Exploring the Western NY Wilds: Jewelweed – Mother nature’s Preparation H

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By Bob Confer

If you go for a hike in cool, shaded woods or around ponds and streams this time of year, you are likely to encounter the lovely jewelweed.

It sports an unmistakable orange flower that is shaped like a bugle or cornucopia. A closer examination will show reddish-brown speckles all over it.

If you squeeze the flower at the height of its ripeness, its seeds will explode out of it. The small green seeds can fly up to five feet, courtesy of the built-in coils or springs. When that happens, you can even hear a loud “snap” come from the flower. That explosive nature is why the jewelweed goes by another name of touch-me-not. Despite that moniker, it’s not dangerous and the trick is something neat to show young kids.

The plant gets the name of jewelweed because of its somewhat waterproof leaves. They have on them minute hairs that trap air and cause water to bead up – looking like jewels.

You might also consider the plant to be a jewel because of its magical powers.

It is widely known to be a cure for poison ivy. One can take its succulent, translucent stems and crush them, using the watery juices to wash their hands and legs after being exposed to poison ivy. Somehow, those juices will neutralize the ivy’s poison (known as urushiol). This has to be done relatively immediately, within a few hours of being exposed to the plants.

Urushiol can hold for a long time (even months!) on tents, tarps, toys, and your pets’ fur, so you can use crushed touch-me-not to wash those items to make sure they are good for handling once again by your family. It’s a better alternative than washing all those things with Lava soap or Fels-Naptha.

Its powers don’t end there. Jewelweed contains 2-methoxy-1,4-naphthoquinone, an anti-inflammatory agent and fungicide. It’s the same substance that is an active ingredient in Preparation H. In the 1800s some souls used it to fight hemorrhoids, making an ointment by boiling the plant with pig lard. Yes, pig lard. In that case, you are probably better off buying Preparation H.

But, you can use jewelweed on a few more body parts than you can that famous cream.

Jewelweed juices can be used to calm itching that occurs from mosquito bites and stinging nettle. It has also been used to treat razor burn, acne, and heat rash.

Touch-me-not is also one of the best natural remedies for Athlete’s Foot, as it as once calms the troublesome itch and kills the fungus that causes it. It has that same effect in the fight against dandruff.

The jewelweed really is a jewel. With some plants, their curative powers are more anecdotal and mythical than they are realistic and effective. Not the case with this one, which has scientifically-proven powers.

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