The Beagle and the Poison Ivy

It's Time to Make the Jewelweed Potions! Posted on 17 Aug 12:53 , 0 comments

In late July, early August, jewelweed plants (Impatiens capensis) have been setting buds and are beginning to blossom. Jewelweed is an annual plant that has to set out seeds if the species will continue to thrive in the coming year.. 

Jewelweed actually throws its seeds when they have ripened, popping out of their shell to the delight of children who are still fortunate enough to explore our less-tamed environs and discover that just a light touch will make the seeds fly out. I actually first met Jewelweed through a child - a niece of mine - who delighted in scrambling around fence posts into fields of wildflowers to show me this fun activity of popping the seed heads.

There is a large stand of Jewelweed on our property I have been watching all season.  The deer have as well, apparently, because the other day I saw they had been munching on this tasty plant and trampling it a bit as well.  In all honesty, Jewelweed is not sturdy and does not stand up to any one crashing around in it - deer, human or beagle! So, it seemed to be the perfect time to harvest my share of this amazing plant. I'd been putting it off because the native thorny black raspberries also like this particular location which meant I'd be in the "thicket" of it, too!

When I harvest it, I cut cleanly above a leaf node fairly low on the fleshy stem.  This allows the plant to easily send out new branches so the flowering can continue.  I collected enough to make tea and to make a tincture to hopefully make enough soap and Jewelweed Juice to make it through until a year from now.

Whether the goal is tea or tincture, the plants are broken up - or folded - to help fit into the pot as well as to release its potency. When I make the tea, I use about 1 part plant material to 10 parts water (use distilled or really good well-water, not municipal treated water), bring the water to a near boil then lid the pot and shut off the heat. After it cools, I pour it into freezer containers, label it and freeze it.  For a tincture, I submerge the plant in 100-proof organic grain alcohol and then keep it in a sunny place for 4 to 6 weeks.  The alcohol is strained out, bottled, corked, labeled.

We use Jewelweed tea in two of our soaps:
Jewelweed Handcrafted Soap  buy now
Black Walnut Handcrafted Soap  buy now
We use Jewelweed Tincture in a our Jewelweed Juice   buy now
For more info - from someone else! - on the jewelweed plant and on poison ivy,  click here

Carter in the Spiderwort Posted on 07 Aug 00:00 , 0 comments

Carter in the Spiderwort
He isn't always in the Poison ivy!

The Beagle and the Poison Ivy Posted on 16 Jul 13:00 , 0 comments

Poison Ivy. 
Those are the first words I have for you in this new blog.

When Carter, our ten-year old beagle, who has to be on a leash at the park, was compelled by an irresistible scent just beyond the line of trees, pulled me into the greenery - I had a close encounter of the poison ivy kind.  I have nothing personally against poison ivy.  It exists and serves a purpose in the greater scheme of the earth, I'm sure - but it is too friendly toward me and likes to stay around awhile once we meet up.  

If you have ever encountered poison ivy, then you know how innocuous it appears.  Just three leaves, green, simple, thriving - maybe a vine but often not.....just three leaves waiting for you to brush lightly past.  And in that moment, you won't know it for several days, you are entering two weeks of itchy, red pustule hell. 

A few years back I worked as a gardener for a number of clients around town.  Every Spring, I would go through a bout of poison ivy because even without its leaves, the sap in the over-wintering vines is noxious.  How do you even see that particular stem when you are clearing out old brush?  Trust me, you don't.  And I assure you, I have eagle eyes when it comes to those three innocent-looking leaves!

Thus began my search for a better treatment for poison ivy than the ones currently offered...which amount pretty much to cortisone cream or cortisone cream.  Older remedies include oatmeal baths, baking soda, Calamine Lotion.  Today there is also have a product called TecNu. It has an interesting list of ingredients, including a chemical most usually found in herbicides.

For decades I have been collecting herb books.  Naturally, I turned to them.  Can I tell you where I first came across Jewelweed?  No. I think it was after reading James Duke that I finally decided to give it a try. 

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) is a local weed, a very common annual. When you have encountered Poison Ivy, grab a handful of jewelweed, crush it and rub it all over the "encounter".  The rash will not develop. 

It worked!  I was thrilled - and I used it over and over.  It works when you have that initial, "oh, drat!" moment: "that was poison ivy!" and it works when you have that "oh, drat!" moment: "that is poison ivy on my arm!".  However, what to do in the early Spring when all that winter brush needs to be cleared out and there's not a green, fleshy stalk of jewelweed any place?

Meet "Jewelweed Juice", an Herb Garden Naturals' natural!.  I invented it for those days when our green friend, Jewelweed, is off-stage, behind the curtains, underground, still just a mother's dream.  When the jewelweed is tall and just beginning to flower, I harvest it and tincture it to make "Jewelweed Juice".  That's just about now, actually - mid July.  I'll cut this crop back so it can have a chance to bush in a bit again, and I won't take it all so the flowers can have a chance to seed down next summer's stand.

Now, let's return to the tale of The Beagle in the Poison Ivy.

Right.  I know.  Carter is not in the poison ivy now.  That's why he's smiling. He's also smiling because he knows I have Jewelweed Juice, and the poison ivy break-out is under control and going away.  That means I'm smiling, too.

No one else make Jewelweed Juice.  Check it out here:
We also use Jewelweed in two of our soaps;
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