FAQ on Poison Oak/Ivy

NOTE: The information contained in this FAQ may contain unconventional/unverified 
recommendations. Some of the subjects deal with issues best addressed by your medical
doctor. Use the information at your own risk!!
   If you do nothing, it'll heal in two weeks.  If you try all these
   over the counter and/or natural remedies, wait 14 days.  If you go
   to the doctor for serious mind altering steroids, it's gone within
   a day.

What is it and how does it work?

   Various species of the genus Rhus.  The sap and crushed leaves
   contain a chemical which is absorbed by skin cells.  The body
   mounts an immune response to these contaminated cells.  Once begun,
   the reaction ends only when all the contaminated cells have been
   shed.  This is one argument for scratching as much as possible, at
   the expense of additional scarring.

What are effective treatments?

   There are a lot of conflicting suggestions for treatment.
   Antihistamines are either very effective or worthless.  If the
   affected area is small enough, self treatment with over the counter
   remedies can provide 'temporary relief'.  One cheap suggestion is
   to apply very hot (but not scalding) water to the area, which is
   supposed to provide several hours of relief by deadening the nerves
   in the area.  One person reported losing a lot of skin with this
   method.  Others report that the itching recurs worse than before,
   possibly due to increased blood flow in the area.  I did not try
   this method.

   Various over the counter remedies (rhuligel, caladryl, calamine
   lotion, benadryl) contain alcohol which appears to work by cooling
   and drying the area.  This is reputed to cause cracking and even
   more itching.  In my case, the itching returned very quickly.
   Hydrocortisone cream is supposed to be effective, although some
   people indicate that over the counter concentrations are too weak
   to be effective.  I observed no response to over the counter

   Symptoms may persist for up to two weeks after exposure.  None of
   the above remedies will reduce this time.

   For more serious or widespread cases, a doctor can prescribe
   steroids which apparently suppress the immune response to
   contaminated cells.  Topical steroid creams are less effective, but
   may be preferable because they aren't systemic (absorbed) (some
   people warn that this is not true when used in the quantities
   required for a large affected area).  Oral, systemic
   gluco-cortico-steroids may cause behavioral changes, but are
   effective and rapid (my symptoms disappeared within 24 hours).

How can I prevent this?

   Learn to recognize and avoid the plant.  If exposed, wash the
   affected area as quickly as possible with soap and cold water (hot
   water is reputed to cause the pores to open and allow the oak oil
   in).  A product called Tecnu is supposed to break down the active
   ingredient in the oil.  It's available at some drug stores, or from
   Solutions (1-800-342-9988).  It's supposedly recommended by power
   company linemen.  The oil is very easily spread, and can persist in
   crystalline form on clothing or other contacted items (including
   pets) for many months (years?), so you should wash anything you may
   have touched.  Scratching affected areas after symptoms develop can
   not spread the infection, but different levels of exposure, and
   secondary exposures, can cause delayed reactions (2-3 days) in
   adjacent areas, giving the impression of spreading.

   There are supposed to be naturopathic regimens to develop immunity
   to poison oak.  Some people are naturally immune.

   Under no circumstances should you burn the plant;
   the smoke is as potent as the plant itself.
   "Inhaling the smoke can produce a systemic reaction,
   including potentially serious lung inflammation."
Medicine for Mountaineering.

An older copy of this file (check last modified dates) can be found at:
ftp: sunSITE.unc.edu:

TABLE OF CONTENTS of this chain:

18/ Poison ivy, frequently ask, under question         <* THIS PANEL *>
19/ Lyme disease, frequently ask, under question
20/ "Telling questions" backcountry Turing test
21/ AMS
22/ Words from Foreman and Hayduke
23/ A bit of song (like camp songs)
24/ What is natural?
25/ A romantic notion of high-tech employment
26/ Other news groups of related interest, networking
27/ Films/cinema references
28/ References (written)
2/ Ethics
3/ Learning I
4/ learning II (lists, "Ten Essentials," Chouinard comments)
5/ Summary of past topics
6/ Non-wisdom: fire-arms topic circular discussion
7/ Phone / address lists
8/ Fletcher's Law of Inverse Appreciation / advice and Rachel Carson
9/ Water Filter wisdom
10/ Volunteer work
11/ Snake bite
12/ Netiquette
13/ Questions on conditions and travel
14/ Dedication to Aldo Leopold
15/ Leopold's lot.
16/ Morbid backcountry/memorial
17/ Information about bears

From: Roni Burrows 
Subject:      Poison ivy treatment (Hot showers)

A ways back I EMAILed you a response to your posting on poison ivy.  I believe
that you responded inviting me to send more info (sorry, I lost my copy of
your response).  Here is a direct quote from my source.  I like the book;
it's easy to understand and not condescending.  The poison ivy - hot shower
treatment described works extremely well for me.  It has also helped relieve
itching from multiple mosquito bites.  Its main drawback is that it is a HOME
remedy - not very helpful on the trail.

>From "Take Care of Yourself - A Consumer's Guide to Medical Care," by Donald
M. Vickery, M.D. and James F. Fries, M.D., Addison-Wesley, 1977 (7th printing).

p. 132, Poison Ivy and Oak:
     "Poison Ivy and Poison Oak need little introduction.  The itching skin
lesions which follow contact with these and other plants of the Rhus
family are the most common example of a larger category of skin problems
known as "contact dermatitis."  Contact dermatitis simply means that
something has been applied to the skin which has caused the skin to
react to it.  An initial exposure is necessary to "sensitize" the
patient; a subsequent exposure will result in an allergic reaction if
the plant oil remains in contact with the skin for several hours.  The
resulting rash begins after 12 to 48 hours delay and persists for about
two weeks.  Contact may be indirect, from pets, contaminated clothing,
or smoke from burning Phus plants.  It can occur during any season.

