Jewelweed: Toxic or Terrific? Enjoying the great outdoors in the height of summer, but the effects of too much sun and too little moisture got you down? Summertime poses a unique set of challenges to the skin. Beach time causes a sunburn which leaves the skin dry, peeling, and irritated for weeks. The most adventurous backyard or wilderness camping trips lead to a barrage of bug bites and dermatitis caused by poison ivy or poison oak exposure. Existing skin conditions like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis can flare up with differing humidity conditions or lifestyle shifts. There’s one wild woodland herb that offers resolution to all these issues and more. If you’ve seen jewelweed listed as an ingredient on a soap or serum and have been curious, read on.
Summer is the season when jewelweed grows abundantly in the moist, rich soil it loves. This juicy plant offers itself to itchy, oozy, persistent skin conditions that are difficult to treat. Jewelweed often grows within close proximity of poison ivy and is the perfect antidote for the inflammation and discomfort it can induce. Those who suffer from intense reactions to poison ivy will be happy to learn that jewelweed is its forest companion plant and effectively counteracts its heat and redness.
Jewelweed on the Trail
Look out for jewelweed on your next family hike or bike ride. You’ll probably notice this moisture-loving plant growing somewhere its feet can be kept constantly wet, like near a stream, damp meadow, or forest edge where it gets a mix of sun and shade. Jewelweed has the ability to visually transform the dewdrops which get caught in its leaves into dainty little diamonds or crystals. This magical effect gives this precious botanical its name.
Its tall knobby stem gives way to juicy leaves that stiffen and wilt according to the time of day and how thirsty the plant is. Both the orange jewelweed (also known as spotted touch-me-not, referring to the fun habit of the pods to spring open and explode their seeds like fireworks) and the pale yellow variety have beautifully delicate orchid-like blossoms.
How to Use Jewelweed
In the wild, fresh jewelweed stem and leaf make an excellent poultice to apply to bug bites, rashes, and even cuts and scrapes. Once you correctly identify the plant, simply pull a little off and smash it between your fingers until it becomes a watery mash, then use it as a “green bandaid” on the affected skin.
Poison ivy or poison oak rashes are notoriously responsive to jewelweed’s soothing compounds. It can be applied fresh to the skin as a poison ivy preventative or as a treatment for an existing breakout to speed healing time and allay the itch and spread. It increases the skin’s ability to resist the toxic oils of the plant that cause the rash and adverse reaction.
How Does Jewelweed Work?
Jewelweed contains mucilage – a key agent that is considered pure, potent medicine for cooling and calming redness or inflammation. A naturally occurring chemical component of jewelweed leaf, lawsone, fights inflammation and redness while also serving as an organic antihistamine, calming and regulating the body’s natural histamine response. Jewelweed is also a great source of essential fatty acids that offer the skin an incredibly hydrating infusion of plumping plant-based moisture deep below the surface.
Who Should Use Jewelweed?
Soothing and restorative, jewelweed is that perfect aftercare ingredient for skin that has been through tough times and come out ready for nourishment and tending. Those who suffer from redness or chapped skin in the form of rosacea or psoriasis will find jewelweed provides excellent relief.
Post-procedure, following a bout of bug bites or rashes, or after sun exposure or even radiation or any other potentially skin-damaging activity are all ideal times to use products containing jewelweed. It’s wonderful for especially sensitive skin that doesn’t respond well to synthetic products. You don’t want to be caught outside in the summer sun without jewelweed for post-sun, rash-fighting skincare.
Where Found: soaps, sprays, cleansers, salves, balms, creams, elixirs, oils
Side Effects: reduced itchiness and redness, calmer, smoother, and more hydrated skin, a more balanced histamine response, a positive effect on the planet, increased sense of well-being and connectedness with mother nature
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