Although not contagious, poison ivy rashes can be very severe. They can also take a long time to heal, which makes us look for alternatives to speed this process up. Essential oils for poison ivy make great calming alternatives. Many people found relief after using them.
In this post, you’ll be reading about:
- The rash that’s caused by poison ivy.
- The way essential oils can help soothing poison ivy symptoms.
- The pros and cons of some of the best aromatic oils for poison ivy. They’re all proven to help relieve itching, inflammation, and pain.
- The best ways to use these aromatic essences for quick poison ivy relief.
- Aromatherapy recipes and natural remedies to get rid of poison ivy quicker.
- Facts, signs, and symptoms of poison ivy, plus a few safety tips for when you use Aromatherapy oils.
Best Essential Oils for Poison Ivy Rash (Pros & Cons), How to Use & Recipes
Poison ivy’s botanical name is Toxicodendron radicans. Poison ivy is not really an ivy, as the latter belongs to the Hedera family. Poison ivy is a close relative of pistachios and cashews. They’re all part of the Anacardiaceae plant family.
There are many species and subspecies of T. radicans. Most of them look like vines (climbing or trailing), but they can also be shrubs. All poison ivy species contain an oleoresin called urushiol. Urushiol comes from the Japanese sap word “urushi”, given to the Chinese lacquer tree.
This sap is very sticky and causes a strong allergic reaction when it gets in contact with the skin. This strong allergic reaction is a form of contact dermatitis. It is also called urushiol-induced contact dermatitis.
One can get the same skin reaction from poison oak or poison sumac. They all contain urushiol in their saps.
Poison oak and sumac can cause the same urushiol-induced dermatitis. But it’s poison ivy which is the most common and popular.
That is so because it grows in a lot more diverse climates than the previous two. One can be allergic to just one of them. If you had exposed yourself to all three, the rash would be the same.
So, direct contact with urushiol causes a red, itchy and blistering rash. It is not infectious though and does not spread to other body parts. It is possible, however, to get delayed reactions and new blisters on other body parts.
How Can Essential Oils Help with Poison Ivy Rash
Doctors don’t recommend using only home remedies to get rid of poison ivy, oak or sumac rash.
OTC (over-the-counter) medicines can help ease the itch. They can also temper down the immune system’s response (the allergic reaction).
Luckily, essential oils and Aromatherapy in general, are considered a form of CAM. CAM stands for complementary and alternative medicine. In other words, they can be used in addition to OTC medication. That way, you can really speed up your recovery time.
The usual treatment consists of applying calamine lotion, hydrocortisone and diphenhydramine creams. They’re used to control the severe itching.
For severe allergic reactions (anaphylactic shocks), you need emergency medical attention. Anaphylactic shocks can be deadly!
Many essential oils for poison ivy, oak or sumac have beneficial properties. A good aromatic oil for poison ivy rash is:
- Anti-inflammatory, to calm down the rash (redness and irritation).
- Antibacterial and antiseptic, to protect from possible infections. By the way, the risk of an infection is extremely low if you don’t scratch. It is also extremely high if you scratch.
- Analgesic, to relieve the pain, which sometimes can be hard to bear.
- Antipruritic, to relieve pruritus (severe itching). This is probably the most important benefit for poison ivy rashes.
- Anesthetic, to calm down all the throbbing, pain and irritation.
- Diuretic, to promote fluid/water drainage.
- Skin hydration and repairing ability, to strengthen the skin barrier. This helps it recover faster and with minimal scar tissue.
- Antihistamine, to treat skin allergic reactions.
Essential oils are volatile substances that absorb into the skin quite fast. They can penetrate the deeper levels of the skin through the sebum glands and pores. They mix with oils, thus the natural skin oil (sebum) carries the molecules inside very well.
That said, you can use essential oils for poison ivy rash to soothe and relieve pain and itching. They can also speed up the collagen production, which helps the injured skin heal faster.
How to get rid of poison ivy quick? What is a good natural remedy for poison ivy, oak, and sumac? Well, there are several proven essential oils that can help with all symptoms.
Some of the best oils for poison ivy treatment are German Chamomile, Lavender, and Peppermint. Of course, there are many others, for which I’ll give you a list soon.
1) German Chamomile Essential Oil
Botanical name: Matricaria recutita.
- German Chamomile is one of the best antihistamine essential oils. It’s rich in chamazulene, a blue substance with anti-allergic benefits. German Chamomile oil has remarkable antipruritic (anti-itch) properties. One study suggests combining OTC antihistamines with German Chamomile blends. This combination gives the best results.
- There is another study, this time on stoma patients. They found Chamomile solutions to be more effective than hydrocortisone ointments. The oil can relieve itching, inflammation, and pain faster. Plus, it can also speed up tissue healing.
- Chamomile oil improves blood circulation and soothes spasms.
- It can also protect from infections (antibacterial and antiseptic).
- It has estrogen-like effects. This means that German Chamomile might interact with certain hormone medicines. You should always tell your doctor or pharmacist about it.
- German Chamomile is also phototoxic, meaning you must not expose your skin to the sun after use.
