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Beware the Poisonous Plant Cousins
It had to happen, my three-year-old grandson stumbled upon a poisonous plant while exploring the bush around the cottage. Her skin was red and swollen as the intense deep and painful itch made her extra horny. As an avid hiker, I recognized the signs and have experienced these symptoms first hand.
The most common culprits for such a rash could be one of what I like to call “the bush’s three poisonous cousins”; poison ivy, poison oak, and poison ivy. The leaves, stems, and roots of these plants contain a saturated, oily resin called urushiol (u-ROO-she-ol). At least 50% of the population is sensitive and may develop a mild rash that does not require medical attention up to 3 weeks after exposure to a severe or widespread rash that requires immediate medical attention. Often, the rash looks like a straight line because that’s how the plant bushes come into contact with the skin, but if someone handles a pet or clothes laced with urushiol, the rash expands to all areas of contact and spreads exponentially. The severity of the rash depends on the amount of urushiol a person is exposed to, and it can be discreetly transferred to other parts of the body with fingertips. The most dangerous form of exposure is inhalation of smoke when you burn the plant as part of your eradication plan.
Leaves of Three – Let Them Be
The first step to avoiding contact with these three cousins is to identify them.
• Poison Ivy generally climbs trees and mimics tree branches as a vine with short roots and dark fibers south of the Great Lakes or as a low-to-ground shrub to a foot high north of the Great Lakes. It is legendary because it has a cluster of three almond-shaped leaves that are very variable; some are hairless, others are slightly hairy with a glossy or dull sheen, some are toothed, smooth-edged or lobed. Look for a leaflet with a prominent tip that has a pointed tip with a longer stem than the other two leaflets. This plant grows almost everywhere; open woods, rocky areas, fields or it can also be located in your garden or patio. Watch out for small, white, hard-hanging clusters of berries. The hardy, harsh winter months simply mask its virulent oils, leaving an innocent little stem sticking out of the ground. Spring is the best time to spot poison ivy when the leaves are reddish in color, but be careful when they are at their strongest.
• Poison oak is generally found as a shrub with thick, strong stems, although it can grow as a vine in some areas. The leaves resemble oak leaves, appear in threes, and are usually glossy and green. In spring, the leaves are light green, white green flowers clustered on the stems. During the summer months, the leaves often contain yellow-green, pink, or reddish hues with clusters of small white or reddish-brown berries, and change again during the fall season, where the leaves turn reddish-brown or bright red, while the fruit darkens.
• Poison Sumac is found in wetlands or swamps and partially forested swamps, usually in wet soil or standing water as a shrub or small tree, 6 to 20 feet tall with compound leaves that have 7 to 13 sharp, smooth-edged leaflets that are distinct. angle slightly upwards relative to the petiole. Stems, branches and buds are hairless, with dark smooth bark and speckled with dark spots. Its berries are similar to Poison Ivy – small, white, hard-hanging clusters. In fall, the leaves are ecstatically pleasing to the eye with their brilliant red hues, but don’t be tempted to add them to your Thanksgiving bouquets.
Homemade first aid mixtures
If you happen to come across any of these three cousins, there are some natural remedies to help combat the intense, deep, painful itch. In cases where there is large swelling and sores like blisters; seek medical attention immediately.
There are 4 solutions that you can mix together to make a paste and apply to the affected area(s);
• Vinegar and baking soda;
• corn starch and water;
• Salt and water – it stings but relieves itching;
• Apple cider vinegar and water.
Herbalists and naturopaths recommend various plants and herbs to help deal with poison ivy or urushiol.
• Aloe reduces the formation of blisters and also accelerates the healing of rashes;
• Catnip juice, which can be taken from its leaves, has an anti-inflammatory effect;
• Plantain reduces itching and stops the rash from spreading.
• Mix a teaspoon of powdered Goldenseal with half a liter of water and apply to the affected area. Other ways to use Goldenseal, drink it in tea or take it as capsules.
• Try Jewelweed. Rub it on the affected areas to reduce itching and dry blisters.
• Apply oatmeal on the affected skin – mixed with boiling water – cooled to lukewarm temperature is a convenient remedy. Soaking in an oatmeal hot tub can also be used when most of the body is exposed. To minimize mixing, place the oatmeal in a sock and swirl it around in the water bath. Applying oatmeal to your skin after leaving the bath can dramatically relieve symptoms.
Poison ivy is the most common of the three cousins and can be found near or on residential areas in North America. A homemade noxious plant killer spray that I have used that is safe and effective:
• 1 cup of salt
• 8 drops of liquid detergent
• 1 gallon (4 liters) of vinegar
• Large spray bottle
Mix the salt and vinegar in a pot and heat to dissolve the salt. Cool the vinegar, add the detergent and pour some of the liquid into a large spray bottle. Spray or pour the mixture directly onto the plants. Refill the spray bottle if necessary.
Note. This formula kills all vegetation, spray only the plants you want to kill. Avoid use near wells – salt can leach into your water supply.
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