Poison Oak Remedy

Heal & Soothe With This Natural Poison Oak Remedy

My kids and I love spending as much time hiking and foraging in nature as life allows. But along with the fun and beauty in our area, there grows poison oak in abundance. Last year my eldest son got a poison oak rash so severe, his face swelled up like a little balloon. Poor kid, he was miserable. Luckily where poison oak grows, so do good plant remedies.

Poison oak (Toxicodendron diversilobum) contains urushiol oils to which a large amount of the population is allergic. When one comes into contact with this oil, it can cause weeping blisters, itching, rashes, inflammation of the skin and has a tendency to spread quickly.1

Poison Oak Remedy

Poison oak: leaves of three, let it be!

Although in the Sierra Nevadas, where I live, many plants grow that will soothe and heal poison oak, my favorite poison oak remedy is manzanita (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). The Wintu Native American tribe used manzanita leaves to make a soothing tea, which they would apply to the poison oak blisters.2

My family and I have created an easy and effective poison oak spray using manzanita leaves. This spray relieves the itching and cools the inflammation. As an astringent, it can help dry up blisters to increase healing and reduce the spread of the poison oak rash. The best thing about this recipe is that it is in spray form, as rubbing the poison oak rash is painful and can cause the oil and thus the rash to spread.3

This poison oak remedy is also effective on other plants in the Anacardiaceae or sumac family that cause allergic reactions, such as poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) and poison sumac (Toxicodendron vernix). The astringent effects of this remedy act the same on a variety of urushiol reactions. (For those of you who live in poison ivy country, you might also look for jewelweed, another effective remedy.)

Let’s take a closer look at the ingredients in my poison oak remedy.

Poison Oak Remedy

Manzanita (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)

Native to Europe, Asia and North America, Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is known by many common names, including manzanita, uva ursi, bearberry, and kinnikinnick.

In spring, we like to eat the flowers; they are so sweet, we have to kick the ants off before consuming. In summer, we like to crush the maroon-colored berries and consume the sugary powder. The berries are a good source of antioxidants and in fact contain three times more than blueberries!4 Manzanita leaves have an astringent action and are very effective at drying out oozing skin issues like poison oak. Manzanita is also antimicrobial, diuretic, antiseptic and a demulcent.5

Manzanita leaves contain arbutin, tannins, volatile oils and flavonoids, which help create their potent astringent and antibacterial action.6 The best time to pick manzanita leaves is right after the plant flowers, but you can really pick them any time. After you harvest the leaves, lay them out to dry for a few days.

Typically called uva ursi, the leaves are also available from apothecaries and online at Mountain Rose Herbs.

Poison Oak Remedy

Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)

Witch hazel is an astringent, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, vulnerary, and hemostatic. This recipe calls for witch hazel in the common hydrosol form, also called extract or distillate. The witch hazel helps cool and dry out poison oak as well as reduce the potential for infection.

Poison Oak Remedy


Honey is soothing and calming, can help increase healing in skin, and is antimicrobial. Honey is so powerful at healing skin issues that it is prescribed as Medihoney in hospitals to heal wounds and speed healing. Honey is such a great antimicrobial that it doesn’t spoil and can have an indefinite shelf life if kept in a sealed container.78

Poison Oak Remedy

Poison Oak Spray

This easy-to-make poison oak remedy can have up to a year shelf life. I never go on an outdoor adventure without it. It can be used as a spritz rinse if you’ve brushed against poison oak, as well as a soothing spray after being affected by the plant.

If you’re buying manzanita leaves from your local apothecary or online at Mountain Rose Herbs, they might be called uva ursi. The witch hazel hydrosol is also known as extract or distillate.

What you’ll need…

  • 3/4 cup dried manzanita leaves (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
  • 1 cup witch hazel hydrosol
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • Spritzer bottles for bottling

1. Gently crush the manzanita leaves and add these to a 2-cup mason jar. Pour the witch hazel over this. Cap the jar and shake.

2. Set this mixture aside to infuse for 2 to 4 weeks, shaking daily.

3. After 2 to 4 weeks, strain the manzanita out of the witch hazel; compost the manzanita. Add honey to the liquid and mix thoroughly.

4. Now pour this liquid into spritzer bottles, label, and use as often as needed.

Yield: About 1 cup

Show 8 footnotes

  1. Bryant, P.J. Toxicodendron Diversilobum. http://nathistoc.bio.uci.edu/Plants%20of%20Upper%20Newport%20Bay%20(Robert%20De%20Ruff)/Anacardiaceae/Toxicodendron%20diversilobum.htm
  2.  Knutdson, P. M. (1977). Wintun Indians of California and their neighbors. Naturegraph.
  3.  Sierra High Adventure Team. (July 15, 2011). Poison Oak. http://www.bsahighadventure.org/camping/poison_oak.html
  4.  Durben, R. The Manzanita Report. http://www.livingwild.org/summer-blog-posts/the-manzanita-report/
  5.  Hoffman, D. (2003). Medicinal Herbalism the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press.
  6.  Hoffman, D. (2003). Medicinal Herbalism the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press.
  7. Geiling, N. (August 22, 2013). The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/the-science-behind-honeys-eternal-shelf-life-1218690/
  8. Mandal, S., & Mandal, M. D. (April 2011). Honey: its medicinal property and antibacterial activity. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3609166/

Which herbs & remedies should you always stock in your kitchen?

1 comment
  1. Too late for me. I had a horribl

    e case of poison ivy on my broken wrist. Both occurred the same incident

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