Do You Know This “Weed”?

Jewelweed: photo: Brandeis University

Here’s HerbDoc with a  fascinating use for one of our most common wild plants:

Botanically known as Impatiens aurea, Jewelweed is a member of the genus Impatiens and is widely distributed throughout New England.  It’s actually listed as a wildflower and not a weed per se, and the succulent, annual plants are tall and branching with swollen joints. The stems are somewhat translucent, and the leaves are thin, ovate and spring green in color.  The flowers are slipper shaped and orange, and the plants bloom from July to September.  These plants are often called Touch-me-nots because the ripening seed capsules explode upon the slightest touch, and old-timers say that they will be found in damp, rather fertile soil usually in the same area as poison ivy.

This wildflower is said to contain tannin which makes it very useful for application to the skin.  It’s a wonderful preventive and remedy for poison ivy.  Simply cut the entire plant at ground level and roll it back and forth to release the green juice; then rub the juice over the affected skin.  It is said that if you know you’re going to be working where poison ivy is present and if you apply the Jewelweed first, that it will prevent the rash from occurring.  I can only attest to using Jewelweed after the fact; after a few applications, the rash disappears.  When my children were small, I often boiled several plants, let them steep into a tea and froze the juice into ice cubes.  I found this was useful for treating and cooling the itchy poison ivy rashes.

In addition to being a great medicinal herb, Jewelweed is beloved by hummingbirds and offers them a source of nectar when other flowers have disappeared from the garden.

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About dirtynailz

Writer for a daily newspaper, gardener, tree hugger, orchid-grower, photographer, animal lover, hiker, wilderness seeker. Proponent of clover in the lawn and a dog on the bed.
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6 Responses to Do You Know This “Weed”?

  1. Wendy says:

    I love your idea of freezing the steeped juice of these plants. Hopefully I’ll never get poison ivy again b/c the time I had it was a horrendous case.

    Pretty flower on this guy too!

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  2. HerbDoc says:

    It really is a pretty flower, and I let some come up in my herb garden every year. Like you I had one very, very bad case of poison ivy as a child after blueberrying in the woods. I was covered in the stuff from head to toe! I think my immune system kicked in after that because I seem to be able to walk through it without harm, but at least two of my sons get awful cases by just being in the vicinity hence the use of the jewelweed ice cubes! The nice part about freezing it is that you’ll have a remedy in early spring before the jewelweed seedlings appear.

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  3. mike brennan says:

    Before I knew the name of this wonderful wild flower, I thought the blooms look like very small nasturtiums. As this flower is throughout our local forest, I ate some of the blooms. Later I was advised not to eat things from the forest, but I had no ill effects. Are the leaves edible? I’ve put some of this plant in my back yard and it does seem to multiply, so I’d love to make good use of the plants that I pull out to control it.

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  4. HerbDoc says:

    The advice not to eat plants either in the forest or growing as weeds in your yard is excellent, Mike. Many which look edible are indeed toxic to some degree. My only experience with jewelweed is as a medicinal, but my books indicate that small young shoots no larger than 6 inches may be boiled twice for 10-15 minutes and then eaten. Doesn’t sound very appetizing to me, and I imagine it would be pretty mushy by that point. Under no circumstances should you drink the water that you use to cook the greens; use that for the poison ivy remedy ice cubes!

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  5. Penny says:

    Does this plant have a red root?

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    • dirtynailz says:

      Yes, the roots are red.
      I have a bumper crop this year, and I was going to yank them out, but then I saw how much the hummingbirds and bees were into pollinating them, so I relented – for now, anyway.

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