Home Treatment:
     There are many approaches to the treatment of poison ivy.  The best
is to avoid the plants, which are hazardous even in the winter when they
have dropped their leaves.  Next best is to remove the plant oil from
the skin as soon as possible.  If the oil has been on the skin for less
than six hours, thorough cleansing with strong soap, repeated three
times, will usually prevent reaction.
     Many physicians recommend cool compresses of Burrow's Solution
(Domeboro, Bur-Veen, Bluboro) or Aveeno Bath(one cup to a tub full of
water).  The old standby, calamine lotion, is sometimes of help in early
lesions, but may spread the plant oil which is causing the irritation in
the first place.  Be sure to cleanse the skin, as above, even if you are
too late to prevent the rash entirely.  Another useful method of
obtaining symptomatic relief is the use of a hot bath or hot shower.
Heat releases histamine, the substance in the cells of the skin which
causes the intense itching.  Therefore, a hot shower or bath will cause
intense itching as the histamine is released.  The heat is gradually
increased to the maximum tolerable and continued until the itching has
subsided.  This process will deplete the cells of histamine and the
patient will often obtain eight hours of relief from the itching.  This
method has the advantage of not requiring frequent application of
ointments to the lesions and is a good way to get some sleep at night.
Poison ivy or oak will persist for the same length of time despite the
medication.  If secondary bacterial infection occurs, healing will be
delayed; hence scratching is not helpful.  Cut the nails to avoid damage
to the skin through scratching."

Roni Burrows                    |        ThE        
aivab@asuvm.inre.asu.edu        |   uSuAL           
Arizona State University        |       DisCLAiMers
Chemical,Bio,&Mat'ls Engineering| aPplY 

Date: Fri, 4 Dec 92 12:47:28 -0800
From: Kristann Orton 
Subject: Re: [l/m 4/15/92] Oak/Ivy      Distilled Wisdom (18/28) XYZ

I use a fabric soap called Fels Neptha (sp?) after exposure.  It was suggested
in a first aide class my mom took, and it works great for getting the
oils off your skin.

Date: Fri, 18 Jun 93 21:38:25 PDT
From: platt@synaptics.com (John Platt)
Subject: Poison Oak, accumulated wisdom

   I went to my dermatologist when I got some poison oak.. He said, 
"0.5% Hydrocortisone on Poison Oak is like trying to put out a forest
fire by pissing on it."

  Then, he gave me some halobetasol propionate (topical cream, by
prescription only)... Within a few hours, the itchiness went away and
stayed away with repeated application. No mind-altering systemic
steroids. He called this stuff the "tactical nuclear weapon" against
poison oak. I highly recommend it.

                   ^ A  
                s / \ r                
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             t /       \ i          
            i /         \ t        
           r /           \ e      
          o /             \ c    
         g /               \ t  
        l /                 \ u
       A /                   \ r
        <_____________________> e   
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1993 19:42:40 -0500 (EST)
From: "Jerry M. Wright" 
Subject: Poison ivy

I'd like to add my $0.02 worth to the poison ivy lore.  I've come across 
some stuff called Tecnu and it has worked quite well both immediately 
after exposure and after appearance of a rash.  It is formulated to 
dissolve the ivy oils and allow you to rinse them off your skin.  Even 
after the rash has appeared, the oils remain causing further irritation 
and will spread.  One hiker this year came up with a really extensive rash
on her forearm at the end of the day.  We used the stuff and it stopped 
the rash from spreading and substantially reduced the itching.  A couple 
of other experiences with it have had similar results - just remember to 
follow the label directions.  I don't know the distribution area but I've 
seen the stuff in most drug stores in the DC area and the company is based
in Oregon.  (BTW the number for information on the product is 1-800-itching)

Sometimes it is necessary to grab the bull by the tail and face the 

Date: Fri, 19 Nov 93 13:06:09 PST
From: bdrake@cheshire.oxy.edu (Barry T. Drake)

  A couple of months ago, I removed a large amount of poison oak from a tree
(6 hours work, heavy sweating).  I thought I was immune.  :)  I contracted 
poison oak on my forearms and stomach (solidly) and had scattered patches on
the rest of my body (interestingly, none on my face, part of which was 
  Anyway, the point of this is that a friend who works at JPL gave me a bottle
of Tecnu.  It's terrific!  I followed the directions on the bottle the first
couple of times (rub for 2 minutes, rinse with cold water; repeat process with
warm water if itching persists), but I discovered that the best treatment was
to rub the Tecnu on and then spray hot water on it in the shower (we have a 
detachable shower head).  That felt GREAT!!!  If I were a dog, my foot would 
thump up and down.  The itching would stay away for 6-8 hours afterwards.
  Tecnu says not to apply it to broken skin, which I did anyway when parts of
the skin near my wrists blistered and oozed.  The Tecnu dried the blisters up
immediately, and there is no scarring of the skin. 
  Tecnu's main ingredients are propylene glycol and polyethylene glycol, which
makes me wonder if anti-freeze wouldn't help if one were in a remote area (don't
some types of anti-freeze contain those chemicals?).

From: Kevin Anthony Scaldeferri 

For on the trail treatment and prevention you can't beat
nature's own remedy, jewelweed.  It's almost always found
close to ivy, so it's usually availible when you need it.
Crush a few leaves and rub them on your skin, or crush
and soak in water for a larger amount.

