The Jewelweed plant has been used for centuries in North America by Native Americans and herbalists as a natural preventative and treatment for poison oak and poison ivy.
Jewelweed blooms May through October in the eastern half of North America from Canada to Florida. It often grows on the edge of creek beds. Jewelweed is found most often in wet woods, ironically near poison oak, ivy, and stinging nettle. It is commonly said that wherever you find poison oak, you will find Jewelweed. However, it can’t live in dry places for long, and does not thrive in direct sunlight.
It is an annual and stands up to five feet tall. It has oval, round and toothed leaves. The lower ones are opposite, while upper ones alternate. Trumpet shaped, the flowers hang from the plant much as a jewel from a necklace, hence its name. Pale Jewelweed has yellow flowers. Spotted Touch-Me-Nots have orange flowers with dark red dots. The seeds will “pop” when touched which is where the name Touch-Me-Nots came from. The Spotted Jewelweed variety is most commonly used for treating poison oak rashes although the Pale Jewelweed may also have medicinal properties.
The leaves and the juice from the stem of Jewelweed are used as a treatment for poison oak, oak and other plant induced rashes. Apply it to fresh mosquito bites and it will reduce the itching and swelling. Jewelweed’s juice also relieves bee and wasp stings, although it doesn’t always cure them completely. It is also helpful for nettle stings, minor burns, cuts, eczema, acne, sores, and any skin irritations like athlete’s foot, warts, fungal infections and ringworm.
Jewelweed works by counter-reacting with the chemicals in other plants that cause irritation. Poultices and salves from Jewelweed are old remedies for bruises, burns, cuts, eczema, insect bites, sores, sprains, warts, and ringworm.
How to Use Jewelweed
When you are out in the field and find you have been exposed to poison oak, ivy, or stinging nettle you can slice the stem and rub its juicy insides on the exposed skin. This will promptly ease irritation and usually prevents breakout for most people. Jewelweed or an infusion made from boiling leaves may be frozen for later use.
The best way is to chop of the stems of Spotted Jewelweed in boiling water until you get a dark orange liquid. Yellow Jewelweed may not be effective. Strain the liquid and pour into ice cube trays. When you have a skin rash, rub it with a Jewelweed cube and you will quickly feel its healing properties. It will keep in freezer up to a year. You can also preserve the infusion by canning it in a pressure cooker. Jewelweed does not dry well due to its high moisture and oil content. If you make salve from Jewelweed, it is best kept refrigerated for long term storage.
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