- Treating Poison Ivy with Essential Oils
- Top 3 Essential Oils for Poison Ivy
- DIY Recipes for Poison Ivy Relief
- Final Thoughts
We love plants at A Life Outstanding. After all, plants are the source material for aromatherapy and essential oils, their active compound containing all-natural healing and restorative properties. As we build a closer relationship with plants, we build a closer relationship with the natural world, with each other, and with ourselves.
Unfortunately, like people, not all plants are what we consider to be “relationship material.” I’m looking at you, poison ivy—and you, too, and poison oak and poison sumac!
Though technically different plants, poison ivy, oak, and sumac all produce the oily substance urushiol. Direct contact with urushiol causes an allergic skin rash—a form of contact dermatitis—in most people.
Treating Poison Ivy with Essential Oils
According to the CDC, direct skin contact with as little as 50 micrograms (less than 1 grain of table salt) of urushiol will trigger a rash in most people. That means even the most passing graze of skin on a plant should be cause for immediate action.
Most poison ivy rashes will eventually go away on their own. But in the meantime, essential oils can help ease some of the pain and discomfort that typically comes with poison ivy rashes.
We recommend treating poison ivy rashes using essential oils diluted into a topical cream or ointment. Diffusion and aromatherapy are understandably ineffective at reducing skin irritation.
That said, we’ve found diffused lavender essential oil goes a long way toward calming the mind and softening our feelings toward these irritating sensations. This article will focus on topical treatments to soothe poison ivy rashes, but we encourage you to complement your topical treatment with diffusion and aromatherapy to help ease your mind as well as your body.
Important: Essential oils are highly concentrated. As a result, applying them directly to the skin can irritate and inflame the skin. it should go without saying that additional skin irritation is the last thing you want to deal with, especially when you’re already recovering from a brush with poison ivy.
Top 3 Essential Oils for Poison Ivy
Some great research has been published on the efficacy of essential oils in dealing with poison ivy. Here are some of our favorites:
1. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Radiata)
- Rigorous GC/MS purity testing with published results
- Premium brand with a great reputation
- Affordable for a premium brand
Much of the itchiness people experience with poison ivy rashes can be attributed to dry skin. Skin dryness is a common symptom of all kinds of inflammation.
Eucalyptus has been shown to rehydrate dry skin and promote healthy, hydrated skin over time.
Eucalyptus also provides a number of anti-inflammatory benefits that can help soothe and heal the rash itself. In fact long before eucalyptus oil become a common ingredient in healing supplies, aboriginal Australians used the leaves of eucalyptus trees to treat wounds and clean out infections.
When shopping for eucalyptus oil, look for the Latin name Eucalyptus Radiata on the packaging. Eucalyptus Radiata is a milder version of Eucalyptus, better suited for topical use on the skin than more concentrated types like Eucalyptus Globulus or Eucalyptus Polybractea.
2. Lavender (Lavandula Angustifolia)
Lavender is undoubtedly the world’s most popular essential oil, common both in aromatherapy and as an ingredient in lotions, soaps, and cleaning supplies. The scent of lavender is primarily appreciated for its calming, soothing effect. One remarkable study demonstrated a definitive reduction in anxiety among people waiting to see the dentist when the waiting room was accented by diffused lavender oil.
Lavender can also help soothe pain related to poison ivy. Studies have confirmed the anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain relief) benefits that lavender can have. These properties make lavender oil particularly useful when treating very inflamed, infected, and painful poison ivy rashes.
3. Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia)
- Rigorous GC/MS purity testing
- Affordable brand
- Also available in 1, 2, and 4 fl oz sizes
Tea Tree oil packs a one-two punch of antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, making it an excellent option for all kinds of topical uses, ranging from deodorants and mouthwash to hand sanitizers and anti-fungal creams.
It’s also particularly effective at treating irritation and inflammation brought on by contact dermatitis, the family of rashes in which poison ivy lives.
Its antibacterial properties ward off further infection, making it a great oil to use throughout the life of a poison ivy rash.
DIY Recipes for Poison Ivy Relief
These three essential oils can be used in a variety of ways to combat pain and discomfort due to poison ivy rashes. Part of the fun with essential oils is coming up with new and interesting ways to activate their benefits.
Here are some of our favorite DIY recipes you can start using right now to treat your poison ivy rash.
Warm (or Cold) Compress
- 2 drops lavender oil
- 2 drops eucalyptus oil
- 1 drops tea tree oil
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 clean washcloth
We love this recipe because of how simple and straightforward it is. Simply add the appropriate drops of oil to a cup of warm water. Stir or shake the two together and then soak a washcloth in the mixture.
Do this as many times a day as needed to provide fast relief.
Note: With very inflamed rashes, a cold compress might be more soothing than a warm one. If that’s the case simply swap your warm water for a cup of ice water and repeat the instructions above.
- 3 drops eucalyptus oil
- 4 drops lavender oil
- 3 drops tea tree oil
- 2 oz of your favorite lotion
One great thing about essential oils is that you can use them in combination with products you already love. Essential oils combine well with all kinds of lotions, salves, and carrier oils.
For example, maybe you have a calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream you always use for itch relief with rashes like this. Take a couple ounces and mix in a combination of essential oils equaling roughly 5 drops for every ounce of lotion.
Feel free to play with the balance of oils if the 3-4-3 combination listed doesn’t give you the results you’re looking for. As we’ve discussed, each oil provides differing degrees of benefits, so you may find more or less of a given oil might be better for your skin. Just make sure to stick with the 5 drops to 1 ounce ratio so you don’t risk exposing your already sensitive skin to such highly concentrated compounds.
- 2 cups ice water
- 5-10 drops of lavender oil
- 1 spray bottle
Cooling sprays can be very soothing, especially for highly irritated skin conditions. Create your own soothing cold spray by combining two cups of ice water with 5-10 drops of lavender oil in an empty spray bottle.
Sprays are extremely convenient and also provide aromatherapy benefits as the oil particles disperse in the air.
- 2 drops eucalyptus oil
- 4 drops lavender oil
- 2 drops tea tree oil
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp witch hazel
- 1 tsp aloe vera gel
- 1 dark amber storage glass with a resealable cap
- Cotton swabs
This one requires a little more in the way of ingredients, but it’s worth it if you’re dealing with an especially painful poison ivy rash. Combine the ingredients listed above into a dark amber glass storage bottle and mix thoroughly, shaking or stirring the contents.
Then, use a cotton swab to carefully apply a thin layer of the ointment to the offending area on your skin. This treatment is a little more concentrated than some of the other recipes, so we recommend applying no more than twice per day and stopping completely if you notice any irritation becoming worse.
Make sure to store this ointment in a dark area that’s either cool or room temperature. If you don’t have a dark amber glass bottle, any clear glass will do, but consider wrapping it completely in aluminum foil to keep out the light. Light (and excessive heat) will diminish the healing properties of essential oils.
Poison ivy rashes are no fun, but they’re an unfortunate fact of life that many of us will need to contend with at one point or another. Essential oils, with their many anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, can be used to treat poison ivy rashes in a way that is both effective and all-natural.
Give some of these remedies a try and let us know what you think in the comments section below!
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