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The Perils of Summer: Poison Ivy and Poison Oak

Joette Calabrese, HMC, PHom M

July 13th, 2014  |  42 Comments

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Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy

Poison ivy and poison oak can turn a happy summer excursion into a nightmare. Itching, blisters, redness and swelling … all from touching a harmless-looking plant.

Conventional medicine treats poison ivy and poison oak, as it does most rashes, with oral or topical steroids. This provides a short-term solution by blocking the body’s immune response to remove the rash. However, the principles of homeopathy tell us that when symptoms are suppressed, they are not resolved but rather driven deeper into the body to reappear at a different time and perhaps in a more serious form.

With this in mind, I urge moms to treat their family’s itchy summer rash themselves without harmful steroids.

First, remove contaminated clothing and wash it immediately. Flush the affected areas of the skin with warm water and wash with a gentle soap and water.

The remedy that first comes to mind to those with some knowledge of homeopathy is Rhus toxicodendron 30C (the Latin name for poison ivy) because it is the remedy made from the poison ivy plant. Rhus tox is indeed a powerful treatment as a preventative to the outbreak for those who are particularly susceptible. Actually, the most commonly used remedy for poison ivy is Anacardium and for many, it’s all that’s needed.

To identify the correct remedy, pay attention to the location of the rash, the type of pustules that form, and the general demeanor and preferences of the person when making your choice. Watch for anything that seems peculiar to help point to the correct remedy.

Anacardium orientale 30C – For poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, think Anacardium orientale 30C for swelling and rashes that itch intensely and burn when scratched. Scratching makes the itching worse by causing the eruptions to become red and inflamed but rubbing actually brings some relief. The symptoms are usually worse on the left side and at night. Warm applications and a warm bed aggravate the itching, but interestingly, the person usually welcomes a warm drink. In most cases, I’d begin with this remedy and only if it shows no improvement after several doses would I consider the others that follow below.

Croton tiglium 30C For a rash with many blisters and much inflammation and itching, often on the scalp or the face in general, near the eyes or on the genitals, buttocks or lower limbs, Crot-t is associated with yellowish symptoms. The pustules may ooze yellowish serum, which dries to form thick grayish/brownish scabs. Scratching aggravates and leads to burning and much pain. Like Anacardium, the rash may be worse at night and on the left side of the body. Light pressure ameliorates the pain, but the person feels tight all over his body and maybe mentally inflexible and rigid. Quite frankly, the person cannot bear the rash.

Graphites 30C – Honey-like symptoms point us to Graphites. When the rash is scratched, the resulting discharge is sticky and yellowish, and it burns. The skin will have a crusty appearance, especially in the joint areas and the parts of the body that are usually covered, that is the torso and limbs. Relief comes from rough rubbing and scratching that actually tears the skin. The person may feel better when wrapped up. The person generally feels chilly, thick and dull.

Sulphur 30 When scratching causes the pustules to bleed, and this bleeding brings relief, look to Sulphur. After scratching, the pustules may produce a yellowish or white discharge, and what remains of the pustule will be crusty and dry. The person feels better in a warm bed but is averse to bathing. Generally, Sulphur symptoms are left-sided and afflict the scalp. Facial swelling may be present. The person requiring this remedy may be irritable and restless at night.

Rhus toxicodendron 30 Unlike Anacardium, hot showers bring relief to the person needing Rhus tox. Outbreaks may be located on the face, around the eyes, on the genitals and on the palms in particular. Vesicles may line up along a scratch, and the skin may look angry. The person is irritable with a restless mind. Resting provides no relief, but the symptoms improve with movement and with dry, warm air.

Administer the chosen remedy in the 30th potency three to four times per day, reducing the frequency as symptoms improve. If a lower potency, such as 12X or 6X, is all you have on hand, you can use it, but you may have to administer it more frequently. If you don’t see even the tiniest bit of improvement after the second or third dose, try the remedy that seems to be the next most likely choice.

Prophylactic use

Those extremely sensitive to poison ivy, who seem to get a rash when anywhere near a poison ivy plant, may benefit from taking Rhus toxicodendron 30prophylactically. I’ve seen excellent results from administering four doses of Rhus tox 30 in one day at the onset of the season and then repeating this one day per week for one month to minimize the intensity of the exposure.

With your remedy kit in hand, you can take on any challenge of the summer and experience the joy and satisfaction of healing your family!


P.S.  Want to avoid the medical conveyor belt with seductive antibiotics, beguiling steroid creams, or the latest natural skin ointment?
Learn more about my course: Skin the Ugly Truth: Safe, Effective Treatment of Skin Ailments, Chronic or Acute with Practical Homeopathy. 