Kevin Scaldeferri

Date: Wed, 22 Jun 1994 11:12:58 -0400 (EDT)
From: Larry London 
Subject: Re: [l/m 11/1/93] Oak/Ivy Distilled Wisdom (18/28) XYZ
To: "Eugene N. Miya" 

Newsgroups: rec.gardens
Subject: Posion Ivy- Everything You Wanted To  Know--
From: Ron Rushing 
Date: 21 May 94 21:23:02 CST
Lines: 454

I found this doccument in my files.  Its a compilation of several items
from here and there- Appolgies to any authors whos' names were
inadvertantly deleted--


Subject: Re: Poison Ivy, Oak, etc.
Date: 1 Jun 92 16:30:07 GMT

* Poison  Oak,  Poison  Ivy,  and Poison Sumac do pretty much the same
  thing  to you.  There is heated debate among botanists about whether
  Poison  Oak and Poison Ivy really the same species.  Poison Sumac is
  at least closely related.

* They  hurt  you through an oil that transfers to your skin, or which
  you can inhale from the fumes of the burning plant.  The oil doesn't
  wash  off  with  plain  water.   Ordinary soap usually doesn't do it
  either.   Some people claim to be immune to the irritation from this
  oil.   A  subset  of these have rolled around in Poison Ivy to prove
  it.  A subset of these have subsequently come down with severe cases
  of the rash.  It would be prudent to avoid Poison Ivy.

* The  best  thing  I've  found  to  deal with Poison Ivy is a product
  called "Technu Poison Oak and Ivy Cleanser" I found in the first-aid
  section  of  the drug store.  It's a liquid soap that can be used to
  try  and  wash  out  the  irritating  oil  before  or after the rash
  develops  (sooner  is  better).  One caution that isn't sufficiently
  emphasized  in  the  directions:   The  stuff  has a mild anesthetic
  effect.   This  makes  it possible to wash/scratch the affected area
  too  vigorously.   This  breaks  down  the  skin's  ability  to hold
  together.   The  effect  is  like  a  second-degree burn or the skin
  underneath  a  blister.   Very painful, and now you have to treat it
  like  a burn, with all the attendant danger of infection, etc.  Keep
  the washing with the Technu gentle, and you should have no problem.


1.  The darn stuff grows roots all over the place, just like lots of
    ivy.  Each section seems to be able to grow without much help from
    the momma plant, once it gets going.  That means your ordinary
    weed killers won't have as much effect on it as you would like.
    So what if it dies here, it just keeps going over there, under
    those rocks.  We've used Roundup, and the long term effect seems
    to be that the ivy backs off, waits for everything else that the
    Roundup killed to decay, and then fills up the space vacated by
    its wimpy dead friends.  Other weed killers, the kind you wouldn't
    want to have around your horses, may do better.  We don't know.

2.  You can rip it out by the roots.  You'll need equipment and a
    method.  Put on old clothes and tall rubber boots.  Put on rubber
    gloves and coveralls.  Let your beard grow a few days if you can,
    too.  Wear a hat, preferably one that protects your ears.  Put
    leather garden gloves over the rubber gloves.  Rip the ivy out,
    being careful not to get it on your face.  DON'T scratch any
    itches, DON'T slap mosquitos, DON'T try to get that little black
    fly that's starting to munch on your eyeball.  Goggles or a
    beekeeper's bonnet might be helpful, you know.  Put all the ivy in
    a gubbidge bag in a gubbidge bucket, and tie it up.  Don't touch
    the bag again without gloves.

    To undress:  Take off the garden gloves and throw them away, or
    drop them right into the washer.  NOW WASH YOUR HANDS, that is,
    wash the rubber gloves.  With the rubber gloves still on, remove
    the coveralls and the boots.  The coveralls go right into the
    washer, along with your hat.  Wash the boots.  Remove the rest of
    your clothing, and put it all in the washer.  NOW WASH YOUR HANDS
    before you touch yourself -anywhere-.  Yes, especially -there-.
    Be careful where you step, too, so you don't walk in bare feet
    where you trod with ivy boots.  Take a shower or two.  Apply
    anti-histamine or cortisone ointment, or your other Favourite Cure
    if you discover, a day or two later, that you got some ivy on you
    anyway, in spite of the precautions.

    To wash the clothes: add Amway Tri-Zyme or some other good enzyme
    powder, and soak the clothes for an hour.  Then wash them.  Then
    wash them again.

3.  Goats eat poison ivy.  Keep goats, and they will eat your ivy,
    along with lots of other stuff. 


Here's what I've learned over the last few years from experience and
also from research at the local University Library. I've spent hours going
through dermatology journals reading up on this stuff. If anyone finds
below, or has evidence to the contrary, feel free to post or e-mail me.
I'll try and keep this up-to-date.


 * The irritant in poison ivy, poison sumac, and poison oak is urushiol.
   Urushiol is also found in the lacquer tree, but I doubt you have one
   of those.  The rash you get is an allergic reaction.  Everything I say
   below about poison ivy should also apply to poison oak and sumac.

 * If you brush up against a healthy undamaged plant, you won't usually
   get urushiol on you.  You usually have to come in contact with a damaged
   leaf.  Almost all plants have damaged leaves - either from insects,
   weather, or from your stepping on them.

 * The toxin exists in varying concentrations in the leaves, stems, and
   roots.  I have gotten a rash from all three, although the reaction I
   got from the roots was very minor.

 * The oil is easily transferred from one place to another.  For
   example, I got some on my shoelaces once, and I kept getting poison
   ivy on my hands for a couple of months before I figured out what was
   going on :-(. Once it is on your hands, it can, and will, end up
   anywhere on you body :-O . It is also common for it to be
   picked up on the hair of your dog or horse, and then repeatedly
   transferred to you.

 * Once you get the oil on clothing, it can sit for months and still cause
   a rash upon contact with your skin.  For example,lets say you get some
   poison ivy oil on your boots, then put the boots away for the winter.
   Next spring you get out the boots and go for a walk - but not in the woods.
   A few days later, voila - your hands are breaking out from putting on
   your boots and tying the laces.

