• Oh no — poison oak!

    It is a lush poison oak year and sometimes those wonderful hikes in the woods can turn into an itching nightmare!

    Poison oak grows in many forms ranging from a small creeping vine on the ground to a 20 foot high towering shrub. Each season it has a different look. It goes from being a light brown bear stem with white berries to a very lush bush with big green leaves. Learn to identify poison oak in all of its seasonal disguises because you can get it any time of the year. It is a misconception to think that you can’t contract poison oak from the bare stem in the winter.

    If you think you have touched some poison oak, the best thing is to wash right away and get your clothes off. Wash with a strong soap and then use either plain alcohol, apple cider vinegar or some of the poison oak ease herbal formulas listed in this article. The alcohol helps to get the oil residue off of the skin.

    Many years ago I was taught to call poison oak by the name of power oak, because it has the power to keep humans out of an area! It is one of the first plants that will grow in a place that has been disturbed by fire, development or clear cutting. It comes into an area as a plant that helps to let that part of the ground be left alone so the earth can regenerate. It is definitely a powerful plant that asks for our respect.

    If you do happen to get a case of poison oak, the more you do for yourself at the onset, the better. First of all, simplify your diet, so your body can spend its energy on healing instead of digesting heavy foods. Cut out dairy and sugar, stay away from hot spicy foods and just have soups and steamed vegetables for a few days. Treat yourself like you have a cold, take extra time off and rest more.

    Make a strong tea of echinacea root and burdock root to help move the poison oak through your system faster. Put two tablespoons of echinacea root and one tablespoon of burdock root into a quart jar and pour boiling water over the herbs. Let the herbs steep in the water for four hours and then strain the herbs out. Make a fresh quart each day and drink three to four cups a day for several days. Also make sure you drink lots of plain water. If you feel like the poison oak is affecting your nervous system and you are having more difficulty relaxing or sleeping, you can add two teaspoons of chamomile to this tea.


    Kami McBride is the author of The Herbal Kitchen and has helped thousands of people learn to use herbs in their daily lives in ways that are healthy, safe and fun. She is the director of Cultivating the Herbal Medicine Woman Within, an experiential training in using herbs in the home for everyday health. An intuitive and inspiring teacher, Kami works to revive the cultural art of home herbal care and teaches herbology as a relationship with the Earth and a way of life. For a schedule of classes or herbal consultations, visit www.livingawareness.com

    • Reminds me of your herb walk at Stebbins Cold Canyon. The story of the poison oak was one of my favorites – how it helps the area to heal after a fire. LOVE your herbal wisdom, Kami!

    • I didn’t know all this about poison oak. Thank goodness have never had it but I think you would have to go hiking to get it and my hiking days are behind me.

    • Personally, I’d rather eat all of the stuff that you mentioned and simply stay away from the poison oak. If I was given a choice to either eat all of that healthy stuff or get a poison oak rash, I would choose the poison oak every time.
      Madge you don’t know what you are missing by not getting out on the nature trails. I go hiking four or five times a week. If I get poison oak, OOOOhhhhh It feels soooo good when I scratch it. Then I go to the ER, get a shot, and it goes away. All that health food gives me gas.

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