While the best option when it comes to dealing with poison oak / poison ivy is obviously to avoid coming into contact with it at all, there are times when we realize we're standing in a patch of it just a few seconds too late. Let's talk about some of the ways we can use herbs and essential oils to aid recovery and ease symptoms.
Learn to identify poison oak and poison ivy (or poison sumac, if that's what grows in your area). Practice identifying it and being aware of it when you're outside in an area where it grows. Wear clothing and shoes that cover your skin and bring a pair of gloves along if you think there's a possibility that you'll be touching wild plants.
UPON FIRST REALIZATION OF CONTACT
Sometimes people will never develop a rash, but since many do, it's important to watch for developing symptoms over the next few days so you can deal with them as soon as they are noticed.
Wash your skin as soon as possible with cool water and soap (one that is not oil based - think lard-based soap or dish soap). It's a good idea to have a soap made specifically for poison oak exposure on hand so that it's there when you need it. Wash clothing as well.
Apply Jewelweed to the affected area as soon as possible. The leaves can be juiced, blended, made into a strong tea, or pounded and applied as a poultice. It's a good idea to tincture some when you find it and keep the tincture on hand so you have it when you need it, since the tincture can also be used. Alternatively, you can brew it as a strong, double or triple infused tea and freeze that instead. Store the Jewelweed ice cubes in an airtight container in the freezer until needed.
ONCE THE RASH DEVELOPS
Once you have a rash, your main objective will be to soothe the itching and irritation while you wait for it to run its course. Fresh Plantain leaves (Plantago spp.) that have been crushed between your fingers or whole Burdock leaves that have been boiled and pounded can be applied as a poultice or be juiced / blended and applied as a compress or wash. Fresh chickweed and cleavers are options as well. Alternatively, you can prepare a strong tea with the same herbs, perhaps adding in skin-soothing herbs like Calendula, Lavender, Marshmallow, and Chamomile, and use the tea for a compress. Aloe vera gel may help soothe and cool the area and some folks claim that adding Apple Cider Vinegar (raw) to an herbal wash or even a cool oatmeal / baking soda bath is helpful. When the itching is severe, a clay poultice can be helpful.
Support your body internally with alterative herbs like Burdock and Dandelion. They can be taken as teas or in tincture form. Stick to bland foods for meals and snacks, as acidic and spicy foods will make symptoms worse.
Keeping yourself distracted as much as possible will help you get through the worst of it without losing your sanity. Try to incorporate herbs that help you relax, like Valerian or Kava, into your day (or night).
LATE STAGES OF THE RASH
During the last stages of the rash, when it's more dry, you can start to incorporate essential oils into your topical applications. Diluted Lavender, Helichrysum, and Chamomile essential oils can all soothe irritation while helping the skin recover. It's best to still avoid oil-based carriers during this stage, so continue to use other options until the rash is entirely gone. (Oil spreads the irritating compounds and, thus, the rash.)
If you exhibit any symptoms of an allergic reaction, fever, or of the poison entering your bloodstream, seek medical care right away.
Do you have any other tips for managing a rash caused by poison oak? Leave them in the comments below.