The Medicinal Herb Info site was created to help educate visitors about the often forgotten wisdom of the old ways of treating illnesses. Many of today's drugs and medicines were originally derived from natural ingredients, combinations of plants and other items found in nature.

We are not suggesting that you ignore the help of trained medical professionals, simply that you have additional options available for treating illnesses. Often the most effective treatment involves a responsible blend of both modern and traditional treatments.

We wish you peace and health!

Poison Ivy / Poison Oak

  • Toxicodendron radicans L.
  • Rhus toxicodendron
  • Poison Oak
  • Rhus radicans L.
  • Rhus diversilobs L.
Common Names
  • Kou-wen (Japanese name)
  • Yeh-ko
  • Poison Oak

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Poison Ivy is a climbing vine, Rhus toxicodendron, which on contact produces a severe form of dermatitis. Rhus species contain urushiol, and extremely irritating oily resin. Urushiol may also be a potent sensitizer since in many cases subsequent contacts produce increasingly severe reactions.

Poison Oak is a climbing vine, Rhus radicans or R diversiloba, closely related to poison ivy and containing he same active principle. The symptoms and treatment are identical with those for poison ivy.
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The oily resin (sap) in the leaves, flowers, fruit, stem bark and roots of poison ivy or poison oak causes a dermatitis resulting from irritation or sensitization of the skin. There is no absolute immunity although susceptibility varies greatly even in the same individual.

The plant is poisonous even after long drying, but is particularly irritating in spring and early summer when it is full of sap.

The poisons can be conveyed to the skin in ways other than direct contact. Some have contracted the poison simply by petting an animal that has been in contact with the plant. Those that are highly sensitive to poison ivy or oak can be infected by inhaling smoke from a nearby brush fire where the plant is burning. Severe cases of mouth poisoning have been reported when children have eaten the leaves or grayish berries of the plant.

If you suspect that you have accidentally handled poison ivy or brushed against it, wash your skin immediately. Lather several times and rinse in running water after each sudsing. Wash clothing, gear, or pack material in plenty of soapy water. Stubborn cases that do not respond to proper treatment are often due to repeated contact with contaminated clothing.

Poison ivy or oak grows in many parts of the United States. In all, there are 60 varieties of poisonous plants indigenous to the United States. Apart from poison ivy, the most common are oak-leaf poison ivy, western poison oak, and poison sumac Rhus vernix). Other botanical skin irritants include: goldenrod, crabgrass, nettle, table grass, dog fennel, hollyhock, and Indian mallow.
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An interval of time between skin contact of poison and first appearance of symptoms, varying from a few hours to several days and depending on sensitivity of the patient and possibly condition of the skin. Moderate burning and itching sensation soon followed by small blisters; later manifestations vary. Blisters usually rupture and are followed by oozing of serum and subsequent crusting.

Contact with uncovered skin produces redness, rash, swelling, blistering, and intense, persistent itching in sensitive people. Exposed areas such as the hands, arms, and face are most commonly the first to be affected. Scratching transmits the inflammation, via the hands, to other parts of the body.

Mild cases are signaled by a few small blisters that occur on the hands, arms, or legs. Treat mild cases by applying compresses of very hot, plain water for brief intervals. Also may apply compresses soaked in a dilute Burrow’s solution (1 pint to 15 pints of cool water). Purchase Burrow’s solution at the drugstore.

Severe cases of poison ivy or oak are signaled by many large blisters, acute inflammation, fever, or inflammation on the face or genitals. In severe cases, contact the doctor. He will be able to relieve the discomfort and guard against secondary infection until the attack subsides.

Wear protective clothing if trekking through heavy underbrush: trousers, long sleeves, shoes, socks and gloves. Once in contact with poison ivy, these are not safe to re-wear until they have been laundered or dry cleaned.
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The best treatment for poison ivy or oak is prevention. Learn to recognize, and avoid, this harmful plant. Its leaves always grow in clusters of three, one at the end of the stalk, the other two opposite each other. Memorize the poison ivy rhyme: “Leaflets three, let it be”.
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Dosages here are for adults only. Adjust dosage for age and weight.

Vitamin C, 3,000-8,000 mg. per day, helps to prevent infection and spreading.

Calamine lotion, used as directed on the label, contains calamine, phenol, and zinc oxide and has a drying effect for faster healing.

Aloe vera gel, used as directed on the label, may relieve itching.

Vitamin A, 25,000 IU per day, is needed for healing of skin tissues and boost immune system.

Vitamin E or enzyme cream, as directed on the label, aids in healing and prevents scarring.

Zinc, 80 mg. per day, is needed for repair of skin tissues.
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See the doctor if fever occurs, or if a widespread rash involving the eyes, mouth, or genitals occurs.

To kill poison ivy plants: make a spray solution with 3 lb. salt to 1 gallon of slightly soapy water. Sprinkle the plants; it may take 3 applications. If you pull out or cut the vines, avoid direct contact. Clean tools afterward and wash gloves.

Remove all clothing and shoes, and immediately us laundry soap and water or alcohol to deter the attack. This procedure is useless if not done immediately. Poison ivy residue has been noted on clothing for up to 1 year unless washed thoroughly.
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Tepid water is used to provide symptomatic relief from itching and burning. In some cases the affected area is massaged with water as hot as can be tolerated for 1 or 2 minutes. The relief from itching is dramatic and may last several hours.

Common narrow-leaf dock (Rumex crispus) is used medicinally for the itch. The leaves are boiled in vinegar until the fiber is softened and then combined with lard or petroleum jelly to make a simple ointment.
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Never ingest Poison Ivy.

Contact with this plant may cause allergic reaction, rash.
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Buy It! Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994

Buy It! The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.

Buy It! Chinese Medicinal Herbs, compiled by Shih-Chen Li, Georgetown Press, San Francisco, California, 1973.

Buy It! Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973

Buy It! Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000

Buy It! The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991

Buy It! Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990

Buy It! Old Ways Rediscovered, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, published from 1954, print 1988

Buy It! Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992

Buy It! Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, NY

Buy It! Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023

Buy It! Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 15th Edition, F. A. Davis Company, 1915 Arch Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103

Buy It! The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974

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