Why I like it:
German Chamomile is great for contact dermatitis and other allergies. It’s gentle with the skin and can be used topically without a problem. The oil can also calm down digestive spasms and improve digestion.
2) Lavender Essential Oil
Botanical name: Lavandula angustifolia.
- You can use Lavender oil for poison ivy for many reasons. One of them is the oil’s antihistamine effect, which soothes the allergic rash.
- It’s also a great antipruritic and mild anesthetic. These abilities help soothe the itching, inflammation, and pain caused by urushiol.
- Lavender can also help heal the tissue faster. It can do so by improving blood circulation and boosting collagen production.
- Its antibacterial and antiseptic effects are useful in case of a potential infection.
- It’s also got great anti-inflammatory effects.
- Lavender oil should not be confused with the other varieties. The botanical name makes the difference between species.
- It should not be used by people with severe cardiovascular problems.
- Large amounts of Lavender essential oil can cause insomnia and nervousness. Small amounts, used for short periods of time are soothing and calming.
Why I like it:
Lavender oil is good at everything. You can use it for sleep and skin care, but you can also disinfect surfaces and repel insects. It’s one of the few safer oils to use on young children too.
3) Peppermint Essential Oil
Botanical name: Mentha piperita.
- The oil of Peppermint has proven antipruritic properties. This makes it extremely useful in treating a poison ivy rash. The oil was tested on pregnant women with Pruritus Gravidarum.
- Peppermint oil for poison ivy is analgesic (pain reliever).
- It can also protect from bacterial infections.
- Peppermint is anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic too.
- It is a general tonic for the body and mind.
- The oil of Peppermint has hormone-like effects and can interact with certain medications.
- In large amounts, the essence can be toxic to the nervous system. Large amounts, especially those taken internally, can be toxic to the liver and kidneys too.
- Peppermint oil can also trigger seizures. People with asthma should seek medical advice before using it.
- Avoid using Peppermint oil if you have cardiovascular problems or high BP.
Why I like it:
The fresh and pungent aroma of Peppermint oil is very uplifting. It makes great blends for all sorts of skin care problems, including poison ivy, oak, and sumac. On top of it all, you can also use Peppermint oil for its digestive properties.
Other common essential oils for poison ivy to use:
- Tea Tree – I’ve seen many people asking whether Tea Tree oil is good for poison ivy or not. Tea Tree essential oil is very good for poison ivy treatment. It has antibacterial and antiseptic properties. It can also relieve inflammation and itching. Tea Tree can strengthen the immune system and the protective skin barrier. You can use Tea Tree oil for poison oak and sumac too, of course.
- Oregano – This aromatic oil is a very strong antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. Its main ingredient – carvacrol – was found to have antihistamine effects. Thus, you can use Oregano oil for poison ivy, just in very small amounts. It’s a very powerful essence.
- Frankincense – This Aromatherapy oil is an excellent anti-inflammatory. It can also speed up tissue healing (boosts collagen production). You can use Frankincense oil for poison ivy even after you get rid of the rash. That helps with a more beautiful healing, with very little to no scar tissue.
More helpful essential oils for poison ivy rash are:
- Basil (more effective than hydrocortisone)
- Blue Tansy
- Rose Geranium
These oils can be any brand you like and trust. You can go for doTERRA essential oils for poison ivy, Young Living, etc. If the quality is good, the brand doesn’t really matter.
How to Use Essential Oils for Poison Ivy
The best and fastest way to get relief is through topical application. That way, the oils can act directly on the affected area and calm it in a matter of seconds.
You should never apply essential oils undiluted, especially on an already irritated skin. Therefore, you must mix them with carrier oils. This will decrease a bit of their potency and will help spread them on a larger surface.
Use between 5 – 15 drops of poison ivy essential oils per Oz carrier oil. The more sensitive your skin, the less amount of aroma oils you’ll have to use.
Essential oils can also be used on cool compresses. Soak a soft cloth in some cold water and add 2 – 5 drops on a spot. Place the compress on the injured area until it gets warm and repeat.
Be careful though, the compress increases the chance of further irritating the skin. That is because the oil is not diluted. You can dilute it if you want, or use such compresses only occasionally.
These types of essential oil remedies are good natural for poison oak and sumac too.
Speaking of carrier oils, some of the best you can use for poison ivy treatment are:
- Black seed
- CBD Hemp
Carrier or vegetable oils don’t target the cause of the contact dermatitis. They do, however, improve its symptoms.
Carriers are fatty substances that moisturize the skin. They keep it well-hydrated, simply because they don’t let the water evaporate. They strengthen the skin’s protective barrier.
Research recommends carrier oils as an inexpensive treatment option for pruritus (itching). They’re great for nighttime relief, even though the effect is temporary. For the comfort they provide, you need to apply carriers often.
Some carriers, like Coconut oil for poison ivy, can also add to the anti-inflammatory and antibacterial benefits of the blend.