 * The first time you in your life you're exposed to urushiol, you will
   not react to it.  In other words, you get one free pass.  After that,
   your body develops an allergic reaction, which is the rash you get from
   subsequent exposures.  The literature says it is possible to lose your
   allergic response if you are not exposed for a long period of time, like
   10 years or more.  So, if you haven't gotten poison ivy in 10 years, you
   may get another free pass.  There are a number of other chemical irritants
   (like trinitrochlorobenzene) that also cause this type of allergic response
   in your skin, but hopefully you'll never have to worry about them.

 * There is no known way to build up an immunity to the oil.  There is
   anecdotal evidence of people drinking teas made from poison ivy to try
   and build up an immunity.  They got sick and got rashes on their butts.

 * Not all humans are allergic to urushiol.  I think about 1 in 7  (or was
   it 1 in 15) are not allergic.  Native Americans (a.k.a. American Indians)
   tend to NOT be allergic.

 * If you think you've come into contact with poison ivy, throw everything
   in the wash when you get home.  Wash yourself with COLD WATER.  The
   oil is supposedly soluble in water.  If you use warm water, it will cause
   the pores in your skin to open up, enabling the oil to get deeper in
   your skin.

 * Tall socks and long pants are highly recommended when hiking through poison
   ivy.  In places where the ivy can grow tall, a long-sleeve shirt is also
   a good idea.

 * If you really want to hike in shorts in poison-ivy country, there is this
   goop you can put on your legs that will keep it off your skin.  I've used
   it before and didn't get a rash, but I don't know if I came into physical
   contact with poison ivy.  This goop is available at larger sporting-goods

 * Interestingly, I've found that the best way to keep from getting
   poison ivy is to learn to recognize the plants.  After unsuccessfully
   spraying it for years (it's everywhere on our property), I can spot it
   at 100 ft.  I used to get a rash every year - sometimes 2 or three
   times in a summer.  This was simply because I didn't notice where I was
   walking or sitting.  I spend more time in our woods than ever, now, and
   I haven't picked up poison ivy in 2 years.  This co-existence works fine
   for me, but not always as well for unescorted visitors :-(. There can be
   substantial variation between plants, so learn to recognize all the
   variants of leaf formation, etc.

 * If you get a rash, you pretty much have to wait it out.  However, you
   CAN treat the symptons - namely itching.  I've found hydrocortizone
   cream to work well at reducing the itch.  I believe The FDA has recently
   increased the non-prescription strength from .5% to 1%, so make sure
   you get the stronger stuff.  If it's really bad, see your doctor. Although
   it's unlikely, you want to make sure any complications are treated
   quickly.  This is more likely to happen if you are exposed over a very
   large part of your body.

 * Each person reacts a little differently, but on me, it takes 1.5-2 days
   after exposure to notice an itch, and 2-3 weeks before the blisters have
   gone away.

 * As long as you've washed the original oil off your skin, the puss from the
   blisters should not re-infect your skin.  It's just puss, and does not
   contain urushiol.


 * If you only have a small number of plants, you can physically remove them,
   but BE CAREFUL.  Use rubber gloves, and put the plants and the gloves
   in a plastic bag when done.  Wash ANYTHING that touches the plants in
   cold water.

 * I've had no success with 2,4-D.  Although the packaging says it's
   indicated for poison ivy, I've found that the leaves just turn brown and
   fall off, and then come right back.  Even after 2 or 3 applications,
   the plants keep coming back.

 * Roundup (or one of the cheaper equivalents) works much better, but you'll
   need 2 applications, 4-6 weeks apart.

 * If you do go the chemical route, I suggest getting a dye from your
   local nursery and mixing it with the Roundup so you can see where you've
   sprayed.  They call it a marker, since it 'marks' where you've sprayed.
   There are other types of markers, including foams, but I've had better
   luck with dyes.  The kind I use is dark blue, and disappears within a
   day of use.  I've usually been able to get away with 1/2 the recommended
   dose - your milage may vary.  The advantages are that you can verify
   hitting all the leaves, but you don't end up re-spraying stuff you've
   already hit.  The end result is better kill, less cost (because you use
   less Roundup), and less damage to the environment.

 * Even if you think you've killed all the plants, expect some to come back
   from the roots next year.

 * NEVER, NEVER, NEVER burn poison ivy.  The oil can be carried up with the
   smoke, and can be VERY nasty if inhaled.

Andy Goris

>* The  best  thing  I've  found  to  deal with Poison Ivy is a product
>  called "Technu Poison Oak and Ivy Cleanser" I found in the first-aid
>  section  of  the drug store.  It's a liquid soap that can be used to
>  try  and  wash  out  the  irritating  oil  before  or after the rash
>  develops  (sooner  is  better).  One caution that isn't sufficiently
>  emphasized  in  the  directions:   The  stuff  has a mild anesthetic
>  effect.   This  makes  it possible to wash/scratch the affected area
>  too  vigorously.   This  breaks  down  the  skin's  ability  to hold
>  together.   The  effect  is  like  a  second-degree burn or the skin
>  underneath  a  blister.   Very painful, and now you have to treat it
>  like  a burn, with all the attendant danger of infection, etc.  Keep
>  the washing with the Technu gentle, and you should have no problem.
>                                - PauL Drews

Actually, the best thing to use is ethanol.  Probably cheaper than
the above product, anyway. Ethanol acts as a solvent for the toxin
found in poison ivy (Toxicodendrol, I believe).

there's a blurb in the latest  Business  Week  on  the  University  of
Mississippi, in that they have figured out more about what Poison  Ivy
does to you - and have some level of immunization shot. one  per  year
is what they mentioned in the article. it's the Business Week with the
cover about women in industry.

