Useful Weeds: Jewelweed
Jewelweed poses as a useless weed along the edges of the woods, but is definitely a wild medicinal plant you should never walk by without gathering. The two species of this tall plant are also commonly referred to as “garden balsam”, “whistle weed”, and the “touch-me-not.
The seed pods that are produced by jewelweed “explode” when touched – sending the little seeds inside flying everywhere to sprout and grow. Even though the explosions are harmless and fairly fun to watch, this is why is has been dubbed the touch-me-not plant.
Jewelweed is a common herb frequently used to treat poison ivy and skin rashes. The leaves contain a compound called lawsone, which many studies have proven to have anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine properties.
Historically, First Nations peoples used jewelweed for poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac rashes.
What is Jewelweed?
Jewelweed grows 3 to 5 feet tall and flowers from late spring to early fall. The flowers are orange.
Where to Find Jewelweed
The herb typically grows in moist, shady soils along streams. It is found throughout the United States, from the east coast to the west coast and also throughout Georgia and Florida.
Jewelweed Medicinal Uses
Jewelweed boast antifungal and antimicrobial properties. It is often used as a sole or base ingredient to get rid of poison ivy, dermatitis, to treat bug bites and stings, cure athlete’s foot, minor burns, swelling around bruises, joint pain, inflammation, in the promotion of steady blood flow post childbirth, and poisoning from fish.
If you rub freshly picked and crushed jewelweed directly onto the skin after a bug bite or sting or coming into contact with poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, the sense of relief comes almost instantly. This alone makes it worth growing some on your property!
You can also make a salve or wound wash out of either fresh or dried jewelweed to treat the same conditions. We use it in our poison-ivy and skin ailment fighting soap here.
Some users maintain the jewelweed wash or poultice can also help either stop or reduce symptoms commonly associated with a topical allergic reaction to plants, animals, or insects.
Orange flowering jewelweed might be a more potent natural medicinal agent than the plants that boast yellow flowers – but your experience may vary. Both varieties of the whistle weed plant have a shallow root system, and are easy to remove from the ground.
How to Make Jewelweed Ice Cubes
If you don't have a ready supply to use right away on your property, but are able to get some jewelweed to save, here is a great way to save and use it for rashes or other skin conditions.
1. Gather the above-ground parts of 3 Jewelweed plants.
2. Rinse the plant thoroughly.
3. Finely chop the jewelweed on a sanitized surface.
4. Boil 3 cups of cool water.
5. Add the chopped plant, cover, and allow to simmer on low heat for 30 to 60 minutes.
6. Allow the tea to cool. The longer you allow it to cool, the stronger it will become. The color will become orangey-brown the longer it steeps.
8. Pour the tea into ice cube trays and put it in the freezer.
5. Once frozen, you can store the ice cubes in a sealed Ziploc bag in the freezer for up to one year.
How to Use
Roll a jewelweed ice cube onto any affected area of your skin three times a day.
You can also make a compress by thawing an ice cube and pouring the liquid onto a washcloth and fasten it with safety pins.