History & Identification of Poison Ivy

If you have ever had a run-in with poison ivy you know how irritating it can be, but do you know some of the history behind it or how to identify it?

If you have ever had a run-in with poison ivy you know how irritating it can be, but do you know some of the history behind it or how to identify it?
If you have ever had a run-in with poison ivy you know how irritating it can be, but do you know some of the history behind it or how to identify it?

 

During the late 1700’s Europeans were fascinated by plants that are native to North America. As unimaginable as it may think, poison ivy seeds were sold as exotic plants.

The first written account of poison ivy was in 1624!

The gardens of Empress Joséphine Bonaparte contained poison ivy in the early 1800s and the artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté, who is well known for his drawings of flowers, drew poison ivy with its berries.

There is a chemical found in the poison ivy plant called urushiol. Members of the Anacardiaceae family all have this chemical. It is estimated that 85% of us are allergic to poison ivy. Even if you have been exposed to the plant on many occasions without any reaction, it can take multiple exposures to poison ivy before a rash will begin to develop. Some have reactions the first time they are exposed and for some others, it takes time before the unlying allergy actually develops. All parts of the plant contain urushiol and can still be present in dried poison ivy 100 years old!
Scratching a poison ivy rash (it’s really called dermatitis) doesn’t actually spread the poison ivy. A reaction to poison ivy depends on the time between multiple exposers and how fast it is absorbed into your skin. This makes it look like it may be spreading, but it is not. You also can not spread the rash to other people.

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Poison ivy can engulf a tree and branch out on its own

Profile

Common Name: Eastern Poison Ivy, Poison Ivy
Scientific NameToxicodendron radicans
Identification:
Leaves: 3 leaflets, alternate-compound, toothed/lobbed
Twigs/Vines: light brown, hairy centipede-like rootlets
Flower: Whiteish
Fruit: White berries, large clusters
Growing Time: Spring-Summer
Growth Habit: Shrub or vine
Parts Edible: NONE
Found: Throughout North America

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Poison ivy roots

Historic Uses

-Once used to treat paralytic and liver disorders
-Native Americans treated poison ivy rashes with poison ivy
-André-Ignace-Joseph Dufresnoy prescribed an infusion of 12 leaves to treat various things from skin maladies to paralysis
-Poison ivy has been trained to grow into little bonsai trees

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In autumn, poison ivy changes colors. It’s quite beautiful.

Precautions

-Avoid contact at all possible. Use gloves and wear long sleeve while handling. Wash gloves and clothing afterward as the chemical that causes skin irritation will still be present.
-Poison ivy is not limited to vines that grow up trees but will also grow as little bushes
-Pets can carry the oils and transfer it to you, bathe pets if they come into contact
-DO NOT burn poison ivy or any logs that had poison ivy on it. The smoke from burning the plant can be harmful when inhaled.
-Some people have severe reactions to poison ivy. It is important to contact a medical professional if; you know you have a severe allergy and come into contact with poison ivy, if you have difficulty breathing especially after inhaling a lot of smoke from burning poison ivy, itching is severe and cannot be controlled, the rash is on the face, eyes, lips, or genitals, or if the rash shows signs of being infected.
-Do not consume milk from goats that have eaten poison ivy!

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Treatment

-Over the counter corticosteroid preparations
-Wet compress
-Plantain poultice or lotion


USDA Eastern Poison Ivy
How Poison Ivy Works
Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Other Poisonous Plants
Poison ivy – oak – sumac rash
No Ill Nature: The Surprising History and Science of Poison Ivy and Its Relatives
-Foster, Steven, and James Duke A. Peterson Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs: Of Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014. 395-96. Print.
-Profant, Dennis. Trees, Shrubs, and Vines of Southeastern Ohio and Appalachia. By Bill Perine. 4th ed. N.p.: n.p., 2007. 155. Print.

Disclaimer: All information on Not Your Typical Hippie is for educational purposes only. I am not a doctor, veterinarian, dietician, or health expert. If you wish to have advice on a medical problem, please consult a doctor. I cannot guarantee that any information provided will work for every person. Please consult a doctor before making any health changes. I am not liable for any choices you make based on the information provided on this website. (Learn more here)