Jewelweed Anti Itch Relief from the Woods
Jewelweed or Touch-Me-Not is a tall green weed with oval, toothed leaves. It seems to grow prolifically in ditches, and other undisturbed areas. It loves moisture and soft soil. According to one of my plant handbooks it is considered an annual herb. Jewelweed grows up to five feet high, although the patch I found was not as tall.
There are two varieties of Jewelweed. One is the spotted type and the other is referred to as the yellow flowered jewelweed. I am not sure which one we have growing on our property because it didn’t have a lot of spots but it had a bit of spotting. Maybe we have both varieties. The flowers lend a bit of fun to a hike. When touched, the small flower recoils, then shoots out it’s seeds! How fun is that? That’s how it received the name, Touch-Me-Not. Another name it is found under is Snapweed and sometimes Pale Jewel Weed. The scientific names are Impatiens biflora and Impatiens pallida.
One day, a friend posted on social media that he was teaching the kids in his naturalist class about Jewelweed. I asked him to bring me some. His response made me laugh. Apparently we had a large patch of it growing along our driveway! I had been driving by the pretty little yellow flowers for weeks, not knowing what they were. And that was a good lesson for me, to slow down and spend more time looking at what I am looking at!
Jewelweed as a Food
You can prepare Jewelweed to eat as you can some other wild greens. To me, it seems a bit labor intensive but this is good to know if we ever need to eat wild greens for survival. The recommendations I read say you should boil the smaller, shorter plants twice, for 10 to 15 minutes, draining each time. Jewelweed can be served with salt and butter. There is a caution about eating this plant. Jewelweed contains an abundance of calcium oxalate crystals. Eating a lot of Touch-Me-Not could lead to kidney stones or other kidney/urinary problems. The seeds from the pods are also edible and it’s reported they have a nutty flavor.
Jewelweed as a Medicinal Herb
Since we are fortunately not in a survival scenario, I prefer to use the wild herbs for medicinal uses and making herbal lotions and balms. One of the best benefits from Touch-Me-Not is the juice contained in the plant stem. This juice provides anti itch relief , and is effective at neutralizing poison ivy oils. Therefore, its a great, quick fact to know when spending time in the woods. Jewelweed is often found growing nearby poison ivy. If you touch it, look for some jewelweed, break open the stem and apply the juice to your skin.
How to Preserve Jewelweed for Later
Since this is a pretty effective plant to have around, how can you preserve the benefits for later. This is where I ran into a bit of discrepancy while researching this herb. Most sites I found state that the liquid in the stem is only effective fresh or frozen. For some reason, I had a hard time believing this and contacted a few herbalists that I know personally.
Reformation Acres and Faerie Springs Farm
Quinn from Reformation Acres has information on Four Ways to Preserve Jewelweed. This is what I was looking for! She uses it in her soaps which can be found here. The extracts, soap and lotions she makes make a difference in her family’s itchy skin relief.
While I have not had the pleasure of trying Reformation Acres Skin Care products, another friend, Suzanne from Faerie Springs Farm has products that I do use regularly. In additon, I contacted Suzanne about my confusion. Suzanne does much the same thing that Quinn does with Jewelweed. Try using it fresh during the summer and dried in an oil infusion, for making salves and lotions.
Here is what Suzanne wrote : “I actually dry the whole plant. Hangs in my drying room then I crumple and bag. I use it in soaps and lotions by infusing the oils with it. I also have made a “tea” for soap, but the color doesn’t stay as pretty. When it’s fresh in the summer I still dry it, specifically to get that pesky water out for the itch cream.”
Suzanne also reminded me that this is in her Anti Itching balm that I had. Checked the label and sure enough there is the Jewelweed in the ingredient listing. I know this works because I have used it myself.
My Action Plan
How do I look at the discrepancy in the information available? You might find that the fresh juice is the most effective way to use the remedy, but that doesn’t mean the dried infused way doesn’t offer relief. I am not a trained herbalist so I need to leave the question for others to answer. I can tell you that I will be making some salve from the last of the Jewelweed on our farm, before it withers for the winter. My instructions for making an infused oil with botanical ingredients can be found in this post. Let me know how it works out for you, too.
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