Poison Ivy – Toxicodendron radicans

Eastern Poison Ivy
Eastern Poison Ivy

Native Americans warned the early European settlers about this vine as early as 1609, when Capt. John Smith first used the term “poison ivy” and logged it in his records.

Urushiol is the name of the oil that is in every part of the plant, not just the leaves, and it can remain viable for as long as five years after the plant has died. Even cutting down the vine in winter, long after the leaves have died and fallen, and the plant has gone dormant, it can still cause dermatitis in susceptible people. The fur of dogs and peoples clothing can stay infected unless treated to eliminate the urushiol contamination!

To avoid poison ivy contamination be aware of where it grows….this types grows in eastern North America, including the Canadian maritime provinces, Quebec and Ontario, and all the US states east of the Rockies. It is normally found in wooded areas, along wooded edges, and exposed rocky areas. It likes open fields and disturbed areas. It can often be found climbing trees in very shaded areas.

There are several Mnemonic rhymes to help you remember what poison ivy looks like to help you avoid it:

  • Leaves of three, let it be! (referring to the number of leaves)
  • One, two, three? Don’t touch me! (again referring to the leaves)
  • Longer middle stem, stay away from them! (refers to how the leaves look)
  • Hairy vine, no friend of mine (referring to the hairy appearance of older vines climbing trees.
  • Raggy rope, don’t be a dope (again referring to the hairy appearance of the vines)
  • Berries white, run in fright
  • Berries white, danger in sight (both this and the last are referring to the fall ripe berries)


Following are some suggestions for treatment. Remember not every treatment will work for everyone. A truly severe rash must be treated by licensed medical professionals. Some safe treatments for the rash:

  • Oatmeal – boiled in water and the milky water applied to the rash
  • Baking Soda – make a paste and apply to the blisters or use in a baking soda bath for soothing relief of the itch
  • Vinegar – Just sprinkle directly on the rash for relief of itch
  • Dishwashing liquid – washing the affected area will cut the Urushiol oil on the skin, eliminating spread of the rash
  • Banana peel – rub the inside of the peel on the rash for relief
  • Aloe Vera Gel – applying to the rash and blisters will lead to relief and aid in skin healing

One response to this post.

  1. Haha, I was just thinking of this, along with the villainess in Batman of the same name (I may make a costume along those lines one of these days)!

    Something I learned at herbal school: Wherever something grows that is poisonous, there is usually an antidote nearby: Yarrow, Mullein, Plantain – or even Jewelweed in your part of the country! Chew and apply 😉


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: