Treating Poison Oak & Ivy Naturally

Adapted from Dr. Mao Shing Ni’s book "Secrets of Self-Healing" At the height of summer, many of us are taking advantage of the sunny weather   to explore the outdoors. While the local trails hold many natural wonders that enrich our senses and raise our spirits, there are also dangers lurking on the trail’s edge. Perhaps the most notorious of these are those plants that with a casual touch can make us itch for days: Poison Oak, Poison Ivy and Poison Sumac.  These plants contain an oil called urushiol, which is extremely irritating to human skin and may even produce  an allergic reaction in some. Symptoms include severe itching, redness, burning pain and even oozing sores. This reaction can take as long as two weeks to dissipate. The itching can drive someone to the edge of reason, and if left untreated, can result in secondary infections  from the scratching.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), conditions like this are classified as toxic fire invading the skin. To treat it, we must clear the toxic fire to relieve the symptoms:

Home Remedies

Wash the suspected area with soap and water thoroughly and launder your clothes.

Make a poultice by crushing or blending some dandelion greens and mixing with a little honey and aloe. Apply to the affected area and change every hour or so. Plantain leaves may also be crushed and used as a poultice. Calamine lotion and aloe help to soothe the itchiness as well.


Consume more foods that are cooling or cleansing in their nature like cucumbers, watermelon, winter melon, raspberries, grapes, olives, raisins, dark leafy greens, celery, broccoli, carrots, mung beans, adzuki beans, pearl barley, oats, seaweeds, water chestnuts, corn silk and brewer’s yeast. Supplement with Beta-carotene (1,000mg), Vitamin C (1,000 – 2,000mg), Vitamin

B complex, Zinc (50mg), along with the flavenoids Catechin, Quercetin, Hesperiden and Rutin (up to 300mg each).

Eliminate processed foods, artificial ingredients, refined or simple sugars along with spicy, hot, fried or greasy foods. Avoid, dairy, eggs, shellfish, wheat, tomatoes, eggplant, peanuts and processed soy.

Chinese Herbs taken internally and applied externally can be of great help, as can acupuncture to speed up healing, reduce itching and promote relaxation.

For more information, discuss with your acupuncturist, or check out the book Secrets of Self-Healing by Dr. Mao Shing Ni.