As warmer weather approaches, the allure of outdoor activities like gardening, hiking, and camping become ever greater as green things emerge once more bringing tidings of spring and the summer to come. This time of year is one of my favorites since it means I get to go outside and enjoy outdoor adventures, especially hiking.
I’m fortunate enough that Southern California has so many amazing hiking destinations, often accompanied by warm sunny days. The only downside to this mild climate are the groves of poison plants like poison ivy, oak, and sumac flourishing alongside the trails and creek beds.
Since I’ve had my share of weaving through said groves, I thought it would be useful to go over some of the best essential oils for poison ivy and other reactive plants.
I hope you find them useful, though I also hope you don’t need to use them!
The Best Essential Oils for Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac
Poison ivy (Rhus radicans L.), is a low growing, vine-like plant often found in forests, meadows, hedges, and alongside mountain trails and roadsides. It has purple-red leaves in the spring, bright green and shiny leaves in the summer, and vivid red-orange leaves in the fall and winter months.
Here are a few poison ivy pictures for reference:
It is the urushiol-rich oils that cover the entirety of the plant that give it its skin reactive properties.
When these reactive oils get on the skin, a rash can develop within 8-48 hours that can last up to three weeks.
Symptoms of poison ivy include:
• A red rash that may ooze yellow fluid
• Blisters (and in severe cases, fissures) on the skin that ooze fluid
• Fever (in severe cases)
• Intense itching
• Scabbing once the rash begins to heal
I’m one of those people who react to poison ivy in the worst way possible. If I get any of the oils from it on my skin and miss washing it off, I will develop some pretty severe swelling and rash with fissures and blisters that ooze and itch profusely.
It’s a bad time.
And, I’m not the only one who reacts like this. In fact, up to 85% of all people are sensitive to the oils found in poison ivy, oak, and sumac. 15% of those develop an especially severe histamine response that results in cracked and oozing rashes.
I guess I’m part of the latter group!
Is Poison Ivy Contagious?
Thankfully, no! Poison ivy is not contagious, which is about the only thing it has going for it. The reason for this is because the oils from the plant get absorbed into the skin after about 8 hours. So, unless you’re getting close to someone and those residual oils rub off onto someone else, they could get poison ivy. This used to happen to me when my cat would come back indoors covered in poison ivy and I couldn’t figure out why I had a rash without having gone outside.
However, if you already have the rash and have since washed your skin, poison ivy cannot spread to someone else.
So, what can we do to help heal a poison ivy rash?
You guessed it, essential oils!
Essential Oils for Poison Ivy Treatment
Before we begin, it’s important to note that urushiol can last on clothing and other surfaces like gardening equipment for several weeks…sometimes years!
This is why it’s important to wash your clothing well (you can use a special soap to remove the reactive oils) after outdoor activities where you’ve come into possible contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac.
If you happen to get a rash from poison ivy, then it’s time to dive into the remedies!
Essential oils are a fantastic way to treat poison ivy naturally and can really help relieve the itching, swelling, and general discomfort associated with this rash-inducing plant.
Some of the best essential oils for poison ivy include:
• Basil – a powerful anti-inflammatory, also helps with itching.
• Cardamom – pain relieving and anti-inflammatory. Keeps open wounds clean.
• Carrot seed – antiseptic and skin healing. Helps prevent scarring.
• Eucalyptus radiata – cooling, disinfecting, and wound cleansing.
• Geranium – Helps alleviate itching
• German chamomile – pain relieving and anti-inflammatory. Helps prevent scar tissue.
• Helichrysum – pain relieving, anti-inflammatory, and regenerates nerve tissues.
• Lavender – antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, heals dermatitis and other skin conditions.
• Myrrh – excellent for itchy skin and rashes, anti-inflammatory, wound-healing, and pain relieving.
• Palmarosa – anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, and stimulates new skin cell growth.
• Patchouli – great for healing dermatitis like rashes, eczema, and psoriasis. Relieves itching.
• Peppermint – cooling sensation is soothing to itchy, irritated skin. Anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, and pain relieving.
