Missouri Herbs

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Jewelweed and Poison Ivy

(photo from http://www.loudounwildlife.org/HHJewelweed.htm)

Earlier this fall I found a huge patch of Jewelweed in full bloom wrapping along the base of 3 small hills. It lays right along the path of a wet weather creek. Being already fall, I didn't think there was really need for poison ivy relief and the stalks were already a little tough. When I cut them open there wasn't much juice. There were so many flowers though, I decided to go ahead and make a broth.

With snipers and a grateful heart, I harvested a basket full by cutting the stalk at an easy to carry length, leaving on the leaves and flowers. I randomly cut a stalk here and there, because I don't like to harvest too much of anything from one spot. When inside, I chopped the stalks coarsely and put in a pot of water. The Jewelweed was brought to a boil and simmered till the liquid was a dark orange (about 30 min) and then left to cool. Then the whole brew was strained (I used a large cotton cloth that I use to strain large batches).

There was sooo much, I made way to much. But I filled ice cube trays with the strained liquid and while they were freezing, the extra broth was stored in the fridge and the strained material put into the compost pile. Eventually all the broth was frozen, cubed and stored in freezer bags. Argh I do hate to use plastic. Maybe wide mouth mason jar would work? The cubes stick together a little and in the bag I can give it a light drop on the counter, so I dunno. The neighbors received few bags of the ice cubes because it took up too much space in the freezer and we were grateful for all the tomatoes they gave us this year. It was nice having something to give away.

Not long after making the Jewelweed ice cubes, my leg was lashed with poison ivy 3 times in a row. It also visited my waist even though I was bundled up! At first I thought I had 3 spider bites so I treated it with Plantain Salve, then it exploded into a horrible rash behind my knee and down my calf. The Plantain salve kept the skin from breathing and that's what a poison ivy rash on the skin needs to do.

I figured my work long johns and good pair of work pants were contaminated and I can't swear by this but the broth may also have gotten the oil off of my clothes. After getting it three times, I rubbed a cube over the inside of the pants leg near the area I was getting infected from, let it sit for a few minutes, then washed the clothes alone in hot water. I didn't get it again. Could have just been the hot water. I'm sure there will be years to experiment with these little jewels.

When I had my Texas property, anyone can tell you I was tortured with poison ivy all summer, every year. Back in the day when I'd go to the Dr and get steroids, it came to a point where he told me he couldn't prescribe it to me anymore. So I am very familiar with poison ivy, the steroid pill packs and prescription creams.

The first time I tried one of the Jewelweed ice cubes it was pure heaven on the skin. Almost worth getting poison ivy just to feel how wonderful this is - ALMOST. I'd take a cube from the freezer and while it was still a cube, apply with the leg over the bathtub. The cube drips and leaves orange drips on the floor (doesn't stain though if you just wipe it right up). So I learned to put my foot on the soap tray in the tub and rub the cube on the rash, letting it drip into the tub. INSTANT relief, magical stomach flipping relief. All itching stopped immediately. Each application takes very little of the cube, so I'd keep the rest in a cup in the fridge. It eventually melts and is a bit easier to apply (though when in a frozen cube, it does feel oh so good). When melted, just dip two fingers into the cold liquid and pat on to the rash or let it drip off of your fingers. For me, the rash heals faster with the Jewelweed than with steroids and provides itch relief. So all around it's a much better cure.

Jewelweed is easy to identify. Use it fresh on rashes or poison ivy by breaking open the stalk and putting the juice on the skin AND also boil up some of the brew. When the blooms outside are gone and the stalks are tough, use the broth cubes for all sorts of skin irritations, not just poison ivy.

For a few days at the end of getting it for the third time, the ankle on that leg became swollen. After consulting with some herbalist friends, I started on chickweed tincture and the swelling was gone very quickly.

On top of getting poison ivy, my hands and forearms tend to get cut up with briars while out working the new property. The Jewelweed provides instant relief for that too. I keep an ice cube in a small jelly jar in our ice chest to make sure we always had some when out working at Falcon creek. I still have a freezer full and will try to never be out of them!

When the rash was bad, I'd take a soothing semi-warm oatmeal bath. It's easy to prepare at home and pre-packaged, expensive oatmeal bath powder isn't necessary. Cook 1/2 cup of non-instant, regular oatmeal for the normal amount of cooking time, along with 4 cups of water total. Pour the water and cooked oatmeal into a strainer that is sitting on top of a big bowl. Save the liquid. This next part can be a hair on the messy side, but when I started using a flour scoop it did get easier. Take an old tube sock (one with loose elastic is easier) and scoop the strained oatmeal into the sock. I found it a bit less messier to fold down the sock leg about an 1-1/2" from the top before starting. That way if the scooper touched the sock, any oatmeal that stuck would be inside of the sock when I folded it back up. The less oatmeal in your bathtub the better. When done fold the top back up and tie a knot at the top. Pour the reserved liquid into your bath water and put the sock in as well. You can skip doing the sock and just use the liquid if it's too big of a pain. I believe I got this recipe from Rosmary Gladstar's "Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health" book.

