My father recently asked me whether I plan to use the land where he and my mother live for business at some point. My husband and I already keep some bees with them, and because their land is so different than ours—we have wide-open farm land while theirs is thoroughly wooded—we’ve considered using their space for some plants we want to use in our farm products.
I knew my dad asked the question from more than passing curiosity. Mom and dad haven’t lived on their land very long, and as dad is working to create green spaces and manage the trees, he has become increasingly frustrated with one particular plant that is fighting back: poison ivy.
Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) has taken over most of the wooded space. (See also: 4 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Poison Ivy.) He has been sorely tempted to use glyphosate to kill off the plant but knew that if I wanted to use the land, it would be a big problem for me because we grow without chemicals. He challenged me to find a replacement or he would have to resort to the chemical solution. Of course, he reasons, that he could use it and then make the land available three years from now when organic standards would deem it safe to use again, but I would disagree. Glyphosate damages soil bacteria, and we can’t stop there and not discuss the debated health ramifications.
Why further damage the soil with a chemical when it’s imbalanced enough to allow poison ivy to take over in the first place? Those that choose the chemical route are chasing a symptom rather than solving the problem. In addition, many report that using glyphosate on this particular weed slows it down but doesn’t kill it off completely.
Here are some alternate ways to get poison ivy under control without damaging the soil in the process:
Identifying Poison Ivy Rashes
Poison ivy is a wild plant that grows in leaves of three. It’s found throughout most of North America. Any time spent outside from spring to summer, chances are at some point you’ve walked past the shiny green leaves, or even through it, over it, or on it, without realizing it. It’s only when your skin comes in contact with the oily resin, or sap, from the plant that trouble begins. That residue, the plant’s oil, known as urushiol, is what gives the leaves its glossy, waxy appearance. The oily urushiol resin is found on the leaves, stems, and in the roots. Once on your skin, it can cause a blistering skin rash to erupt that can range from mild to severe, depending on how much sap gets on your skin and how sensitive you are to it.
Important: For severe rashes or reactions of any kind, consult your physician or dermatologist immediately.
How to Use Aloe Vera for Poison Ivy
Harvesting Aloe Vera gel straight from the leaf of the plant allows for easy access for topical treatment. Concentrated Aloe gel can also be bought for a more convenient and storable option. The important thing is to keep a thin layer of aloe over the affected area as much as possible, which may require frequent application.
Make Your Own Topical Aloe Spray
Poison ivy rashes can be spread by touching, making it tricky to apply anything topically to the rashes. The best way to apply Aloe Vera to the skin while avoiding touching and spreading the rash is to create your own Aloe spray by watering down the gel and putting it in a spray bottle. This makes frequent applications convenient and you won’t have to touch the rash at all, risking spreading it further! You can create your own aloe spray with these easy steps:
- Mix equal parts Aloe gel and water in a blender
- Add more water if needed to produce the mist from a spray bottle
- Spray the affected area several times a day as needed for itch and irritation relief
- Be sure to refrigerate your Aloe Vera, whether for topical use as a rub or as a spray, to preserve the essential compounds. It will also make it an even more cooling, soothing application the next time it is needed
Swelling, blisters, pain and an amazing amount of itching—poison ivy rash is a condition most of us would rather avoid. When an outbreak does occur, turn to Aloe Vera is a natural option in treating your poison ivy. Though results may vary, topical application can offer welcome relief from itching and scratching, and help soothe your swollen, irritated skin as it heals.