Thursday, August 12, 2010

Jewelweed for Happy Wanderer

And the harvest goes on. Many of our soaps are "just for pretty", but some of our soaps are more practical.

Happy Wanderer is one of those. We add jewelweed and plantain, both of which are said to help with the itch and misery of poison ivy or mosquito bites.

We harvest both the plantain and the jewelweed and process them with olive oil. We freeze this "glop" in batch sized quantities so we will be able to make the soap all through the winter and early spring. We add this mush to our soap, along with lavender essential oil and tea tree oil. Both of these oils are helpful in preventing infection and the lavender is soothing as well.

The herbs are only available to us in summer, but people can be exposed to poison ivy all year 'round. I probably got my worst case of poison ivy when we were cutting brush and small trees in the early spring and I carried logs covered with (unbeknownst to me) dried vines. Mosquitoes are active very early in the spring as well.
This is a picture of jewelweed in the late summer, early fall, when it is in bloom. We try to get it a little earlier when the stems are still thin and not woody. The stems are full of a gel-like substance that helps with bites and itches. When sunlight shines through the stems and refracts on the water droplets that form on the leaves and especially when the plants are in bloom with their orange-yellow flowers, it just sparkles and I understand where the name Jewelweed comes from.

I learned about jewelweed many, many years ago when, as a Girl Scout, I was camping in a "primitive" camp site (built in a swamp-like area) and became covered with bites. Jewelweed grows in the same conditions where mosquitoes breed and we were told to pick it and rub it on our bites. It helped quite a bit.

Any good "real" soap will help somewhat with poison ivy. First, it will help with prevention because it can dissolve and wash the oils of the plant away.

If you haven't caught it before the reaction sets in, lather it on and let it dry. Then wash off and it will still help to dry the rash.

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