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.