• Roman chamomile – nerve regenerative, anti-inflammatory, and healing for dermatitis-like skin conditions
• Rose – highly anti-inflammatory and healing for the skin. Reduces scarring.
• Spikenard – soothing to the skin, anti-bacterial, and anti-inflammatory.
• Tea tree – highly antiseptic, anti-viral, and anti-bacterial.
• Vetiver – highly regarded for its anti-inflammatory properties. Immune stimulant.
As you can probably tell, using essential oils with anti-inflammatory properties is key to alleviating the symptoms of poison ivy. I especially like to use oils that have a cooling sensation like peppermint, eucalyptus, and tea tree to help relieve itching and soothe irritation.
Below I’ve listed three of my favorite recipes for poison ivy. I hope you give them a try!
3 Essential Oil Recipes for Poison Ivy
These recipes are pretty easy to throw together and work wonders for healing poison ivy. You can either use all three or choose the one that resonates with your needs.
You may also want to check out my DIY Hiker’s Calamine Lotion Stick for another easy yet effective recipe.
Essential Oil Leave-On Spray
This simple recipe helps dry up the blisters associated with poison ivy while also alleviating itching and inflammation.
To make it, you will need:
• 4TB water (distilled or spring water is best)
• 3TB raw apple cider vinegar
• 2tsp sea salt
• 3 drops peppermint essential oil
• 3 drops tea tree essential oil
• 3 drops lavender essential oil
• 1 drop Roman chamomile essential oil
• 1 drop helichrysum essential oil
• 1 drop myrrh essential oil
The apple cider vinegar helps soothe irritation while the salt kills bacteria and gently dries out the blistering caused by poison ivy.
Spray liberally onto affected areas 2-3x daily to help alleviate itching, swelling, and discomfort associated with poison ivy.
It feels especially good if kept in the fridge.
Since this spray contains water, you will want to use it within a few days before making a new batch.
This is a really soothing “mask” you can apply to poison ivy rashes that help soothe itching like a dream!
To make it, you will need:
• 1 cup oatmeal flour (You can grind up some oats in a blender, food processor, or coffee grinder if you don’t have the flour on hand)
• 3 drops peppermint essential oil
• 2 drops patchouli essential oil
• 2 drops palmarosa essential oil
• 1 drop eucalyptus radiata essential oil
• 1 TB raw honey
• Enough water to form a spreadable paste that’s wet but not runny
Begin by mixing the oat flour, honey, and water in a bowl until well combined.
Next, mix in the essential oils, then apply an even layer of the mask to the affected skin, but not on areas where the blisters have broken or in open fissures.
Allow the mask to dry completely before rinsing with cool water. Try not to rub the skin while doing this to prevent flaring the rash.
Cooling Poison Ivy Salve
This salve is great for all sorts of skin rashes and irritations.
To make it, you will need:
• An accurate kitchen scale
• A Pyrex measuring cup
• A saucepan
• 4oz of calendula infused coconut oil (can use plain coconut oil)
• .5oz beeswax
• 6 drops peppermint essential oil
• 6 drops lavender essential oil
• 2 drops German chamomile essential oil
1. Use an accurate kitchen scale to measure out the beeswax and coconut oil.
2. Melt the beeswax and coconut oil in a Pyrex measuring cup by placing it in a pan of simmering water.
3. Once melted, allow the melted ingredients to cool slightly before adding in the essential oils (this prevents them from evaporating too much).
4. Stir well to combine, then pour into two 2oz salve tins.
5. Allow to cool completely before use.
Gently apply a thin layer of salve to poison ivy rashes to help soothe itching, inflammation, and irritation 2-3x daily.
To make calendula infused coconut oil, simply fill a jar with dried calendula flowers and cover them with melted coconut oil. Keep in a warm place for 4-6 weeks, strain off the calendula petals, and voila! Calendula infused oil!
Calendula is known to be incredibly healing for the skin and can help speed up the healing process of dermatitis including poison ivy rashes.
What have been your favorite essential oils for poison ivy? How do you use them? Please share in the comments below!
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