Native Americans and Jewelweed

Native to North American, jewelweed has a long history as a native American medicine and poison ivy treatment. Its long been known for its skin healing properties for many skin aliments, including itch and rash from all types of poison plant reactions, burns from stinging nettle, bugs bites, hives and even chiggers.

 Many tribes of the Appalachian area, including the Potawatomi and Powhatan tribe, used for all skin aliments. Some native tribes believed drinking a cup of jewelweed tea in early fall would protect them against poison rashes the following year. (This is not advised). Even the Cherokee, in upper North Carolina, were said to have used this amazing plant for burn dressings and for treating gastrointestinal disorders.  Widely used as a poison preventive, the natives would rub the juice of the stems on their skin before entering poison vine invaded areas, for prevention and protection. This was able to fight off the reaction naturally, from any poison plants. It was the answer to the age old question "how to get rid of poison ivy."  

The name is believed to have come  when the natives witnessed, in the moonlight or early morning sun, the silver color on the leaves, would sparkle and glisten like a jewel when wet.

 These people knew the importance of this great plant for it's amazing healing properties. Still today jewelweed is proving to be an amazing valuable plant!


Variations and Specifics

Jewelweed comes from the plant family Balsaminaceae "Genus Impatiens". The most common variation in jewelweed is the spotted orange (Impatiens Capensis). This is the variety is the most commonly used by herbalist providing the most medical properties. This version prefers partially shaded and moist soil. Usually found near streams. 

The pale jewelweed, or yellow jewelweed (Impatiens Pallida) is less common than its orange cousin, and prefers limestone sites to grow its best. Both varieties grow between 2 and 5 ft tall, with course jagged edge leaves and thick stems. The underneath of the leaves have a silver color, making them shine with jewel-like color when, wet from rain or morning dew and hit by sunlight. Jewelweed is commonly grown in most of the USA with the exception of Wyoming, Montana and the southwest including California.

It's usually found growing near stinging nettle and poison ivy, as it is nature's remedy for these plants. It flowers between June and August, with orange or yellow small tube flowers. Because jewelweed is a self seeding annual, it forms a seed pod, and are often called touch-me-nots as the seed pod will explode when touched. 


Medical Properties of Jewelweed

Jewelweed is most famous for being a natural poison ivy remedy, and healing rashes from poison ivy, oak and sumac.

 The leaves, roots and stems of this plant, contain a compound called lawsone, which is anti-inflammatory, antifungal and a strong antihistamine. With these components, it puts up a great defense to the urushiol, the compound in poison plants that causes inflammation. Jewelweed will stop the itch, and cut healing time from all poison plant reactions. The antihistamine properties of this plant, are able to stop the itch and burn from various other ailments as well including; bug bites, hives, bee stings, chiggers, and burns from stinging nettle. Since jewelweed has anti-fungal properties it has been used to treat athletes foot and dandruff. 

In recent studies, it has also shown great effects on treating psoriasis and eczema. The most recent study done by Wilkes University has found anti-cancer and antimicrobial properties in the Jewelweed. 

This is an amazing forgotten plant, that is just starting to get a spotlight in today's herbal medicine, through jewelweed products and more interest in plant healers. The more studies being done, the more it will prove that this is a valuable wonderful medicine that should now remain in the spotlight!

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