It was a very embarrassing moment.
Former President of the United States, Rutherford B. Hayes would speak in a few minutes at a dedication ceremony at the University of Wooster on that Wednesday, April 6. 1892.
However, his bloodshot eyes and red flushed face made Hayes look like he had a hangover from a night of drinking. This was especially puzzling to onlookers, who knew that Hayes and his wife were well-known teetotalers.
When he stepped to the podium, the elder statesman cleared up the mystery of his appearance as he explained, “….It is not whiskey but poison ivy that did it.”
He had come in contact with the iraritating vine while trimming trees at his home in Fremont, Ohio two days before.
The former president could have avoided that uncomfortable moment if he had only known of these five essential oils for poison ivy relief.
There are 47 species of the plant today and it is grown in home gardens worldwide and commercially for its cosmetic and health benefits; and the essential oil pressed from the flower has anti-inflammatory, analgesic (pain relieving) and antiseptic qualities almost tailor-made for poison ivy.
In fact, lavender is known to be one of the most soothing anti-inflammatory essential oils out there which makes it an effective go to for a host of skin conditions and reactions such as the inflammation and redness caused by poison ivy contact.
A 2012 study at Yuanpei University in Hsinchu, Taiwan found that lavender essential oil helps to reduce the inflammation response in human cells when exposed to lipopolysaccharides – substances known to provoke destructive immune responses in human tissue.
This is the type of response that occurs when someone is exposed to poison ivy. Urushiol, the oil on the plant’s surface, causes the body’s immune system to attack the affected skin.
“The irony is that urushiol, in the absence of the immune attack, would be harmless,” writes Eric Martz, University of Massachusetts professor of microbiology.
Another strong point of lavender is that, in terms of essential oils, it lies on the milder end of the scale.
This is of relevance because its mild nature makes lavender oil unlikely to further aggravate a poison ivy rash, especially on someone with sensitive skin.
For topical application, combine about 4 to 5 drops of lavender oil with 1 teaspoon of a carrier oil and apply to the affected area twice per day.
It is also recommended to inhale the aroma of lavender oil simultaneously either directly from the bottle or via diffusion for best results because its therapeutic properties also work through our olfactory system.
Quick note: Carrier oils are vegetable oils that can and should be combined with essential oils to reduce the possibility of skin irritation (due to the potency of essential oils). The best way to choose a carrier oil is to select the one that will complement your essential oil the most for your desired goal. In the case of poison ivy symptoms, coconut oil is perhaps the best oil to use because it is also an anti-inflammatory oil in its own right and it has a low molecular weight, allowing deeper penetration into the skin.
Other effective carrier oils to use when diluting your essential oil to treat poison ivy include olive oil, sweet almond oil, and jojoba oil.
The leaves produce a rich oil which the native people in Australia used as a treatment for respiratory ailments by inhaling the aroma of the crushed leaves.
But the tree’s oil also was used topically to treat wounds due to its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial qualities.
Today, it is most well known around the world for its profound effect on the skin and is regularly on the shortlist of best essential oils whenever skin is a concern, especially inflamed skin.
It may, therefore, come as no surprise to many that tea tree oil is an excellent essential oil to use for poison ivy relief and out of its many properties, its antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds are the likely heroes when it’s used for this purpose.
In terms of research, studies have confirmed that tea tree oil is not only a potent anti-inflammatory but that its applications for inflammatory skin conditions are far from placebo (2) (3) (4).
Though no studies have been completed on poison ivy specifically, anecdotal reports support its use and tea tree oil has been proven to be effective on other forms of dermatitis (which is, quite literally, what a poison ivy rash is - contact dermatitis).
To use tea tree oil for a poison ivy rash, combine 5 drops with 1 teaspoon of coconut oil or another carrier oil and massage into the skin.
For centuries, the plant has been appreciated for its medicinal value in many different cultures, particularly for wound healing and inflammatory skin diseases.
Furthermore, modern research suggests that Calendula has antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties and it has been reported to be especially effective for the treatment of a wide variety of skin issues.
This has been corroborated by multiple studies such as a 2005 study by the Department of Dermatology and Allergology at Friedrich-Schiller University in Germany which found that a cream containing Calendula reduced skin dermatitis (5).
The researchers believe that faradiol esters contained in the essential oil act as “scavengers,” inhibiting free radicals from causing inflammation in the skin.
To use calendula oil for your poison ivy, add about 4 drops of the oil to each teaspoon of a carrier oil such as coconut or olive oil and apply to your problem areas twice per day until symptoms subside.
It produces an aromatic flower that was used in ancient times to give homes a pleasant fragrance and to ward off insects.
The herbal plant has been used to treat many ailments for centuries. Tea made from the dried flowers of the plant was used in ancient Egypt to treat the common cold and today, it is most famous as a sleep aid, due to its soothing nature and sedative properties.
Roman chamomile oil also has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which have made it valued as a topical treatment for ulcers, wounds, and other skin issues.
A 1994 study at the Heinrich-Heine University of Dusseldorf found that the active flavone agents in chamomile topical treatments penetrated into deeper skin layers, which helped prevent inflammation (6).
This makes chamomile an ideal treatment for poison ivy. Furthermore, this oil is extremely mild which means the chances of aggravating your rash or making it worse are slim to none, even if you have sensitive skin.
To use Roman chamomile oil for poison ivy, combine 5 drops with 1 teaspoon of coconut or another carrier oil and apply to the affected area twice per day.
It comes from small thorny trees that are native to Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, India, and Southeast Asia. These trees are able to survive in arid conditions and may grow to nine feet.
The outer bark of the tree naturally peels away and from these wounds, the tree exudes a gummy sap that forms a clump as it dries. It is bitter to the taste and very aromatic.
The ancient Egyptians valued myrrh for its medicinal purposes, listing over 800 healing recipes in the Ebers Papyrus.
Myrrh has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, anti-fungal and astringent properties. Because of these medicinal qualities, myrrh essential oil is a good treatment for poison ivy for a few reasons.
First, its anti-inflammatory effects are helpful for poison ivy rash. Scientists have found that myrrh contains terpenoids: organic chemicals that they believe are responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties.
In a 2017 Japanese study, researchers found that myrrh’s terpenoids inhibited the production of nitric oxide, a key cause of inflammation (7).
Second, myrrh is a natural pain reliever, which is important as the pain and discomfort that poison ivy carries is an incredible nuisance for victims (8).
To use myrrh essential oil for your poison ivy rash, combine 5 drops with 1 teaspoon of a carrier oil and apply to the affected area twice per day until symptoms subside.
“Be stirring as the time; be fire with fire,” wrote Shakespeare, describing meeting a foe with matching efforts and strategy.
The famous poet’s words are a fitting description of the battle against poison ivy.
This itchy rash caused by the natural oil urushiol is best fought in a simple and fitting way – with these five natural essential oils.
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