Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Jewel of a Weed

As we quickly approach the spring season our friends, family and neighbours will start travelling into the great Canadian wilderness to enjoy its blooming beauty.

For us winter warriors who truly enjoy the great outdoors and true challenges that winter brings we struggle to match the excitement of the fair weather roamers.  However the body's desperate need for Vitamin D and a visual influx of colour we too will travel to trailheads, lakes, rivers and streams.

We will all meet there to travel and take in the sights, sounds and smells of mother nature as she awakes from her winter slumber.  As we travel along the trail we will undoubtedly travel left or right breaking trail through the bush for even just a brief moment to get a touch, a smell or just a simple photograph of a blooming flower or an animal gathering materials and edibles.

As we move through our day we will be filled with blissful exuberance and a feeling of true rejuvenation brought on by the endless sights and sounds of the spring or summer seasons.

However, there is no doubt that when some of us open our eyes and yawn for the first time after the previous days adventure we will experience that unmistakable urge to itch our arms.  You will initially think mosquito bite or maybe an ant bite or maybe .... No matter what you think, you're wrong and you know it. 

That itch is the result of leaving the trail to capture that amazing picture that you've already shared on Facebook or that amazing location you sat for a quick rest and a Cliff bar.  It's none other than Poison Ivy.

Poison Ivy.  An irritating skin reaction to a plant which grows seemingly everywhere in Ontario.  If you've been exposed than just the mere mention of the weed causes you to scratch for no reason.  Well, I have become a true believer that everything harmful and irritating in the wilderness has a medicinal cousin created by mother nature to reward those who are willing to listen and learn the teachings and natural remedies of those who came before us.

When it comes to Poison Ivy, Mother Nature's natural remedy is the Jewelweed.  The Jewelweed is also known by such names as Touch-Me-Nots, Snapweed, Lady's Slippers and Snappers.

Jewelweed is an annual that grows in damp, shady areas as well as by streams and creeks.  This plant blooms from May through October producing an orange flower with dark red dots that hangs gingerly from thin green stems.  This plant is also well known for its flying seedpods which when disturbed can fly off the plant and travel up to 6 feet away releasing their seeds.

So if you become exposed to Poison Ivy or Poison Oak and you have the Jewelweed plant within reach simply slice open the stem and rub the juicy inside on the exposed or irritated location.  This juicy substance will ease the irritation and prevent its breakout for most people.

Jewelweed can also be collected when not immediately required and used to prepare a treatment for later use.  Simply by boiling the chopped Jewelweed you will extract a dark orange liquid.  Separate the liquid from the plant material using a strainer and then pour the liquid into ice cube trays and freeze.  When you are exposed to Poison Ivy or Poison Oak take a frozen Jewelweed cube and rub it over the effected area.  You will receive both the herbal remedy as well as the cool soothing relief of the ice.

Poison Ivy and Poison Oak exposures can be excruciating and long lasting.  2-3 weeks of utter discomfort can all but exhaust your summer holidays and create memories you never expected and wish you could forget.

Jewelweed, Touch-Me-Nots, Lady's Slippers...Whatever you call them - I love them !

1 comment:

  1. What's the chance that you have more photos of the Jewelweed.

    Great post and very informative.