcohol will help break down the oils on your skin. Another staple I like to have on hand is apple cider vinegar, Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar is the best out there. Among its hundreds of uses is the ability to break down oil.
Salt will naturally dry out the rash. If you are fortunate enough to catch this near a salt water environment, use it. If you are not. Create a solution of about two ounces of salt to a quart of water. Take a rag and immerse it and wrap it around the affected area. Replace when necessary. Baking soda, baking soda, and mouthwash are two options that will also dry out the area. Creating a paste of baking soda and just a little water will help dry out the area and it will draw out the toxins from the plant.
The next step is to begin the healing process. You have several options here. First is witch hazel, witch hazel astringent. You can purchase this along with similar remedies such as tea tree oil, or lavender oil. Ideally you can dab this onto your skin with a cotton ball to reduce inflammation and start getting back to normal. Cold black coffee also offers anti-inflammatory agents. With either option, apply and reapply when necessary. An older friend shared this recipe for homemade witch hazel. When you find the plant has just flowered, pull it, and break up the roots and lower thicker pieces of the stem. Clean the pieces and put them in a pot. Over eight to twelve hours steep the witch hazel in the simmering water. Add water if necessary. After twelve hours you will have a fine liquor left over. When it is cooled this soothing concoction will make a fine healing agent. This will last about three to four days. To make a long lasting astringent, add three parts of your homemade tonic to one part grain alcohol. This will last you a month or so at room temperature.
Finally, you want to create a healing and comforting environment for your affected area. Jewelweed is the best natural fix. Usually located nearby poison ivy, crush and create a poultice to apply to your skin. If available, this will reduce your downtime substantially. A couple of other popular standbys include making a poultice or lotion from crushed cucumbers, or from rhubarb. When using rhubarb you want to utilize the part closest to the bottom of the stem, crush and apply as needed. Oatmeal baths are a great way to comfort yourself from the blistering and itching you will begin to experience. Oatmeal is a common staple we keep on hand. Finely grind down a couple of cups, and add it to your bath.
Whenever a relative comes to visit, or we have a chance to head into town, there are a couple of staples we like to maintain on hand at all times. Among their common uses, they can contribute to homemade remedies.
Mouthwash, this maintains oral care, as well as being a good anti-bacterial solution. Alcohol based mouthwash, Listerine, aid in drying out rashes like the ones from poison ivy.
Dishwashing soap that credits itself with cutting grease. This helps break down the oils that can happen upon you or your pets.
Steel cut oatmeal, Oatmeal. A great meal to warm you up and give you good deal of energy. Oatmeal, ground finely can be used in a bath or as a poultice to ease and soothe common maladies.
Cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon, cloves, marjoram, thyme, sage, rosemary and, turmeric are just some of the multiple spices that offer anti-inflammatory qualities.
Baking soda is ideal as an additive to draw out toxins that are found in rashes and wounds. This alkaline base offers a multitude of uses in any home or cabin.
Apple cider vinegar is a also a great multiuse sundry. It can neutralize burns and offers soothing properties when consumed or applied externally. We keep ACV that contains mother in it.
Never to be forgotten are coffee, raw honey, (locally), salt and pepper. These items can be used in poultice recipes. Additionally they can be added to remedies in a way that makes them more consumable.