They've actually had the immunization for several years.  Last I knew
there was one problem.  You need to make sure you get the shot
EARLY in the year, *BEFORE* poison ivy is up and growing.  Encountering
poison ivy shortly after the shot can cause an *Extremely* nasty case
of the stuff...

>From an upcoming medical journal article.

Toxicodendron species (Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, Poison Sumac)
Anacardiaceae (Cashew or Sumac family).  The genus contains
approximately 15 species found in eastern Asia, North and South America.
 The literature contains considerable nomenclatural controversy and
confusion, and most early works place ~Poison Oak,~ ~Poison Ivy~ and
~Poison Sumac~ in the genus Rhus.  In addition, medical literature
usually persists in referring to the toxic effects of these plants as
Rhus dermatitis.  Recent taxonomic studies place these toxic plants of
the Anacardiaceae in the genus Toxicodendron, while the genus Rhus
contains nontoxic plants.
Toxicodendron is generally known by the public as the most villainous
plant for its ability to produce contact dermatitis.  Although the
consequences of Toxicodendron exposure are usually well-known, most
individuals are unable to identify this genus, which is generally
characterized by shiny trofoliate (three-leaflet) leaves (Toxicodendron
vernix has 7 - 13 leaflets.)  The plant~s ability to grow either as a
shrub or as a woody opportunistic vine that commonly climbs trees and
fences confuses the identification process.  Yet more confusion persists
because of the public~s use of common names.  The most important toxic
species, Toxicodendron diversilobum (T. & G.) Greene (Poison Oak),
Toxicodendron radicans (L.) O. Kuntze (Poison Ivy) and Toxicodendron
vernix (L.) O. Kuntze (Poison Sumac), are clear and distinct species,
although they are often lumped together under the common name ~Poison
Ivy.~  Both climbing and shrub-like forms of T. radicans are common
throughout eastern North America, with similar growth forms of T.
diversilobum confined to the coast of western North America.
Toxicodendron vernix is confined to bogs and cooler areas of eastern
North America.  The effects of dermal exposure for the three species are
similar.  Depending upon the degree of sensitization, a pruritic
erythematous and vesicular rash will develop within hours or days and
may persist for up to 10 days.  A linear rash distribution is
particularly suggestive of Toxicodendron dermatitis.  The treatment is
largely symptomatic therapy focused on amelioration of the symptoms.
Little or nothing can be done to arrest the process once the exposure
has occurred.  The value of scrubbing the affected area with soap and
water will have no value unless instituted within minutes of the
exposure.  The entire plant, except the pollen, is toxic throughout the
year, even during the winter months when the branches and stems are
Urushiol, a nonvolatile phenolic allergen that acts as a powerful
hapten, is contained within the plant~s resin canals and is released
when the tissues are injured.  Urushiol has as its dermatitis-producing
principle pentadecylacatechol.  It is estimated that 70% of the United
States population would acquire Toxicodendron  dermatitis on casual
exposure to one of the three species mentioned above.  Individuals
sensitive to Toxicodendron species may exhibit cross reactions to
Japanese lacquer, cashew nut trees, or mango.  Contact with these or
other genera in the Anacardiaceae should be avoided.  The ingestion of
Toxicodendron or herbal remedies that contain it can produce life
threatening gastroenteritis.  Even dermal exposure or inhalation of
smoke from burning plant debris containing Toxicodendron can produce
severe toxicity.  It is a common misconception that the fluid from skin
vesicles can spread the rash to other body parts or to other
individuals.  Medicinally, Toxicodendron has been used to cure eczema
and shingles as well as ringworm.  The sap, which turns black when
exposed to air, was one of the few natural sources of black lacquer dye
before the introduction of synthetic dyes.


Speaking of folk medicine, medicinal uses of plants...I am not a biology
major but have had an interest in this area for some time.
Why is it that only one person, James Duke of Dept of Agri., has made
a major effort to compile comprehensive lists of medicinal plants uses?
Is it possible that modern American medicine has assumptions that run
contrary to even the examination of historical and folk use?
At the least, by now, I would hope for a large d-base perhaps a CD ROM
of thousands of medicinally used plants both in U.S. and abroad, something
easily accessible for public search, such as Med Line.
Especially as world and American species are being eliminated so quickly.


Here's a "preventative" method for the skin...

If you think you have been exposed, wash with hot water (as hot as you can
tolerate) and Fels Naptha soap.  The soap is horrible on the skin, but it
has something which breaks up the oil of the poison.  Also, wash the
clothes in hot water immediately.  The rash from poison ivy can take up to
72 hours to appear after exposure, and is often spread on the body by
showers while the oils are still on the skin.

(The oils often stay on your hands, on the palms in the creases.  You
don't get poison on the palms because the skin is so tough, but you
spread it
everywhere just by touching.)

From: Ecology Center Fund
Subject: Re: poison ivy/sumack/oak
Date: 28 Apr 92 15:12:00 GMT

Look for a product in your supermarket or outdoor goods store called
Tecnu.  It's nothing short of miraculous.  It prevents AND alleviates the
Not 100 % effective, but hey, what do you want, a perfect world? :)


How to recognize PI/PS/PO:

POISON IVY (Toxicodendron radicans = Rhus radicans = Rhus toxicodendron)
Found in a wide range of habitats, but in the midwest often seen in
disturbed woods, roadsides, and flood plains.  Most widespread of PI,
PS, and PO.

Small, slightly woody plant, or shrubby, or vining.   LEAVES ALTERNATE
(= 1 leaf per node), TRIFOLIOLATE (=3 leaflets), with pedicel (leafstalk)
and the CENTRAL LEAFLET WITH PETIOLULE (=leaflet stalk).  The lateral
two leaflets are not distinctly stalked.  Leaflets are a variety of
but generally ovate or obovate (roughly apple-leaf shaped).  Leaflets may
smooth-edged (entire), irregularly toothed, or shallowly lobed.  Leaves of
one variant form looking like small oak-leaves (but look again!). Leaves
apple-green and shiny in the spring, deep green and often dusty in the
summer, turning a glorious reddish orange in the fall.  Flowers
tiny, whitish, in clusters; fruits white berries in late summer or fall.

