I am one of the lucky souls who is not affected by poison ivy. I know that may not be always the case, but for now I am super blessed and hope it last. Unfortunately most people (including my partner) do have a reaction and for some it can be really bad. I don't think I need to go into what a poison ivy rash is because if you have had it, you know all about it, and there's plenty of information online. I am writing this today to share about a special plant that I am forming a relationship with and how this plant can be used for poison ivy. Comptonia peregrina or better known as sweet fern is an effective plant for supporting poison ivy rash. The herb Sweet fern has many uses such as: diarrhea, skin rashes, insect bites, worms and more. My focus here will be using sweet fern for herbal poison ivy care.
Sweet fern is a native plant to Canada and the USA, found in the Eastern Woodlands from Ontario to Newfoundland. You can find sweet fern for harvesting on sandy slopes or rocky soil. Usually near the edges of pines forest and meadows. Sweet fern is known for it's drying qualities, protecting inflamed mucous membranes, and soothing inflammation which make it perfect for natural poison ivy care. You can also find dried sweet fern online. Make sure to buy from reputable sources!
First choose what preparation works best for you. You can make an infused oil, a salve from infused oil, poultice, or decoction (strong tea). All of these options would be used externally on the rash. Which ones the best? I think it depends on what you have on hand to use immediately. In my opinion a salve would be 1st choice followed by oil, decoction, and poultice. Salve and oil would need to be made ahead of time. This is a good reason to make some before you contract it, to have ready. A decoction and poultice can be made quickly, but require more time to apply and can be messy. Below are recipes for the different preparations.
Sweet Fern Decoction
Large handful of fresh or dried sweet fern
1-2 cups of water
Heat water to a light simmer. Add sweet fern and simmer for 20 min.
Strain and let cool. Store in the fridge. When you are ready to apply dip a clean cloth in the decoction and apply.
*Some say the decoction can last months in the fridge. I have not tested this. Most decoctions are only good for a few days to a week in the fridge. I personally follow this.
Sweet Fern Poultice
Large handful of fresh sweet fern
1 tbsp of water (add more if it's not a paste)
Grind sweet fern in a mortar or in a blender with a little bit of water to form a paste. Apply and wrap with a cloth or plastic wrap. It may itch if you are trapping heat with the wrap. You can try doing it with out wrapping, but it will be more messy and less effective.
Sweet Fern Infused Oil
enough dried sweet fern to fill 3/4 of a jar of choice
oil (olive oil, sunflower oil, almond oil, grapeseed oil, ect)
Fill a jar 3/4 of the way full with broken up dried sweet fern. Fill the jar to the top with oil. Use a knife or chopstick to release air bubbles from the oil. If needed add more oil to ensure all the herb is covered and you have no excess air at the top. Air oxidizes oil. Your oil won't last as long if you have excess air. Place a lid on top of the oil and let sit for at least 4 weeks in a warm place and out of sunlight. Shake daily or as much as you remember to. Strain and put in a clean jar or container. LABEL with date and herb infused!!
Sweet Fern Salve
sweet fern infused oil 5 parts
beeswax 1 part
Heat oil in a double boiler gently. Add beeswax and stir to help dissolve. Once dissolved pour into tin. Apply as needed.