In the early 90’s we listened to Bertha Reppert, founder of The Rosemary House talking about some simple home remedies, and within a few days, several of the actors at the Renaissance Festival where we had an herb shop showed up covered with poison ivy. Bertha had talked about steeping sage in apple cider vinegar, and we’d gone home and started a batch. It was very effective for the poor sweaty, suffering actors, and we were impressed. This couldn’t be simpler, and is just wonderful as is. Just fill a jar with sage from the garden (or grocery store) and cover with vinegar. If you’re in a hurry, heat the vinegar and steep the sage in it as you would an herbal tea.
The following year we added plantain and jewelweed to the original brew, to add even more healing properties to the vinegar. We’ve used it ever since.
I just made a quart up today.
The ingredients are shown below.
If you don’t have or know how to identify jewelweed, her cousin – garden impatiens is a good stand-in. We like to harvest jewelweed in the spring while the stems are succulent and full of juice. After it flowers, the stems get woody and aren’t worth much. Some people like to harvest the leaves and flowers after it blooms, but this is how we do it.
The sage we grow here is Bergarten, which has a very high essential oil content. That’s really what we want to come through in the vinegar, so any garden sage is fine, but we like this one. In a pinch, you can even use the dried stuff in the spice aisle at the grocery store, but fresh will have more punch.
Even city dwellers most likely have plantain in their midst. Plantain is exceptional for skin irritations, bug bites and stings, and all kinds of rashes. We have both types here, the long strappy lanceolata, and the large major, and use them interchangeably.
All of the plants are chopped up and placed into the jar. Cutting them up (or even placing them into a blender with a little vinegar to get it going) helps release their properties into the vinegar.
After all the plant matter is chopped and placed into the jar, it is covered with vinegar. I reserved some large plantain leaves and some jewelweed stems. The plant matter is carefully covered with the leaves, and then the stems are inserted in such a way as to hold everything below the surface. Be careful not to enclose air pockets under the leaves, though.
All ready to sit and age for a couple of weeks. It is perfectly fine to leave everything as it is until needed.
Then, just strain it out and apply to any area that has been exposed to poison ivy (preferably before a rash appears!). It stings slightly when applied, but will really help dry up a rash in a hurry.
The other best remedy is to learn how to identify poison ivy and avoid it.
We make a soap with jewelweed, plantain, and the essential oils of lavender and tea tree that works well after exposure = Happy Wanderer Soap
and also have the vinegar spray on our website, but we’re very happy to encourage you to make it yourself.