poison ivy

thomas merchant tm37atacme.gatech.edu at dont.spam.me
Wed Jul 9 14:03:39 EST 1997

On 9 Jul 1997 09:48:12 -0700, hadden at WINGATE.EDU (Lee Hadden) wrote:

>Having read the two items re poison ivy, I wondered if anyone out there
>has heard of or can confirm and/or explain the basis of a folk remedy I
>have had several students over the years tell me about.

I cannot confirm the validity of this folk remedy, but can say that I
have heard of this as well.

> I have been
>told [but certainly not tried nor recommended] that some people
>[typically country folk] who get poison ivy will eat a leaf of it when
>they have the rash--and it "cures" it!!

When I worked in the Ozarks, I met a few people that would describe
this as a spring ritual, in that at first opportunity in the spring,
they would eat a leaf to 'immunize' themselves. At least one person
described placing a leaf in a pancake and eating it.

> Since I know of one person who
>had poison ivy in his mouth and throat, this sounds absurd, but they say
>they know it works for some without creating greater problems.  Since
>this remedy has been recounted by several different students at
>different times concerning people they know who do it, I keep wondering
>how it works.  Anyone have info on this?
>[I know that minute amounts of Rhus extract is used in some homeopathic
>remedies with no allergic problems resulting.]
At the time that I was working for the Park Service in the Ozarks, a
mention was made that poison ivy capsules, containing an extract, were
available to those who wanted to immunize themselves on a more
'scientific' application to the practice. I was also told that an
employee who tried this had a severe reaction. I opted not to try
either method.

I do not get poison ivy rashes. It may be that I am very careful at
noticing and avoiding contact, or it may be that I am not as sensitive
to its affects as others. Assuming that there are many others who are
not susceptible, if a non-succeptible person were to try one of the
self-immunization methods, and neither broke out during the
'treatment' nor during subsequent seasonal contact, it would appear
that the practice works. However, as both of us have heard, people
trying the immunization have reacted, I don't think that it would be
something to try.

I guess it all comes to a matter of degree of sensitivity. Whether
exposure comes from dermal contact, smoke, weed-wacker induced
aerosols, or oral ingestion, some will be affected, while others

Not all homeopathic herbal treatments are bunk, but there is an awful
lot of trial and error. The consequences from an error can be severe
enough to warrant extreme caution when attempting any herbal
medication. (Of course, this also applies to modern medical treatments
as well; you may end up with another aspirin, or you may end up with

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