So you discovered a remote trail and pushed through brush and bramble all the way to some stunning secret summit. But you wore shorts and a T‑shirt, and you woke up feeling itchier than a flea-ridden Newfie on a midsummer’s day. With about as much regard as a hairy dog, you’re inclined to scratch and scratch, desperate for reprieve. That only makes it worse because you don’t have fleas and you don’t have claws; you’ve got poison oak, and you’ve got to get this under control before you lose it. Relief is closer than you think! Just follow these essential tips for naturally remedying the pain, pustules, and persistence of poison oak.
Leaves of three, let them be
It may be too late to avoid the plant you exposed yourself to, but if you don’t know what poison oak looks like, you could very well re-expose yourself without knowing it. The rule of thumb is the above quote because poison oak plants are characterized by the three leaves that cluster at the end of a long stem. Keep an eye out for a waxy finish on these leaves, which will be green throughout the spring and summer but change to a red or orange color during the fall.
Wash with oil-neutralizing soap
That itchy, burning rash you’ve broken out with after poison oak exposure is caused by urushiol, “an oily organic allergen found in plants of the family Anacardiaceae, especially Toxicodendron spp. (e.g., poison oak, poison ivy, poison sumac). In sensitive individuals, urushiol can cause an allergic skin rash on contact, known as urushiol-induced contact dermatitis.” In order to help the associated rash feel better, you’ll want to wash with a soap that will aim to get rid of or at least reduce the oil on your skin. Burt’s Bees makes one that has kaolin, jewelweed, pine tar and tea tree oil that helps to counteract the reaction of the urushiol and offers a soothing feel.
According to anecdotal evidence, placing the inside of a fresh banana peel directly on a patch of skin that’s irritated by poison oak can help alleviate the itching and pain. The peel is said to having cooling qualities. Similar remedies that are said to work well include watermelon and cucumber, both of which should be cut and placed directly on poison oak-inflamed skin.
Lavender is beautiful and fragrant, and as an essential oil, has therapeutic properties. It is said to be an antiseptic and anti-inflammatory, and it has a soothing effect on minor burns and skin problems. Discovery Health includes lavender oil in an “aromatherapy poison oak cure,” which is made with: 3 drops of lavender oil, 3 drops of cypress oil, 3 drops of peppermint oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1 tablespoon of warm water, 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar and 1 ounce of calendula tincture. The directions are as follows: “Dissolve the salt in the water and vinegar; then add the other ingredients. Shake well to disperse and again before each use. Apply externally as needed to the rash.”
Baking soda, found in nearly every cupboard everywhere, is said to reduce the swelling and itching associated with poison oak. You’ll want to create a baking soda paste with three parts baking soda and one part water. Spread it on the rash, allow it to dry and leave it on for as long as you’re comfortable, even after it has turned powdery again. This will help ease the itch and burn of irritated skin.