Do essential oils work to soothe Poison Ivy?
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If you’ve had to deal with a poison ivy outbreak, you know what it feels like to want to get rid of that itchy rash ASAP. While your poison ivy probably can’t be cured overnight, there are treatment options to help ease the pain, like soothing moisturizers and topical or oral corticosteroids. But you might be wondering about more natural remedies, like the wide range of essential oils touting various healing properties. Can any of them really work to treat poison ivy?
First of all, before opting for a natural treatment like essential oils, it helps to understand your level of exposure.
“The ivy rash that itches until you bleed is an allergic reaction to urushiol vegetable oil, which is highly allergic,” explains Yufang Lin, MD, physician at the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic. “Once the plant comes in contact with the skin, the vegetable oil quickly penetrates the skin where it triggers the white blood cell reaction, and once activated, the reaction can last one to two weeks.”
Conventional poison ivy treatment involves lotions and ointments to tame the itch, in addition to steroids to suppress inflammation, says Dr. Lin.
“If you are able to remove the oil from your skin within hours of exposure, you may be able to avoid the symptoms completely, or at least significantly reduce the symptoms,” says Dr. Lin.
Some natural treatments like peppermint oil might help a bit, adds Brian Kim, MD, co-director of the Center for the Study of Itch at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “But these treatments are not as effective in getting rid of the inflammation as [oral or topical corticosteroids],” he says.
As quickly as possible after known exposure, Dr Lin advises washing the area well with dish soap and water. Once the rash has started, she recommends using an over-the-counter poison ivy scrub, which can lift oil from the skin. Be patient and follow the directions as this can take several minutes of washing per site, which can often prevent the rash from progressing.
When to use essential oils for poison ivy
Then, if you want to try an essential oil, you can use them in three ways: you can dilute them with distilled water to make herbal wash, you can make a topical gel by mixing the oils with l aloe vera, or you can make an herbal tea to put on your skin.
For a wash or a gel: Lavender, helichrysum, Roman chamomile, rose, tea tree, geranium can all be good options for treating poison ivy because they have anti-inflammatory properties, says Dr. Lin. However, you should avoid using citrus-based essential oils, as they can contribute to photosensitivity and also burn already irritated skin, she says.
“Make sure the wash is diluted no more than 2% (that’s 10 to 12 drops per ounce of water or aloe),” she says. “Avoid using oil as a carrier in this case, as the poison ivy rash tends to be hot and swollen. You don’t want to trap the heat with oil. ”
For the topical tea: Start by washing the affected area with a refreshing herbal tea with anti-inflammatory properties, such as chamomile, lavender or oatmeal, recommends Dr. Lin. It can help calm the rash, reduce itching, and heal. To make a tea, soak the flower or plant material in hot water, let cool, soak a napkin with the tea (soaking liquid) and apply to the affected area.
The essentials on essential oils for poison ivy
Essential oils can potentially help reduce symptoms, but they shouldn’t be your first line of defense when dealing with poison ivy.
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