Closest look-alike:  Box-elder seedlings (Acer negundo), which has
trifoliolate leaves; the lateral two leaflets are often slightly stalked.
Older box-elders generally have 5 leaflets per leaf.

POISON SUMAC (Toxicodendron vernix = Rhus vernix)   Shrub, to perhaps
ft tall, often branched from the base.  LEAVES ALTERNATE WITH 7-13
lateral leaflets without a petiolule (leaflet stalk), TERMINAL LEAFLET
RUN BETWEEN LEAFLET PAIRS.  More small, whitish berries in a long cluster.
Usually in wetlands, Maine to Minnesota, south to Texas and Florida.

Closest look-alikes: Staghorn sumac, Rhus typhina, which has clusters of
fuzzy, red fruits and toothed leaflets, and likes dry soils; Smooth sumac,
Rhus glabra, with bright red fruits and slightly toothed leaves; much
soil than PS.

POISON OAK: (Toxicodendron diversiloba = Rhus diversiloba).   Reputedly
worst of the bunch.  Erect shrub, usually about 3-6ft tall (to 12 ft!),
or as much as an oak leaf; CENTRAL LEAFLET STALKED.  Leaves generally
bright, shiny green above, paler below.  Fruits are small whitish berries.
Common on the west coast, esp. low places, thickets and wooded slopes.
Occasionally a 5-leafleted form is found.

Kay Klier    Biology Dept  UNI

Ron Rushing
Technology Coordinator
Stephen F. Austin State University
Nacogdoches, TX
Disclaimer: "Its alright-- Its only me"

Newsgroups: rec.gardens
Subject: Re: Poison ivy
From: Ron Rushing 
Date: 21 May 94 21:15:12 CST


Poison Ivy
Contact with poison ivy can leave you with a rash and persistent
itch.  This native perennial grows throughout Virginia, in woods,
fields, and sometimes in the garden.  It grows in sun or shade,
and in wet or dry places.  Its growth habit depends on where it
is growing, resulting in a trailing ground cover, free-standing
shrub, or a vine supported by trees, shrubbery and fences.
All parts of the poison ivy plant contain an oil, urushiol, which
causes the allergic reaction.  Most poisoning occur during the
growing season when the presence of lush foliage increases the
chance of contact, but the dormant stems and roots of the vine
can cause winter poisoning as well.  Individuals vary in their
sensitivity to poison ivy, but repeated exposure can lead to
increased sensitivity.  It would be a good idea for everyone to
avoid this plant.
Poison ivy appears in many forms.  The leaflets vary in size,
glossiness, and marginal notching, but always occur in groups of
three.  If you avoid all unknown plants with leaves composed of
three leaflets, you will be playing it safe.
Poison ivy is difficult but not impossible to eradicate.  The
chief difficulty lies in the chances of becoming poisoned when
trying to remove it.  Wear protective clothing, including gloves,
whenever you are working near it.  Pulling and grubbing are
effective means of removal, though they necessitate close contact
and will probably need to be repeated once or twice for complete
control.  If time is not an object, the vines can be smothered by
completely covering them with black plastic for several months.
Do not mow the plants as this will spew bits and pieces of
poisonous material over the area.  When removing poison ivy, take
frequent breaks to change clothes and scrub thoroughly with a
strong soap.  Wash contaminated clothing separately.  DO NOT BURN
any plants that you physically remove.  The resulting smoke can
cause severe lung damage if inhaled.
Herbicides are effective and allow you to control the plant
without getting too close to it.  Several commercial products are
available.  Check labels to find one that will control poison
ivy, and apply it as directed.  Many of the herbicides for poison
ivy control contain glyphosate.  This chemical is systemic.  It
is absorbed by leaves and transferred to stems and roots, and
slowly causes the death of the entire plant.  It must be applied
to an actively growing plant for this process to take place; do
not apply it during a drought when even poison ivy will not be
growing.  Glyphosate, like most herbicides labelled for poison
ivy removal, is nonselective and will kill any other plants it
Where poison ivy has grown up tree trunks or into hedges, cut the
vine at ground level.  Remove as much of the stump and roots as
you can with a hoe or by pulling.  As regrowth occurs, apply an
herbicide to the leaves, or keep pulling up the growth.  With
perseverance, and probably of few itches, poison ivy can be

Ron Rushing
Technology Coordinator
Stephen F. Austin State University
Nacogdoches, TX
Disclaimer: "Its alright-- Its only me"

From: london@sunSITE.unc.edu (Larry London)
Newsgroups: alt.med.allergy
Subject: Treatment for poison ivy outbreaks.
Date: 21 May 1994 16:25:20 GMT
Keywords: jewelweed, aloe vera, goldenseal, comfrey, plantain leaves

Combinations of the following herbal remedies could be tried:

Apply to the lesions, more or less in this order:

1) squeeze juice of fresh jewelweed plants onto lesions
and reserve remains of plants for application as a compress
[this will help reduce itching - the other herbs listed here may 
also help with this]

2) squeeze juice of aloe vera onto lesions and reserve remains of plants 
for compress; promotes healing

3) liberally dust powdered goldenseal on top of the above plant juices
before they dry onto the lesions; this will promote rapid healing

4) take a wooden meat maul and mash leaves and stems of the following

plantain leaves
the remains of the jewelweed and aloe plants juiced in previous procedure

form the resulting masses into a poultice or compress and apply it on top 
of the goldenseal on the lesions

hold poultice in place with a bandage of some sort, if possible.

