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Jewelweed soap, lotion, spray and other natural products


 

The Science Behind Jewelweed

The Science Behind Jewelweed

Nature Labs , Administrator  

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

AKA: Impatiens balsamina, Impatiens biflora, spotted jewelweed, spotted touch-me-not, orange touch-me-not, touch-me-not, lady's-earrings, orange balsam, snapweed.

Background

Originally utilized by the Native Americans, the jewelweed plant has long been recognized as both an anti-inflammatory and general folk-medicine. Many tribes, including the Cherokee, Iroquois, Mohegans, and Ojibwas, used this plant to heal such illnesses as poison ivy rashes, nettle stings, hives, burns, and even the measles. Some also turned the plant into a yellow or orange dye. (Source: University of Michigan - Dearborn: Native American Ethnobotany)

Today, jewelweed is still highly valued for its soothing qualities and its amazing effect on poison ivy rashes. Several universities*1 and the National Park Service recognize jewelweed as a remedy for poison ivy rashes.

Nevertheless, jewelweed's healing properties are not extremely well-known these days, and it is even treated as a weed (its growth can be prolific).

According to the W. J. Beal Botanical Garden, its healing properties are heavily trusted by the general public, but the mainstream scientific community places little, if any, medicinal value on jewelweed. Many of these sources regard this plant as more of an outdated "folk remedy" than anything else.

*1 Brandeis University, Brevard College, Harvard UniversityUniversity of Arkansas, University at Buffalo.

Why Does Jewelweed Work?

The jewelweed plant contains several chemicals that have strong anti-inflammatory and even fungicidal properties.

The leaves and roots, for instance, contain a chemical called lawsone, which has both anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. Lawsone is also located in the Middle Eastern plant, henna (Lawsonia inermis L.), which is used for skin problems such as fungal diseases.  (Source: Wilkes University)

According to Wildman Steve Brill, jewelweed contains the same chemical that is the active ingredient in Preparation H.

Other compounds called balsaminones found in jewelweed have strong anti-itching (antipruritic) properties. (Source: PubMed.gov)

All of these different chemicals do their toll on urushiol, the inflammatory chemical found in poison ivy, and thus relieve the itch. Jewelweed has also been anecdotally reported to significantly reduce or heal the dermatitis caused by bee stings, nettle, cuts, acne, mosquito bites, burns, athlete's foot, and essentially any kind of skin irritation.

Jewelweed also has medicinal properties that go beyond healing your everyday itch. Studies have found that jewelweed contains anticarcinogenic (cancer-preventing) compounds as well, namely spinasterol and the 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor, impatienol 1. (Source: Wilkes University)

Additionally, jewelweed's seeds have been found to contain several potent antimicrobial proteins. (Source: Wilkes University)

Thus, jewelweed is more than just a weed. It is a highly understated medicinal plant that has great potential to improve our health in more ways than one.

Methods of Using Jewelweed (for itches)

There are several ways in which you can self-medicate with this amazing plant (in addition to using our soap, lotion, or balm).

Firstly, you can use jewelweed in the wild as it is. Simply break the stem (the juice is better to use before blooms appear) and rub it on the infected area. In cases of poison ivy exposure, the earlier you do this, the better. You want to clean off the harmful urushiol before it binds to your skin. Conveniently, jewelweed is often found growing with poison ivy, so the remedy is right there if you need it. (Source: Brandeis University, Sewanee: The Univesity of the South, FCPS)

You can also create a poultice (crushed and boiled) of the leaves and rub it on your skin. (Source: Brandeis University)

To prevent getting poison ivy, you can always rub jewelweed on yourself before you go out into the woods. In this way you can prevent the urushiol from sticking to your skin. (Source: Wildman Steve Brill)

Jewelweed can relieve the itch even after you have contracted a poison ivy rash, but for the quickest and most lasting relief, it is better to think ahead.

Other methods include creating a tea (decoction) of the jewelweed and drinking it (this is not recommended since jewelweed has been known to cause digestive problems when consumed). Others freeze the tea as ice cubes and then rub the cubes on the itch. A strong jewelweed tea can also be put into creams, lotions, ointments, etc. to add a soothing touch. (Source: Brandeis University)

General Characteristics

Growth habit: forb / herb

Duration: Annual (Self-seeds)

Maximum Height: 5 ft.

Bloom time: June - September

Ecological Preferences: grows in wet / moist soils nearby running water; prefers shade.

Animals that use jewelweed: honey bees, ruby-throated hummingbirds, bumble bees, butterflies, northern bobwhites, white-footed mice. (Source: FCPS)

Distribution:

Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis)

Propogation: While transplanting jewelweed is possible, propogating it by seed is a better, successful technique (and more natural). You can harvest the seeds in late summer / early fall. Simply pop open the seed pods and gather a bunch of reddish brown seeds. From there you can either toss them in a moist, shady area or bury them a centimeter or two under the soil. Leave them to overwinter, and you should have many jewelweed seedlings next year (from there on they should reseed and take care of themselves).

Fun Facts:

Why is it sometimes called touch-me-not and snapweed?

These names refer to jewelweed's method of seed dispersal. In early autumn, if you touch a jewelweed plant's ripe seed pod, the contents will often come flying out at high speeds. The seeds usually get launched about four to eight feet away, thus helping the jewelweed to spread itself over a wide area. (Source: W. J. Beal Botanical Garden)

Why is it called jewelweed?

When jewelweed leaves collect rainwater or moisture, the water-repelling texture / coating of its leaves forces the water into tiny spheres, which look like natural jewels. When the leaves are put underwater, they also appear silver-like underneath. (Source: W. J. Beal Botanical Garden, Wildman Steve Brill)

DID YOU KNOW: The Ojibwa tribe applied the juice of raw jewelweed to their heads to cure headaches.

Images of Jewelweed:

Jewelweed saplings (June).

Jewelweed in August.

Jewelweed in August.

For your poison ivy or other itch, try the Nature Labs Jewelweed Soap, Jewelweed Spray or Jewelweed Lotion.

Other Good Photos of Jewelweed:

University of California, Berkeley

Vanderbilt University

 

 

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