Friday, July 13, 2012

Fighting Poison Ivy

So I'll ask the big question up front: If you have an ecological conscience, what do you do with Poison Ivy?

As I cleared and trimmed within and around my garden this past week, I pulled a bit of delicate vine away from around this little tree near my tomatoes.  There are so many things that come with stickers and prickles from roses to squash to borage.  It's habit for me to come in and wash up to my elbows after every foray out into my yard; but I didn't realize I'd met up with that nasty little creeper, otherwise I'd have done an even more thorough job.  Now I'm looking for it everywhere: "Leaves of three, let it be."

That's no joke.  Here's the worst spot, although we think it's improved a bit.  Little blisters are still popping up here and there on my arms even as of this morning.  I got some on my face and neck in addition to this beauty, but those places haven't been as bad, thank goodness.  Turn away if you're squeamish, kids.

I looked online for all kinds of natural remedies.  I recognized the pretty orange flowers of the jewelweed from our neighborhood path, so L and I went out there to carefully harvest some.  We brought it home and I then cooked it to make a warm poultice which I applied to my bubbling forearm, wrapping it in gauze.  It took away the itching immediately and worked for about 24 hours, then it was no good.  (Later on I read that it must be used fresh.  I guess I should have gone and picked some more since I was still using what I'd cooked up and it must have lost its effectiveness.)  I read that apple cider vinegar stings at first but works great so I gave that a go - it not only stung but seemed to make it all the redder, not a winner for me.  I've applied Anbesol for its numbing quality, then moved to Caladryl which was also helpful.  Benadryl is getting me through the night.  Time is just going to have to do its thing, I'm afraid.

Of course I've also been looking for a natural way of killing this monster.  M wants to spray Round-Up on it, but I hate to even hear the word.  A armed up with long sleeves and gloves and removed the rest of the vine, but it's got this serious hairy stump from which it's growing and there was no budging it, even after a couple days of good hard rain. In fact, the little tree has grown up around it, enveloping it between two stout shoots. The other day I cooked up a boiling pot of vinegar, salt, and soap, dug a hole at the base of the tree and poured my concoction in.  My plan is to do this every week until the witch is dead.  

Now A and L have had itchy spots and stripes popping up as well.  Today we stopped by CVS and I picked up some Zanfel scrub and TecNu spray.  We went straight to the bathroom and used it.  Ahh, sweet relief...

I'm weakening.
I might wind up giving it to Round-Up as well.
Sometimes having such an earth-conscience is really a drag.

Note of warning - be careful not to use to wide a shotgun approach.  Read more here.

Shared at Better Mom Mondays
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  1. Oi! That looks nasty! I don't care how earth conscience I was, if something did THAT to me, I'd kill it with whatever worked!

  2. Stay away from the Roundup, you don't want that anywhere near your soil. I agree, it is hard to stay environmentally solid when dealing with gardening and controlling pests etc. but it is the right thing to do. :-) I now have blossom end rot on my tomatoes, which makes me want to cry because I see chemicals etc in the hardware store I could try using, but I refuse. I am trying using powdered milk for added calcium but that will only help the ones not yet affected. Oh well, now I know what to do next year when planting to get extra calcium and nitrogen into my soil here in dry ass NM. Fun times, Shy!!

  3. Shyla, we do use roundup on poison ivy when it is not in our food-planting areas. I have a stubborn root of it right in the middle of an iris bed that I have tried to pull out as well (suited up in plastic bags as I am highly allergic to it). We use the Tecnu scrub to wash off when we know we have been exposed to it and Ivarest (found at the drug store) to speed the drying/healing. Interestingly, my mother is NOT allergic to poison ivy at all...she can pull it out with her bare hands with no rash or reaction. Amazing!

  4. Oh my goodness, that makes ME hurt!! ouch!! Love reading the gardening adventures!! I am living veggie vicariously through you as my yard is completely shaded. :(

  5. It certainly has been an adventure! I just finished cooking up some more of my vinegar/salt/soap solution. Can't yet bite the bullet on the roundup, although it gets tempting when you start reading more about this nasty, nasty weed. I thought I had found poison sumac as well, but it didn't completely fit the description. But there's MORE poison ivy out there so looks like I've got a battle on my hands. Anyone care to suit up and join me? ;} (NO? I don't blame you...)

  6. We have found that tecnu scrub is the most effective thing for dealing with the blisters after they appear (and for use before they appear obviously). You might also want to get some calagel for the itching. Works amazingly well. I think you can only get it on drugstore dot come though. Be aware that if you are allergic to poison ivy you also will have problems with Virginia Creeper which is everywhere in the midatlantic states. Good luck with your eradication project!

  7. I find it very interesting that the active ingredient in the Tecnu scrub is Grindelia robusta 3X, a homeopathic remedy. The Tecnu spray has this same remedy plus two more, Plantago major 4X and Calendula officinalis 3X. I used Zanfel on my troublesome places and the Tecnu for my kids (just placed the things I got in two different bathrooms), and the spray for us all.

    I'd already picked up some Rhus Toxicodendron and was taking that as well. Homeopathic remedies are often a means of healing for us. Hopefully, many more will seek them out as viable alternatives.

  8. 10% vinegar sprayed straight on the leaves works well for killing it! I tried it one year, but only had a small bottle- it did work though. My husband ended up using Roundup in all the non-food area of our yard, because he is so allergic to it.
    Normally I am immune to poison ivy but the roots makes me break out badly. This spring while planting trees I managed to touch some roots and rub my face. In about 4 days it was badly swollen and itched like mad. After trying lots of different home remedies I tried rhubarb stem juice. It really helped with the itching (some people say it itches more when you first put it on and then it itches less-mine never got itchier, maybe because it wasn't weeping) and made the swelling go down to almost normal in two days! If it is in your garden or easily available it is worth a try!

  9. I hope I don't opportunity or need to give anything else a try ever again, but thanks for the suggestion in case I do. ;D Would frozen rhubarb work, I wonder?

    1. The site I heard about it from says that frozen works, too. (it might even feel better on swollen areas!)