After four hours or so remove poultice and clean the lesions with water.
Repeat this entire procedure every four hours as needed until
itching is reduced and lesions begin to heal.

Other remedies:

Cortisone (some OTC, some prescription)

Witch Hazel


Miscelellaneous treatment information:

Newsgroups: rec.backcountry
From: Greg Smith 
Subject: Re: poison ivy!
Date: Mon, 16 May 1994 13:22:01 GMT

Agreed that water is good but please DON"T USE WARM WATER.  Warm water 
will open  the pores in your skin allowing the (poison ivy) oil to get 
in.  Use cold water and soap.

To give you  an idea of how the oil behaves on your skin, consider what 
happened to me.  On military exercise, I got into some poison ivy in an 
ugly way.  I knew I had about 2 hours to do something or I would 
certainly die a horrible itchy death.

I doused my arms in rubbing alcohol to remove the oil from my hands and arms.  
What I forgot to think about was that the disolved oil was running down 
my arms to my elbows where the alcohol was evaporating and redepositing 
now concentrated poison ivy oil.  Within a day I had no skin on my elbows.

No matter what you decide to do to, just remember that the oil has to be 
removed completely or neutralized in place.  There is a product called 
Tecnu that works wonders.  Telephone linemen swear by it.

BTW:  I think calamine lotion is worthless.

 Greg Smith
 AT&T Global Information Solutions

 Opinions expressed don't necessarily reflect 
 the views or policies of AT&T

Newsgroups: rec.backcountry
From: rperkins@bnr.ca (Robert M. Perkins)
Subject: Re: poison ivy!
Date: Thu, 19 May 1994 21:13:23 GMT

I have a great case on my lower legs right now, and have been 
very allergic since age 7 (crawled into a poison sumac bush
wearing swimming trunks.  The stuff covered 80% of my body.)

I've tried various steroid creams:
1% hydrocortisone works okay.  .5% is useless.
"Triamcinalone" steroid cream works better- prescription.

"Hydroxine HCL 25mg" - prescription- three times a day cuts the itching
but makes you woozy, esp.if you drink a beer.  Don't know if
it is an antihistamine.  Anyone out there know?

Max strength sinutab has acetaminophen analgesic, pseudoephedrine
(sudafed?) decongestant, and chlorpheniramine maleate antihistamine.
The anithistamine and analgesic make me feel better, though tired.
Any antihistamine should do something to cut the itching.

And, wackiest symptom reliever of all:
Fill the tub w/ cool water.  add 1/2 chlorine bleach, 4 tablespoons salt.
soak for 10 minutes.  seems to help.  Came upon this after having
symptoms relieved after swimming in the ocean or in a swimming pool.

calamine lotion dries it out just a little.  95% useless.

i keep a bottle of rubbing alcohol in my car *usually* in case i
think i've been exposed.

Rob Perkins    Internet rperkins@bnr.ca 
ESN 294-7632    Commercial 919-991-7632 
AIN/SSP Development, Dept 3C38
Bell Northern Research, 35 Davis Drive, RTP, NC  27709 
The opinions I opine are purely mine; BNR doesn't share them.

From: tamada@cheshire.oxy.edu (Michael K. Tamada)
Newsgroups: rec.backcountry
Subject: Re: poison ivy!
Date: 17 May 1994 13:49:50 -0700

     I react strongly to poison oak.  So strongly that I had to go to a
doctor last time.  I eventually saw an allergist who gave me a copy of
a pamphlet (I don't know who printed it) which advised the following:

     Rinse as soon as possible  (everyone agrees on this).
     Use a LOT of COLD water.  Be aware that this water is simply
spreading the oil around; the idea is to use enough water to have it
spread off you entirely. 
     As someone else mentioned, hot water opens the pores and allows
more oil to get in.
     The pamphlet didn't mention soap one way or the other; possibly it
was referring to people caught in the field who didn't have access to
     The doctor said that to use a little water was probably worse than
to do nothing at all, because it would simply spread the oil over more
of your skin.

--Mike Tamada
  Occidental College

Newsgroups: rec.backcountry
From: hlindaue@harp.aix.calpoly.edu (Hans Fredrick Lindauer)
Subject: Re: poison ivy! (Poison Oak)
Date: Thu, 19 May 1994 00:19:52 GMT

I used to just wait until I was finished hiking, and then use Teknu, and 
shower off.  [text deleted] prescribe some Prednisone and Atarax, 
[text deleted]
The one good thing about all of this is that I found out (too late, of 
course!) that Tecnu also makes a product called Armor, which you put on 
before exposure, and which prevents the oils from soaking into your 
skin.  I bought two bottles.  The doctor yesterday told me to carry 
alcohol and some paper towels, so that if I get exposed, I can 
immediately wipe off any oils.  

Hans Lindauer

Newsgroups: rec.backcountry
From: robert.samuelsen@daytonOH.ncr.com (Rob Samuelsen)
Subject: Re: poison ivy!
Keywords: jewelweed
Date: Tue, 24 May 1994 14:03:02 GMT

The native americans used Jewelweed.  They would smash it into a pulp and 
spread the pulp over the affected area.  Jewelweed is usually found in moist, 
shaded areas and is identified by it's waxy leaves.  After a rain or heavy 
dew, water beads up on the waxy leaves and looks like jewels.

Rob Samuelsen
AT&T Global Information Solutions (Formerly NCR Corporation)
Platform Solution Services Development
Professional Services Division

Phone......(513)445-1256    FAX.......(513)445-7196
E-mail... Robert.Samuelsen@DaytonOH.NCR.COM

Expressed opinions don't necessarily reflect those of AT&T.