I designed an infographic titled, Skinderella; 15 common skin conditions, 15 remedies. Click here, opt in, and download!  RemedyCard ImageToClick

Photo Attribution: By Orangeblue (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


Joette laughingI am a homeopath with a worldwide practice working with families and individuals via Zoom. I'm also a teacher and most importantly, a mom who raised my now-adult children depending on homeopathy over the last 31 years. I lived decades of my life with food intolerances, allergies, and chemical sensitivities until I was cured with homeopathy, so I understand pain, anxiety, and suffering. You may feel that your issues are more severe or different than anyone else’s, but I have seen it all in my practice and in my work in India. My opinion is that nothing has come close to the reproducible, safe and effective results that my clients, students and I have achieved with homeopathy.

Call today and learn how homeopathy might just be the missing piece in your health strategy.

Joette is not a physician and the relationship between Joette and her clients is not of prescriber and patient, but as educator and client. It is fully the client's choice whether or not to take advantage of the information Joette presents. Homeopathy doesn't "treat" an illness; it addresses the entire person as a matter of wholeness that is an educational process, not a medical one. Joette believes that the advice and diagnosis of a physician is often in order.

We've provided links for your convenience but we do not receive any remuneration nor affiliation in payment from your purchase.

The Author disclaims all liability for any loss or risk, personal or otherwise incurred as a consequence of use of any material in this article. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


42 thoughts on “The Perils of Summer: Poison Ivy and Poison Oak”

  1. Randy says:

    Hey Joette,
    Not for sure,but the lesions on foot photo look a lot like chigger bites to me. Here in KS you quickly become chigger experts, and they ain’t no fun!! Have not used Anacardium yet,but will try it. Actually would like to see someone make a homeopathic “vaccine” vs chiggers. Have used Rhus on day I’ll be cutting wood around poison ivy and it (along with bathing right afterwards) seemed to help.


  2. Brooke says:

    Is there anything you recommend for a rash on arms and legs? It appeared 3 weeks ago after being by a pool for an hour and has not gone away but keeps spreading and moving. I do not want to resort to steroids but I feel like I’m going crazy with the itching!!! The areas look like hives when scratched but will go back down if I can refrain from scratching. Thanks for any help!!!!

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH, RSHom(Na) says:

      Check out mly blog on eczema. I have a protocol specific for rashes that are not associated with externals such as poison ivy.

  3. Sally says:

    I actually kind of look forward to getting poison ivy again sometime so I can try anacardium. I tried rhus tox in the past, and it seemed to make it worse! Now I know the one to try, and others if that doesn’t work. Thanks.

  4. Megan says:

    prophylactically- so now i’m wonder about Apis for bee sting allergy. would love to study more on prophylactic way of using homeopathy.

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH, RSHom(Na) says:

      Yes, homeopathy is great for its prophylactic ability. Soon, I’ll be launching a course that I’ve been working on for over 2 years called “A Survivalist’s Guide to Homeopathy”. Watch for it as we’ll offer it within the next few months.

      1. Megan says:

        Thanks. I’ve been on a mission for a couple of years to see what we could do if we got stung and med science with epie pen is not available to us anymore.

  5. Kathy says:

    I wish this was published last week! I just got poison ivy last week for the second time in my life. Last year was horrific, I was on prednisone for weeks. This time I went to the dr for a cortisone shot bc I was afraid it would be as bad as last year. Since I got my remedy kit as a Mother’s Day gift I tried Rhus tox which I found made it worse as well. The problem I have is that none of the symptom descriptions describe my rash. I read an article on naturalnews.com which also listed remedies associated w symptoms and nothing seemed to match.

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH, RSHom(Na) says:

      I find that when the symptoms don’t match exactly, Anacardium is usually the correct remedy. I might also add that after steroid use, the condition of the rash, even years after the inital incident is a more sobering illness. Drugs often drive pathology to a deeper state. When this happens it might require a consultation with a seasoned homeopath to get to the bottom of it. Feel free to contact my office if you’d like to have a conversation about it.

    2. Laurie says:

      What a great gift for Mother’s day. I received mine the previous mother’s day. It has been so helpful.

      Urtica helped me when I developed an itchy rash last summer from being in the sun. Allium helped me when I was at a weekend conference when I developed a runny nose and my eyes were fine. I wasn’t sure if it was a cold coming on or an allergy. After my nose running all day it was late afternoon when I took a dose and within the hour I was all cleared up.

      Just last night and this morning I had nosebleeds, bright red after blowing both times with a fair amount of bleeding. I do not get nosebleeds, maybe once every couple years. I tried phosphorus. It feels cleared up now. The kit brings peace of mind along with a good book and all the articles here which I have pinned. I don’t always have the exact remedy but it tides me over till I can get to my homeopath. He is away until next week.

