Jewelweed, Nature's Answer to Poison Ivy?

Finding and Using the Orange Jewelweed Plant for Poison Ivy


small orange jewelweed flower picture
Orange Jewelweeed Impatiens capensis


The Jewelweed plant has been used for centuries in North America by Native Americans and Herbalists, as a natural preventative and treatment for poison ivy and poison oak; and is a folk remedy for many other skin disorders. 

Learn to find and use wild Jewelweed here, or just order my concentrated Handmade Jewelweed Soap, Salve and Spray for a convenient way to keep it on hand and ready to use.


Jewelweed herb plant picture close-up of leaves in Spring
Jewelweed plant in late Spring

Jewelweed Plant Description and Habitat

There are many different Impatiens species known as Jewelweed with flowers of purple, yellow, pink and white, sometimes a showy scarlet. The flowers are spurred and irregular in form and are borne in the leaf axils.

This article is about Impatiens capensis, the plant known as Orange Jewelweed  or Spotted Touch-me-not.

Jewelweed is a smooth annual plant that grows to 3-5 ft or sometimes taller in the eastern part of North America from Southern Canada to the northern part of Florida.

USDA Distribution Map for Jewelweed

Jewelweed is most often found on the edge of moist woods, often near poison ivy or stinging nettle. The plant is shaped much like a small tree, and branches out quite a bit for its size.

Jewelweed plants are often knocked down by rushing water and can sometimes be found with much off the stem on the ground, growing new roots at the leaf nodes, while new branches grow upward toward the light.

It is easy to spot Orange Jewelweed plants in late summer, when they are loaded with cone-shaped orange flowers. They will begin to bloom in June or July, and continue until the plants are killed by a hard frost. Jewelweed is most showy in August and early September.

It is commonly said that wherever you find poison ivy, you will find Jewelweed - however this is not always true as Jewelweed will not grow in dry places for long, and does not thrive in direct sunlight. Poison Ivy will grow in sun or shade.

Jewelweed leaves are oval, round- toothed; the lower one are  opposite and the  upper ones alternate. The flowers hang from the plant much as a jewel from a necklace, Pale Jewelweed has yellow flowers, Spotted Touch-Me-Nots have orange flowers with dark red dots. 

In early summer, Jewelweed's tender branches and will oose a gel-like substance when crushed or broken. Once the plant begins to flower, the main stems grow tougher and fibrous. Don't bother harvesting large branches after flowering begins; go for the small juicy branches, flowers and leaves.

Jewelweeed seed pods will 'pop out' when touched , that is where the name Touch-Me-Nots came from. Each pod contains 3-5 seeds. Although the plant self-seeds profusely, it isn't easy to harvest them as they eject forcefully. Be careful, they can hit you in the eye!

Jewelweed also has less visible flowers. The following is from the US Forest Service "These flowers (termed cleistogamous by botanists) fertilize themselves and produce seed without ever exchanging pollen with another flower. Cleistogamous flowers are very small (about 1 mm long) and are borne near the bases of the leaves. Research has shown that seeds produced by the showy, cross-pollinated flowers grow into larger, hardier plants, but the cleistogamous flowers produce seed at a much lower cost to the parent plant."

FORAGING JEWELWEED SEED PODS (TASTES LIKE WALNUTS!) External Link.

Jewelweed Plant Traditional Uses

Disclaimer

The Jewelweed plant is best known for its skin soothing properties. The branches contain a gooey liquid like an aloe plant, though it's juice will often turn orange once squeezed from the plant.

The Spotted Orange Jewelweed is most commonly used for treating poison ivy rashes although the Pale Jewelweed may also have medicinal properties. Many people rave about how Jewelweed is helpful, while others say it has no effect on their rashes..  

Jewelweed seedlings germinating in April
Jewelweed seedlings in April

Read on to learn to make your own Poison Ivy treatment ice cubes with Jewelweed.