Newsgroups: alt.med.allergy
From: carveb@netcom.com (Robert D Carver)
Subject: Poison Oak/Ivy
Date: Tue, 24 May 1994 15:56:29 GMT

I picked up a product recently that is supposed to alliviate symptoms of 
poison oak, ivy, sumac.  I haven't needed it yet so i can not verify it 
works.  It's called "Easy Ivy".  It's made by Bethrum Reasearch and 
Development and their address is P.O. Box 3436 Galveston, TX  77552.  Has 
anyone out there tried this stuff?
  Bob Carver
  Dallas, TX

From: vikikirk@bronze.coil.com (Viki Kirk)
Newsgroups: rec.gardens
Subject: Re: Herbal treatment of poison ivy rashes.
Date: 25 May 1994 07:06:28 -0400

I spent a night in a poison ivy patch with ten others who are also 
sensitive to poison ivy. I was on an Outward Bound trip in the NC 
mountains. We had been hiking mountainous terrain until well into the the 
night when we came upon a nice flat camp spot -- unfortunately infested 
with the stuff. Our leaders told us to rub the juice from a fibrous plant 
on our skin -- Jewel Weed. Luckily there was plenty of it. Not one of us 
got a rash from the poison ivy!


Article 33840 of rec.gardens:
From: nedehn@artsci.wustl.edu (Natasha Elizabeth Dehn)
Newsgroups: rec.gardens
Subject: Re.Poison Ivy

Regarding reactions and treatment:  Not everyone is lucky enough to get 
off with a rash.  A serious exposure or strong sensitivity will produce 
flu-like symptoms--fever, achyness, etc..  It's possible to be sick as a 
dog for more than a month--believe me, I know!!  I also developed 
additional spontaneous rashes on unexposed portions of my body, weeks 
after the initial outbreak--my immune system had developed a hair-trigger 
sensitivity.  I was told some of this might have been prevented had they 
started oral steroids immediately (another thing to note--not every site 
of exposure will show up at once--and I'm not talking about secondary 
exposure from touching oneself, though I got that too--all over my neck 
and face! But it was more than a week before all the streaks of blisters 
appeared on my legs, which had clearly brushed up against the plant).  
In my case the situation is now clear.  But for all of you 
as-yet-unexposed people out there--should you ever be so unlucky as to 
meet the dreaded plant, be aware that stronger reactions are possible and 
stronger treatment is available.   Don't be shy about going to see your 
doctor--just 'cause the books don't usually mention it doesn't mean you're 
imagining your illness :)


Article 33932 of rec.gardens:
Newsgroups: rec.gardens
From: scd@atria.com (Steve Daukas)
Subject: Re: poison ivy (help!  help!)

I am currently working on killing my bumper crop of PI.  I am using Orthro
Brush-be-gone.  The first application has had dramatic effects!  I'm
expecting to give one more application (I mix the product in a 6oz/24oz
ratio in a small spray bottle and then spray it on the leaves).

You can remove the vines by hand and then use the chemicals on the "stump"
of the vine, but this means rubber gloves et. al. and disposal of the
unwanted vines.

Now, whatever you do, DO NOT burn PI (or anything similar).  Contrary to
other posts, you do not need to be sensitive to PI to have a severe reaction
to the smoke.  Inhaled allergens are usually nothing to worry about and
usually do not cause a reaction, however PI smoke is no longer an allergen by
normal definitions.  It is VERY easy to develop analphalyxis when you breath
this in.  Death can ensue in 10 to 30 minutes if you breath enough of it
and you are very young/old or have a medical history of asthma or allergies.
Also, breathing this in will almost certainly cause you to develop a
hypersensitivity to PI and other similar plants that will stay with you the
rest of your life.

From jriedl@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu  Thu May 25 14:57:11 1995
Mime-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
Date: Thu, 25 May 1995 17:57:58 -0500
To: eugene
From: jriedl@magnus.acs.ohio-state.edu (Dan Riedl)
Subject: poison ivy 

        I read your page on the WWW and found it to be very helpful.  I am
a boy scout in Mansfield, Ohio and have spent over 200 nights out camping
in the past four years.  I have gotten more cases of poison ivy than I can
count.  I have tried many different remidies and I have a few suggestions
for your page.  The brand-name, topical spray, called Rhuli Spray seems to
stop the itching temporarily to a degree.
        I have found a natural remedy that works even better.  I am not
sure how proficient the plant is in other parts of the country but jewel
weed is definately a jewel when it comes to stopping the itch of poison
ivy, or even stinging nettles, in the woods.  It is found in abundance in
the mid-west and can easily be indetified by it's large, fragile, light
green stalks, that are very moist inside when crushed, and it's small
leaves that can be found in a plant book.  One large plant can be crushed
and rubbed on a large patch of poison ivy rash.  It causes quick relief
from the itching and seems to help dry up the rash.  Many people seem to
know the plant by it's seeds  -In the fall jewel weed flowers, the flowers
soon change to pods which resemble very small pea pods, bieng only an inch
in length.  When the pods are ripe they will pop open at the slighest touch
and fling out tiny green or brown seeds.  The seeds are edible and taste
pretty good, though they hardly make a meal.
        Another remedy I have tried is poison ivy extract.  The poison ivy
is in the form of small sugar pills that are sucked on like candy.  The
idea is simple, if you take small doses of poison ivy over a large time
period, you will build up an immunity to the plant.  It also claims to be
able to clear up poison ivy rashes, but I have seen no effect to back this
claim up.  It is hard to tell if the poroduct really works, but my friends
and I have found that we don't seem to get poison ivy if we take it loyally
for most of the year.  The directions call for you to take it twice a day
for a week, every month and those of us who remembered to take it, we found
that we had much less trouble with poison ivy than those of us who forgot.

Dan Riedl
745 Clifton Blvd.
Mansfield, Ohio 44907
phone: (419)-756-7596