    3. Geralyn_D says:

      I wonder if you took the prednisone because the “outbreak” was so awful or the “feelings” it stirred up were terrifying… I recall my first outbreak was so horrifying I almost got kicked out of the doctors office because of my demanding demeanorand inability to sit and wait (neither was my norm). I recently discovered that when pain/itch is beyond the outbreak severity it might respond to Apis Mell. It did for me and sanity was restored.

  6. Beth L. says:

    Had poison ivy about 10 years ago and had no idea that alternative treatments were possible. Now I feel so much better prepared. Great!

  7. Beth L. says:

    Used steroid cream on my arms about 10 years ago and had no idea of alternatives. Now I am so much better prepared. Thanks!

  8. Jo says:

    Funny, that several times I have had what I thought were bug bites on my lower legs that look exactly like that picture. Now I will know better!

  9. Jennifer Pfab says:

    Could I make a remedy with the poison ivy that grows in our yard?

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH, RSHom(Na) says:

      Yes, but I don’t know why you’d do that. Its dangerous, time consuming and needs to be exact, which is why instead, you’d buy it from a reputable homeopathic pharmacy.

      1. Jennifer says:

        I got my first case of poison ivy three years ago and it was a doozy and lasted easily for six weeks. I took Rhus tox which didn’t seem to help and then I tried a specific homeopathic remedy for poison ivy and it also didn’t help. I also got NAETed which is a form of energy work and that did nothing for it . I had read somewhere that someone needed to use the poison ivy from her yard with the NAET for it to be effective for her, so I wondered if I might need to be more targeted with my specific poison ivy to make a remedy. But, I hadn’t explored homeopathy much at the time (In fact, it may have been my first exposure to trying) so I can certainly try the other remedies you mention here. Thanks!

        1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH, RSHom(Na) says:

          Google “Joette Calabrese poison ivy” and it will make clear what you will make the most sense.

  10. KC Sawmill says:

    Joette, are there any cell salts that will help with comfort, itching, swelling, healing from poison ivy?

  11. Lmagee81 says:

    My son got poison oak/ivy after visiting Yosemite recently. His rash/symptoms seem to fit a little bit of each one of the remedies suggested. So I started with Rhus Tox and that definity made it worse. Finally was able to get a hold of Anacardium and have given him 4 doses and one of the original spots looks like it’s better but he’s still developing new areas. So at this point should I switch to a diff option. Thanks in advance to whoever answers my question 😉

  12. Brendan says:

    You should always wash with cold water and soap after coming in contact with poison oak/ivy. Warm water opens the pores and allows it to settle into the skin more. Bad advice to was with warm water.

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH, RSHom(Na) says:

      You’re probably correct, particularly if the water is too warm.

  13. Adam Vilmont says:

    Whenever I get poison ivy it begets really bad really fast. I have a repeated spot of weeping blister / hives mostly on the right side of my torso. I first got it trimming a weeping willow and it became severely infected–all over the entire right side of my body. Now I think any time I’m near anything like poison ivy, oak sumac, etc, I’ll get a bad weeping blister on my side in the same spot. (I tend to stand with my hands on my upper hips in that spot and I am right handed). I love being active in the summer, camping hiking, etc. This really frustrates me and stops me from living my life!!

    It seems most of the things above focus on the left side.

    What would you recommend?

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH, RSHom(Na) says:

      Don’t concentrate on the side it most often presents. Use the list and choose the one that most closely fits your symptoms.

  14. K Mama says:

    Hello, I searched for this article again after hearing your FB Live on Poison Ivy. My notes from this blog post on poison ivy say Anacardium orientale (I had to double check!), but you said on the FB live to use Anacardium occidentale. Are these interchangeable then? I want to know because if they aren’t interchangeable, I’ll need to buy the occidentale to be prepared, because the kit has the orientale only. Thanks so much!

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH, RSHom(Na) says:

      There’s not much difference between them. The American species (occidentals) and the naturalized (oriental) are close enough be pretty much interchangeable.

  15. Cristina says:

    Using Anacardium for my son who has it on his legs. We saw some improvement and so we have kept using it. However, he is starting to develop a mild rash on his cheeks. Not sure if I should switch to the next remedy that sounds applicable (Rhus tox) or stick with this one. He’s been on Anacardium for about a week.

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH, RSHom(Na) says:

      You always want to look at the net gain. Even if there’s a small rash elsewhere, if the intensity has lessened, the frequency of itching has been reduced and the space between each uncomfortable periods have become less then you’re probably on the right track.

  16. Mary Herman says:

    Would treating Hogweed rash/blisters be the same as treating poison ivy?

  17. Laura says:

    Is four doses within 12 hours considered “several doses” and thusly an acceptable time frame to determine if this is the correct remedy? Also, is Anacardium still the choice for hive-y reaction to poison ivy, which is warm to touch and red when scratched, or would it be more applicable to choose Apis in such a situation? If the rash was severe (covering the entire trunk, extremities, and face), would it be appropriate to alternate Anacardium and Apis or are they antidoting? Thank you!

