As the saying goes, “Leaves of three – let it be” – follow that, and you’ll avoid poison ivy. The plant is poisonous due to a chemical called urushiol, which is what causes the itching rash when touched. This same chemical can be beneficial in many different ways when used properly. It can help with anxiety, depression, rheumatism in tissue and joints, inflammation of the respiratory tract, fever, and digestion.
The medicinal parts are the leaves collected after flowering and dried, the fresh young shoots, the young flowering branches. and the fresh leaves.
Flower and Fruit
The pedicled flowers are in axillary, pubescent panicles. They are dioecious, sometimes androgynous. The stemmed petals are whitish-green with red hearts. The fruit is an almost globular, glabrous, yellow or yellowish-white, 10-grooved drupe. The fruit varies in size and contains a viscous latex in resin channels, which turns black in the air.
Leaves, Stem, and Root
The plant is a dioecious shrub up to 1 m high with ascending, procumbent or climbing rooting branches and underground runners. The branches are initially green and softly pubescent, later brown and glabrous. There are numerous lenticels on the two-year-old shoots. The leaves are trifoliate with 8- to 14-cm long petioles. The leaflets are oblong, acute or obtuse, entire-margined, or roughly serrate in the middle. They have a dark-green upper surface and slightly pubescent lower surface, which is a lighter green.
The plant is indigenous to North America; it is also found in east Asia and is cultivated in Germany in botanical and apothecary gardens.
Poison Ivy leaves are the leaves of Rhus toxicodendron. Subsequent to the flowering period, the leaves of R. toxicodendron are gathered and then well-dried. Gloves should be worn to protect hands while gathering the leaves, as they can cause unpleasant inflammation of the skin.
Not to be Confused With
Although it is sometimes called “Ampelopsis hoggii,” Rhus toxicodendron actually has nothing in common with the Ampelopsis group of vines.
Epright Sumach, Joy Tree, Mercury Vine, Poison Oak, Poison Vine, Three-Leaved Ivy
Actions & Pharmacology
Alkyl phenols: urushiol, chiefly cis,cis-3-(n-heptadeca-8′,11″-dienyl)catechol, cis,cis, cis-3-(n-heptadeca-8′,11′,14″-trienyl)catechol, cis-3-(n-heptadec-8′-enyl)catechol
“Rhus poison,” even in very small amounts, causes severe irritation to the skin. Following contact it can result in reddening, swelling, and herpes simplex-like blisters. It also has a strong toxic effect if taken internally. The mother tincture (main constituents: gallic acid and urushiol) inhibits in vitro prostaglandin biosynthesis.
Indications & Usage
The drug is used to treat rheumatism in the joints and muscles; overexertion (stress and strain); febrile infections with giddiness; inflammation of the respiratory tract, gastrointestinal tract and the eyes; menstrual disturbances; anxiety and depressive states; and itching skin diseases.
Precautions & Adverse Reactions
Contact with larger quantities of the allergen can bring about resorption and generalized erythema; in severe cases also fever and unconsciousness. Severe conjunctivitis and corneal inflammations, with possible loss of sight, may result after contact with the eyes. External application of the drug should be avoided. Skin affected by accidental contact should be intensively rinsed with a soapy solution and then cleaned with ether or ethanol. The points of inflammation should be covered with bicarbonate of soda paste (mixed with water). Internal treatment is carried out with systematically effective corticosteroids. Cooling bandages give relief in mild cases.
Overdoses of homeopathic preparations lead to severe mucous membrane irritation, accompanied by queasiness, vomiting, intestinal colic and diarrhea, as well as signs of resorption, e.g., vertigo, stupor, and kidney damage (nephritis, hematuria).
Following gastrointestinal emptying (gastric lavage with burgundy-colored potassium permanganate solution, sodium sulfate), installation of activated charcoal and shock prophylaxis (quiet, warmth), the therapy for these sorts of poisonings consists of treating spasms with diazepam (IV), electrolyte substitution and treating possible cases of acidosis with sodium bicarbonate infusions. In case of shock, plasma volume expanders should be infused. Monitoring of kidney function is essential. Intubation and oxygen respiration may also be necessary. Furthermore, the leaves possess a very severe potential for sensitization, due to their urushiol content. Following sensitization (which can also occur through contact with decorative art from the Far East, such as wooden chairs that have been treated with toxicodendron lacquers), renewed contact leads within a few hours to itching eczemas and eventual blister formation.
Mode of Administration
Homeopathic dilutions of the mother tincture.
5 drops, 1 tablet, or 10 globules every 30 to 60 minutes (acute) or 1 to 3 times daily (chronic); parenterally: 1 to 2 mL sc; acute: 3 times daily; chronic: once a day (HAB34); children are given different doses.
In tightly sealed containers, not to be kept for more than a year.