Herbs and Acupuncture for Poison Ivy

June 16, 2008 at 2:51 pm Leave a comment

One of the hazards of summer is poison ivy. Poison ivy loves to grow at the border between open space and trees; it is found in this area along wooded paths, around lakes, and at the edges of yards and highways.

Poison ivy rash is caused by an allergic reaction to the oils on its leaves. The rash often appears on legs or hands, where it is easy to brush up against the plant. The oils can be spread by touch until they are washed away.

Symptoms include intense itching, red bumps, and fluid-filled, weeping blisters. Some individuals with severe allergy may experience a systemic reaction with itching and rash over much of the body.

Traditional treatment of poison ivy involves calamine lotion or other topical medicine to relieve itch. Some doctors will suggest benadryl or other antihistamine; in severe cases, steroids may be prescribed to calm the allergic reaction.

In Chinese medicine, poison ivy rash is considered damp heat in the skin. Acupuncture and herbs are very effective in treating both the allergic response and the itching (in my experience, much more effective than the medical alternatives). Acupuncture treatment focuses on determining which channels are affected, and choosing points that drain heat from those areas. Tapping gently around the edges of the rash with a plum blossom needle — a tiny hammer with tiny needles on the head — can also provide quick relief (it feels like you wish it would feel when you scratch!)

Herbal medicine can bring down the allergic response, clear heat from the skin, dry up weeping sores, and relieve itching. Even people who usually have to resort to steroids find these formulas effective, and free from side effects. Early treatment is recommended to clear the rash before it is full-blown.

To avoid getting poison ivy:

1. Learn what it looks like (see the sidebar)

2. If you’ve been near poison ivy, wash well with soap and hot water

3. Immediately wash any clothing that may have touched poison ivy, or may have touched the oils on your skin.

4. Be aware that outdoor pets may brush up against poison ivy, and come home with the oils on their coats. This is often a source of mysterious poison ivy outbreaks.

How to Identify Poison Ivy

All poison ivy shares the following characteristics:

1. groups of 3 leaves

2. the middle leaf is symmetrical, with a vein down the center of the leaf; the two side leaves are asymmetrical

3. a reddish tint to the stem where the 3 leaves come together

Aside from these things, there is a lot of variation. The color of the leaves may be any shade of green or reddish; they may be shiny or dull; they may have smooth or jagged edges. Plants may be low to the ground, or a climbing vine.

To see pictures of poison ivy, go to http://landscaping.about.com/od/galleryoflandscapephotos/ig/Pictures-of-Poison-Ivy/Young-Poison-Ivy-Leaves.html.

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Entry filed under: Skin, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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