An infusion of leaves and the juice from the stem of Jewelweed are used by herbalists for poison ivy, oak and other plant induced rashes, athlete's foot, acne, ringworm and many other types of dermatitis. Jewelweed may help rashes by counter-reacting with the chemicals in other plants that cause irritation, but clinical studies have found some benefits in saponins in the plant. 

The scientific proof for Jewelweed is lacking, but many people swear by it. A 1958 study showed that 107 out of 115 people had good results, but newer studies negate the findings. You can search Jewelweed on Facebook to see how many people use it as well as their opinions. I have used it for decades and it works for me, every time. When I wash with Jewelweed soap the same day as exposure, I don't break out and when I get a little breakout, it clears up fast!

Jewelweed plant with two orange flowers
Jewelweed flowers in late summer

How to Use Jewelweed

When you are out in the field and find you have been exposed to poison ivy, oak, or stinging nettle you can reach for the jewelweed plant and slice the stem, then rub its juicy inside on exposed parts. This will usually promptly ease irritation and prevents breakout for most people, though soap is said to be more effective

. Jewelweed or an infusion made from boiling leaves of Impatiens capensis may be frozen for later use. Or use Amazing Jewelweed Soap, Salve and Spray. Many people use Jewelweed Soap to keep rashes from occuring in the first place when used the same day as exposure.

patch of several Jewelweed plants growing in a barn lot
Jewelweed usually grows in patches of several plants. It is rarely to find a single plant growing alone.

If you want a DIY Jewelweed remedy for poison ivy, bug bites itchy rashes etc..., the easiest way is to use it is to brew chopped jewelweed in boiling water until you get a dark orange liquid. Yellow Jewelweed will not yield orange color and 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 be amazed with its soothing, healing properties. You can also freeze fresh Jewelweed in ziplock bags and save it until you need it. It will keep in freezer up to a year or more.        

Jewelweed infusion can be preserved 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.

The juice from the Jewelweed plant turns orange when exposed to air. Water preparations of Orange-flowered Jewelweed, as well as soaps made with it, will be orange to brown colored, but oil infusions and salves will be green.

Do not make alcoholic tinctures from Jewelweed because some people have had a bad reaction using jewelweed in alcohol based preparations. More isn't neccesarily better with Jewelweed, and a strong concentrate should be diluted for use on skin, as some people have had reddening of skin with strong concentrations of Jewelweed.

Informative Link about Jewelweed and Alcohol warnings

Use my Amazing Jewelweed soap, salve and spray products made from jewelweed that is always fresh or fresh frozen, , never dried!
I keep a deep freezer full of Jewelweed harvested in summer so I can make fresh batches all year round. And they do not contain alcohol which may spread the oils. If they don't work great for you, and clear up rash within a few days; contact me for full refund. Disclaimer

More recent studies have identified chemical compounds supporting traditional uses of jewelweed: the identification of COX-2 inhibitory napthoquinone salts supports the use of jewelweed for articular rheumatism, pain, and swelling Oku 2002 and the presence of a testosterone 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor supports its use against male pattern baldness;Ishiguro 2000 however, further studies are needed before any conclusions can be drawn.
From Drugs.com - Read more about extensive studies for Jewelweed uses.

Clinical Study on Jewelweed Use

This is an older study from 1958. Newer studies report Jewelweed as ineffective. Go figure?

"The Results of a Clinical Study, in which a 1:4 jewelweed preparation was compared for its effectiveness with other standard poison ivy dermatitis treatments was published in 1958 (Annals of Allergy 1958;16:526-527). Of 115 patients treated with jewelweed, 108 responded "most dramatically to the topical application of this medication and were entirely relieved of their symptoms within 2 or 3 days after the institution of treatment". It was concluded that jewelweed is an excellent substitute for ACTH and the corticosteroids in the treatment of poison ivy dermatitis. The active principle in the plant responsible for this activity remains unidentified."
by Varro Tyler, PhD in his book HERBS OF CHOICE
Disclaimer

Author, Photographer: Karen Bergeron Copyright 1999 - 2021

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