Soothing Poison Ivy Essential Oil Recipes
Luckily, Aromatherapy oils can be mixed together because they work in synergy. You can, of course, use just one if you want. It’s best to mix up to 3 oils per blend, one for pain relief, an antipruritic and an anti-inflammatory.
What is a good home remedy for poison ivy? It’s made of soothing essential oils and carriers. They work best when combined with OTC antihistamines.
Pick one from the following essential oil recipes for poison ivy rash. Apply moderate amounts for 2 – 3 times a day until the rash heals up.
Poison Ivy Anti-Itch and Irritation Blend
- Lavender essential oil: 3 drops
- German Chamomile essential oil: 3 drops
- Peppermint essential oil: 2 drops
- Coconut oil (fractionated or not): 1 Oz (30ml)
Give the blend a good shake before use. You can mix all the ingredients in a 30 ml roll-on bottle. That’ll make the blend easier to apply and carry around.
Soothing Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac Spray Recipe
- Aloe Vera gel: ½
- Lavender hydrosol: ½
- Basil essential oil: 10 drops
- Frankincense essential oil: 15 drops
- Spray recipient: 100ml (3.38 fl. Oz)
Give the blend a very good shake before each application. Spray it on the affected area 2 – 3 times a day.
Cool Compress for Poison Ivy, Oak & Sumac
- Himalayan (pink) salt: 1 tsp.
- Cold water: 1 cup (~200ml)
- Lavender essential oil: 3 drops
- Tea Tree essential oil: 3 drops
Mix the essential oils for poison ivy with the salt first. Then add the mixture over the water and stir well until the salt melts. Soak a clean, soft cloth in it and then wring out the excess water.
Apply directly to the wound, only in the first days, when the symptoms are the strongest. Continue with a spray or blend.
Many people want to know whether they can put apple cider vinegar on poison ivy or not. I don’t recommend it. Vinegar does indeed possess antibacterial properties. But it is also very acidic for the skin.
There’s been a registered case of chemical burn and skin erosion because of vinegar use. A teenage girl attempted to remove a birthmark with it and ended up in the emergency room.
The urushiol-induced contact dermatitis is bad enough as it is without putting acid on it. If you’ve got some medical tips on how to safely dilute the vinegar, that’s a very different story.
Poison Ivy Facts, Signs & Symptoms, plus Safety Tips
The poisonous nature of the poison ivy is given by the volatile oil called urushiol. The rash forms within 24 – 72 hours and peaks within a week. The urushiol-induced contact dermatitis (rash) can last up to 3 weeks.
Poison ivy, oak or sumac rash looks blistered and red (inflamed). It itches very intensely and can sometimes hurt too. If you scratch the blisters, they can become infected quite fast.
Here are some quick and interesting facts about poison ivy:
- You’ll find it and its other poisonous relatives in the woods and/or marshy places.
- North America is a common place to find poison ivy and poison sumac.
- Poison oak is common in areas like the South or Western America.
- In our opinion, it’s an unwelcome weed, but there are lots of animals that eat it. Some birds also feed on its seeds.
- If you see berries in what seems to look like a poison ivy, it can be poison oak or sumac. Poison ivy does not make berries. Late in the autumn though, it looks very shiny and darker colored. This is because the urushiol-rich sap oozes out and causes these changes. Otherwise, the urushiol sap gets out only if the plant is injured.
- 50% of the urushiol is absorbed within 10 minutes from direct skin contact. You have to move fast and wash it off with soap to minimize the amount that gets into your skin. The rash will be smaller this way.
- Urushiol is medically used to create certain medicines for joint and muscle pain.
- In Asia, people turn urushiol into a clear liquid called oriental lacquer. This lacquer is then used as a coating for art objects.
- First of all, don’t hesitate to go to the doctor if the rash is on your face. Or if it spreads on the whole body or very large areas. Also, if you experience dizziness, nausea or fever, you must go to the emergency room. Shortness of breath or swollen lymph nodes should also be cause for medical attention. Some people may be oversensitive and suffer an anaphylactic shock. Left untreated immediately, it can be deadly.
- Essential oils for poison ivy can make the symptoms milder and heal the skin faster. But they need to be tested for their own skin reactions too. Always dilute a drop with a carrier and apply on the inside of the forearm (if possible). It would be great to have a few essential oils already tested and ready.
- Wear protective equipment and clothing when you’re gardening. Either wash or throw away contaminated objects/clothes. Keep in mind that the urushiol can linger on surfaces and be active for a very long time. Your pet’s fur is also a good carrier of urushiol.
- Avoid treating skin conditions with essential oils during the first trimester of pregnancy. The same goes for breastfeeding. Seek medical advice first.
- If you suffer from other health conditions, you’ll also need to talk to a doctor first.
- Avoid using most Aromatherapy oils on children and elderly without medical approval.
Can one get quick relief from poison ivy rash with essential oils? Yes, it’s possible. The result depends on how big the affected area is and how sensitive your body is. Don’t shy away from seeing your doctor for a clear diagnosis and some antihistamines.
They work great alongside home remedies like essential oils for poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Ever tried them or know someone who’s dealt with this rash in a natural way?\