Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Phantom Ivy


I have a terrible case of phantom ivy: I know it's in my yard, and hence I itch. Even worse, I was pulling up weeds this morning. Worser, I might have been near where the ivy was, though I didn't know that until later when I had my gardening neighbor point out to me exactly which plants were poison ivy. The Girl Scouts lied; the leaves aren't necessarily shaped like mittens. But they are in clusters of three. Say it with me: leaves of three, let it be.

I'm not generally susceptible to scruples, but in the case of urushiol-bearing plants I'm willing to make an exception. I'm shaken in mind and purpose. Do I really itch, or is it all in my head? Should I touch the baby, even after washing my hands three times and my face once?

Those of us who share these epidermic trials understand each other. I still remember the case of poison ivy I had when I was nine, when it got between my fingers. I remember my brother's bout when it was between his toes. I remember huddling miserably in a ball, picking threads of cotton ball out of the pink patches of calamine lotion on my legs. I have no desire to relive these blistery episodes, and now I'm confronted with the culprit in my own yard. Damn you, poison ivy. You're so potent I don't even have to touch you to be infected with itchy doubts and forbodings.

12 comments:

Suburbanbanshee said...

Two cures for fear of poison ivy:

1. Find out where the jewelweed is growing. Rub some leaves on wherever you're afraid you might have touched poison ivy.

2. Buy jewelweed soap and do the same thing, except in a more comfy shower/bath way.

Good luck!

Melanie B said...

This is why I keep a bottle of Tecnu in my medicine cabinet. When I suspect poison ivy, I can wash obsessively with it.

I've never heard of jewelweed. Interesting. Though according to the wikipedia article there are no studies that support the claims that it works for poison ivy. Not that I necessarily trust Wikipedia.

Suburbanbanshee said...

Well, obviously if there's a superduper medical thing to use nowadays, use that first. I guess I'm lucky that I've never had it bad enough to hear about this Tecnu stuff!

But jewelweed's pretty well attested to work by people who live by woods in my neck of the woods. Admittedly, some of this belief may just be the result of unneeded preventative use. But it does seem to have some kind of anti-itching effect in general, whether or not it genuinely counteracts urushiol. It's plentiful and I've never heard of anybody with an allergy to it; so finding some is more proactive than just suffering until you get all the way home from the woods.

OTOH, I've seen a girl with the worst case of poison ivy I've ever personally seen be cured by the application of boiled-down jewelweed. (And it's a good thing it worked, because the poor kid's mother refused to use every other remedy offered to her, on the grounds they weren't organic; and people were talking about calling Children's Services on this woman. Jewelweed was only mentioned last, out of total desperation to get her to Do Something for the kid; so it's possible that it only worked so well out of God's pity on ideocrats, or because the boiled gunk pulled the urushiol off and didn't let it get away.)

I think you can also eat jewelweed, but I think you have to be pretty hungry.

cliff said...

Those certainly look enough like mittens to me. Also know this - the vines & roots contain up to 10,000 times the amount of urishiol compared to the leaves. PI was the bane of the conquistadors until they learned why the natives chewed on the leaves. :) (see about oral ivy below)

Jewelweed does not have proven anti-pruritic properties.

Tecnu is WONDERFUL. However, we of limited means know that the active ingredient is just deodorized mineral spirits. It binds with the oil, thus enabling removal with soap & water.

"Oral Ivy" is the miracle product for which you seek. It is the concentrated urishiol oil. A few drops in a glass of water twice a day throughout the growing season will induce an immune response whereby you are protected from the symptoms. If you do have an exposure with rash, simply take eight to ten drops every two hours to alleviate symptoms. The rash should disappear in 24 - 48 hours.

I'm an arborist and am constantly exposed to PI. I speak from experience.

Here's wishing you an itch free life from now on! :)

Julia said...

The last time I had poison ivy I was 8 months pregnant and had blisters on my legs and up my belly. I thought I was going to scratch that baby out!

After trying every over the counter remedy on the market without success, I went to a dermatologist a week before my due date, and he gave me a topical steroid that cleared things up in 24 hours. So if you get PI and get desperate, know that there's a solution.

MacBeth Derham said...

Up with jewelweed; down with PI. As for the Girl Scouts...mitten shaped leaves are more indicative of sassafras.

PI means a trip to the doc for steroids for my son, who is allergic to diphenhydramine. We try to keep out of it. ;) Be well and heal quickly!

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

There are a number of soaps and scrubs on the market that are supposed to help remove the urushiol. Sumac is more common than ivy around here. My mother in law swears by these homeopathic poison ivy pills at 4X, but they never seemed to work for me. Of course, I never took them as regularly as she does.

The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Makes you think more kindly of fire ants, doesn't it?

Melanie B said...

I'm not sure even poison ivy can make me think more kindly of fire ants.

Rebekka said...

I wonder how that compares to poison oak? Despite spending my entire childhood and young adulthood crawling around the woods in California I've never reacted to poison oak, and I've always wondered if I'm immune? It would be weird, since I'm allergic to just about everything else. (Not complaining about having something I'm not allergic to, though.)

Anyway, I have terrible eczema during the winter, so just the thought of having poison ivy made me scratch in sympathy.

Arkanabar T'verrick Ilarsadin said...

Rebekka, the same chemical, urushiol, is responsible for people's reactions to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. It is an allergic reaction in all cases.

CMinor said...

Ouch.
I think poison oak is just the shrub form of poison ivy. I've never thought of the leaves as mitten-shaped just kind of irregularly jagged--mitten-shaped to me says sassafras or mulberry. Watch out for hairy-looking vines going up trees--you can get the rash from those even when there's not a leaf on them.
There's no such thing as real immunity to poison ivy--different people have different exposure tolerances and so some are less suceptible--but there's always a chance the next exposure will be the one that gets you. I practically rolled in the stuff through my kidhood and then got it at twenty-one after fairly light exposure. Haven't had it since mainly because of caution and having developed an eye for the stuff.
A good thorough wash with soap and water right after exposure will help to get rid of or at least reduce the oil on your skin. Hadn't heard ot the jewelweed cure--will have to keep that in m ind.