It's fun to squeeze the water-logged sock right over the rash and let the goo ooze over the irritated skin. If you're used to hot baths, try to avoid the temptation. I've found that when I have poison ivy (or chiggers), really hot water hurts and irritates the skin (even though I've read it recommended to bathe in hot water). I just make the water warm enough so that I'm comfortable and not the least bit cold. I also put in a good amount of baking soda when bathing towards the beginning of the rash cycle.


From Gov Deals, Jeffrey was able to get a ton of timber beams and other lumber at a ridiculously low price. We were supposed to pick up all the beams within 10 days, but sill have some there and it's been well over 10 days. I believe it's been several weeks now. We bought ours from the Department of Transportation and they've so far been very flexible with us.

We thought we'd knock it out in three days! Ha! We made 4 trips over three long days and had to quit from exhaustion. The pile was huge and the beams are incredibly heavy. Then we tried again after resting up. After getting about the same amount of wood as the last time, we were again bested by our bodies. There is about 1/3 of the pile left and if that's all we get, then we still have gotten one incredible deal. The clutch is now going out on our truck and I think it's from towing the trailer with all that heavy wood. Right now it's too cold and snowy to do this sort of work outside, but as soon as we can, we're going to make another attempt to get the rest. These should be all the beams we'll need to build sheds, cabins, and berm retaining walls. It was a pretty exciting find and we saved a lot of money.

On Craigslist, he also found 13 free interior doors and the pick up was local. We don't need that many interior doors, but there is lot we can do with them. I think we only need 3 interior doors between the two houses, so the rest will be shed walls or something or other.

When I first started drawing the design for the houses, it was very simple. Then I changed it a million times and a few weeks ago came up with a compound sort of design to save money by sharing walls. The workshop sharing a wall with the back of my mother-in-law's house and so on. That just left too much of our homes without berm. So I've decided to start over again, hopefully for the last time for a while, and just make two simple cabins close enough to share a common patio, root cellar, laundry room and freezer. That will leave much of the North side bermed with earth to keep a cozy blanket of dirt on the cold side. Trying to draw the North side to look like a Hobbit house has still been pretty difficult for me, but as long as we both know what we are doing I guess it doesn't really matter. The last time I was in Houston, I sat with my grandmother and she helped me with drawing technique some. She is a wonderful artist and teacher and I wish I had taken lessons from her when I lived there.

My Grandmother almost always paints with oils, but here is a photo of two sketches she did. The one on the left is of my brother Jacob and to the right my Grandfather (Jacob got his middle name from my grandfather).

Jeffrey has started making beer and it's fantastic! He's calling it Falcon Creek beer. Since we moved to Missouri, he's been picking up carboy's here and there at resale and antique shops. He found some books on half.com and learned enough about the process to give it a go. The guys at the beer supply place were helpful with questions too. You really can learn just about anything you need to out of a book! We have a couple of rooms that are unheated so his beer is now sharing a room with my herbal brews.

I'm still making herbal oils and extracts. My latest and so far favorite, was the infused Juniper oil. I made it to use for routine breast massage which encourages breast health. My mother just found that warmed and on a cotton ball knocked out her earache. It has my favorite smell and I love to just cup my oiled hands over my nose and breeeeeeeathe it in. Mmmmm woods.

Stay warm everyone!


Marqueta said...

Dear Jamie,

I just loved this post! What a blessing to have jewelweed around, and to know what to do with it. We don't have much poison ivy around here (maybe it's too arid), but I'll keep that information in my hat, for when we move to warmer climes!

Your grandmother's sketches are beautiful; I have an aunt who paints in oils and wish I'd learned from her, too, before she moved away.

Blessings to you,


Ja-Co said...

Thanks Marqueta. If you come this way, you are sure to be blessed with a bounty.

I have gotten feed back from other friends who claim that really hot water makes their skin itch at first but then the rash feels better after. Everyone is different and for my skin, this was the easiest case I've had. I just found keeping the skin calm helped it heal more quickly and itch less and for longer periods of time. I've had years of experience with it and I'm sure will continue to learn more about this skin issue and make changes.

I hope that this info will help someone who doesn't do as well with the traditional course of treatment.