I started making “Green Goo” (so named by Treelady) when I discovered that the marvelous effects of Jewelweed are only available before the last frost, because it’s very tender, but the oils in poison ivy- not just the leaves, but the stems, roots, all bits of it, remains viable all winter long. So you can climb over a stone wall, or lean on an innocent looking tree, and if it’s got poison ivy growing up it, you may not even notice; but you’ll have a “mysterious rash”. Another source of mystery rashes is patting your cat. They walk through the poison ivy, it doesn’t reach their skin, but they rub it on your legs, or you pat them and then touch yourself. Luckily, poison ivy oil is washable in soapy water, but sometimes if you don’t know you were exposed, it’s already working before you wash it off.
In the wild- just grab a plant and rub it on any exposed skin- the juice from the plant is the effective part. The stalks are hollow and moist and work wonders. But the plants die with the first frost.
However, trap the jewelweed in olive oil, and it will neutralize the poison ivy oils. Note that this is not an anti-itch cream (although it DOES heal athlete’s foot as well), it neutralizes the oil. Makes it not create the rash and heals it if it’s not already systemic. Usually within twenty four hours. You can even apply it before you go into the woods/brush or whatever and it will prevent the poison ivy from getting you. As I understand it, the more often you’re exposed, the more sensitive you get, so reducing your exposure is still a good idea. Also, if you get it in a cut, it can become systemic, so avoid that. Also, people have gotten it in their lungs (VERY dangerous) by breathing smoke from burning brush that has poison Ivy in it. So treat it carefully. Anyway, it’s nice to have the ointment for when the plants aren’t around do use. (They usually can be found nearby most places poison ivy grows.)
The recipe is simple. Take the whole jewelweed plant, rinse off the dirt and stuff it into a jar- I make 2 quarts at a time, but if you’re not making it for a lot of people a quart or pint jar will probably be fine. I usually do this in August, when it starts blooming, but I think earlier would probably be fine if not better. When it’s as packed as you can get it, pour olive oil over the plant material. Shake it gently to release any bubbles and top it off. As the stems are hollow, you will probably have to do this every day for a couple of days.
You don’t want to have the plant material out of the oil, it will rot (turn black and gross). Keep it covered. Set it in a sunny spot for a couple of weeks (I like my front porch). Shake it every so often to maximize the juice getting into the oil. After 2-5 weeks, strain it out. Wringing the leaves gets the most of the really wonderful oil out- but it is kind of gross. The oil will have turned green. It will actually work perfectly well like that.
I’ve also heard of people simply putting jewelweed in a blender with water and freezing that in ice-cube trays to apply. But ointment is easier to carry around- you can put it in a flat can that you can put into your pocket and carry around. I have even added enough wax that it was as solid as a bar of soap and only needed being wrapped in plastic wrap- I think it goes on better when softer though. This means melting beeswax into the oil at a gentle heat. Chop it up and add the was a bit at a time. About a fluid measure of wax per three or four measures (tablespoon/cup) of oil gets it where I like it, but the nice thing about doing it yourself is that you can make it the way YOU like it. Take a nice thick stoneware plate or stone or other heat resistant thing and drip a few drops of the warm mixture of oil and beeswax onto it. It will cool and harden up and you can rub it between your fingers and see if it feels the way you’d like it to rub on your skin. Then pour it into a can, or baby food jar, or whatever you have, and that’s all there is too it. It will keep a year or two depending on how warm your house is. If it starts smelling “off”, toss it. (This is why you don’t want to make more than you can use or share.) Oil does go rancid. But until then, you have a great skin salve.
Since modern “treatment” for poison ivy rash is, get it clean and don’t scratch it until it clears up, isn’t it nice that there’s something that actually makes it go away?
This is also the technique for making most ointments. Steep the herbs in oil, strain, melt in beeswax. You can do it. I think you’ll be pleased with the result.