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH, RSHom(Na) says:

      It’s best, if possible to choose one medicine and stay with it as closely as one can. The more severe the condition the sooner the dose ought to be administered. It could even be used every 15 min when in the worst state. Don’t expect immediate results. Tts best to persevere for a few days until moving on to another choice when theses kinds of rashes are intense.

  18. Karla says:

    Hi I have it in my esophagus and lungs due to mowing in the woods with a LOT of poison ivy and no mask. I have had a severe allergy to it since childhood getting 1 shot a week for a month every spring due to ending up in ICU covered from head to toe. I had been given prednisone through the years having to take high doses to get rid of it and although I seem to have been fighting it much easier in last 2 years, (treating on my own by simply devoting time to quickly breaking blisters open and CONTINUING to thoroughly absorb the fluid to dry it out then at right time -neosporin Not so blessed with the dust in my lungs and esophagus I also have had an extremely hard time with much smaller amounts of Prednisone so had to lighten the dose starting woth 40 mg per day as opposed to 60 (I used to get a shot of 120 after a dose pack plus extra pills didn’t work) I don’t want to go to the hospital with what the prednisone has done to my otherwise good immune system in addition to my swollen lungs etc. Is there anything I can take to heal my case as soon as possible before I get more damage to my esophagus from the swelling and blisters. I wasn’t sure about talking my colloidal silver while on Prednisone but feel it may be getting infected so have been several times through the night to kill any bacteria. Thoughts on food as well would be helpful. Sorry it’s a lot but I feel the prednisone isn’t enough and I feel time is of the essence.
    This is similar to breathing in poison ivy smoke From burning it but “maybe” not as bad (that’s ventilator stuff) and I’m not there YET!

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH, RSHom(Na) says:

      Should you be interested in learning how allergies are treated using homeopathy, you might want to look at my online course “Allergic”.

  19. marge mom says:

    Dont’t give up on Rhus Tox .. Had very uncomfortable 10 year old tell me “it made it worse”… and after reading some comments I was scared but it seemed to flare a bit for like one evening …by bedtime it as better and next day no complaints… literally no complaints …and haven’t dosed since … after a few days gone… I also sprayed it with calomine lotion (it was on ankles) I gave RT at first and then gave a combo remedy from Hylands but main ingredient in that was also RT

  20. Darah says:

    Are these homeopathic remedies safe to take while breastfeeding?

  21. Abby says:

    I know the rash is different but I am very curious about what one would use for a wild parsnip rash! We live in the Midwest where it is prevalent and a real concern for the kids!

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH says:

      It depends on the symptoms; that’s how you determine which medicine to choose. I teach about it on this blog but for more in-depth info, consider joining one of my online study groups…Gateway to Homeopathy. This is where most learn how to treat themselves and family.

  22. Lucy says:

    How do you choose when you a little of each? I don’t even know if what I have is poison ivy anymore. The rash is blisters, made up of a few blisters in each spot, it’s really itchy at night, one spot has honey-looking discharge, running hot water over it feels really good, I’m really irritable, I don’t want to be touched, it seems to be popping up in other places, it’s driving me NUTS!…HELP

    I tried Anacardium today, 3x. I feel like it made it more itchy

    I am seriously considering going to a Dr for a steroid cream.

  23. Twyla Smith says:

    Hello Joette:
    In your mm on page 14 it says
    Anacardium Occidentale is for poison oak… but in this article. you say Anacardium Orientale is the medicine to use for poison oak. are they both interchangeable for poison oak?

    1. Joette Calabrese, HMC, CCH says:

      They’re pretty much interchangeable. It’s a matter of the locale from which it was harvested. I most often use Orientale.

  24. Kathy Hill says:

    I have had tremendous success using apple cider vinegar. Today, I was into some PI and even though I was covered up, a rash appeared on my wrist a short time later. I poured ACV on it and the itch disappeared. I repeated a couple more times, about 30 minutes inbetween. The rash is fading away. Use it at the first sign of itching. Of course, applying ACV on broken skin would be torture. I don’t think I’d have the fortitude to try it.

  25. CF says:

    Thank you for this.
    Sometimes I have difficulty interpreting and understanding the symptoms described.
    Whether it is old medical terms which are not defined in a modern medical terminology or just other ambiguous terms, i just get really discouraged in trying to attach a remedy with a specific symptom.
    For example in the paragraph for GRAPHITES 30C, the last sentence: The person generally feels chilly, thick and dull.
    What would “thick” and “dull” mean?
    I’m guessing IF i have felt that way, i might know. But I may call it something different, either way, I cannot quite figure some words out.
    Thank you for taking time to respond. I just wonder if it is just me? MAYBE that’s it. I’m THICK, as in thick sculled (like the British use the term “thick”.

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