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The effectiveness of jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, the related cultivar I. balsamina and the component, lawsone in preventing post poison ivy exposure contact dermatitis

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Impatiens capensis (jewelweed) is native to the Eastern and Midwestern US and Canada. Many Native American tribes used I. capensis and its close relatives to treat/prevent rash from plant sources particularly Toxicodendron radicans and Urtica dioica. I. balsamina (garden balsam) a native of China was used by the indigenous people of Asia for similar purposes. This study aims to validate ethnopharmacological use of jewelweed in poison ivy (PI) dermatitis prevention and to refute scientific papers denying this efficacy. Additionally, the content of lawsone, the purported effective agent in jewelweed preparations, was measured to see if its concentration correlated with jewelweed preparation efficacy. Poison ivy was brushed onto forearms of volunteers in 6 locations and exposed areas were treated with jewelweed extracts, fresh plant mashes, soaps made of plant extracts, water and Dawn® dish soap. Rash development was scored on a scale of 0-14. Jewelweed mash was effective in reducing poison ivy dermatitis, supporting ethnobotanical use. However, jewelweed extracts were not effective; and soaps made of these extracts were effective but no more so than jewelweed-free soaps. Lawsone content varied with harvest season and did not appear to affect rash development. Jewelweed is an efficacious plant for preventing development of dermatitis following poison ivy contact, but soap is more effective. Lawsone content does not correlate with PI rash prevention. Perhaps saponins, the soapy component of jewelweed are the effective agents.
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The effectiveness of jewelweed, Impatiens capensis, the related cultivar
I. balsamina and the component, lawsone in preventing post poison ivy
exposure contact dermatitis
Vicki Abrams Motz
a,
n
, Christopher P. Bowers
b
, Linda Mull Young
a
, David H. Kinder
c
a
Department of Biological and Allied Health Sciences, Ohio Northern University, 525 South Main Street Ada, OH 45810, USA
b
Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, Ohio Northern University, 525 South Main Street Ada, OH 45810, USA
c
College of Pharmacy, Ohio Northern University, 525 South Main Street Ada, OH 45810, USA
article info
Article history:
Received 21 February 2012
Received in revised form
27 May 2012
Accepted 11 June 2012
Available online 3 July 2012
Keywords:
Impatiens capensis
Impatiens balsamina
Jewelweed
Poison ivy dermatitis
Cherokee ethnomedicine
Lawsone
abstract
Ethnopharmacological relevance: Impatiens capensis (jewelweed) is native to the Eastern and Midwes-
tern US and Canada. Many Native American tribes used I. capensis and its close relatives to treat/prevent
rash from plant sources particularly Toxicodendron radicans and Urtica dioica. I. balsamina (garden
balsam) a native of China was used by the indigenous people of Asia for similar purposes.
Aim of study: This study aims to validate ethnopharmacological use of jewelweed in poison ivy (PI)
dermatitis prevention and to refute scientific papers denying this efficacy. Additionally, the content of
lawsone, the purported effective agent in jewelweed preparations, was measured to see if its
concentration correlated with jewelweed preparation efficacy.
Material and methods: Poison ivy was brushed onto forearms of volunteers in 6 locations and exposed
areas were treated with jewelweed extracts, fresh plant mashes, soaps made of plant extracts, water
and Dawnsdish soap. Rash development was scored on a scale of 0–14.
Results: Jewelweed mash was effective in reducing poison ivy dermatitis, supporting ethnobotanical
use. However, jewelweed extracts were not effective; and soaps made of these extracts were effective
but no more so than jewelweed-free soaps. Lawsone content varied with harvest season and did not
appear to affect rash development.
Conclusion: Jewelweed is an efficacious plant for preventing development of dermatitis following
poison ivy contact, but soap is more effective. Lawsone content does not correlate with PI rash
prevention. Perhaps saponins, the soapy component of jewelweed are the effective agents.
&2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction
Extensive ethnobotanical evidence supports the efficacy of
jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) in preventing urushiol-induced
dermatitis as a result of contact with poison ivy (Toxicodendron
radicans aka Rhus toxicodendron). Jewelweed is a tender, succulent
herb, commonly found at wet woodland borders, shaded river-
banks and roadside ditches; the same locations preferred by the
poison ivy (PI) plant (Foster and Duke, 1990). It is a self-seeding
annual which grows to a height of 2–5 ft and produces orange
(I. capensis aka I. biflora) or yellow (I. pallida) flowers with a bell-
shaped corolla and a tail-like spur, from June through September
(Henn, 2008). The closely related garden balsam, Impatiens
balsamina, is also a self-seeding annual, which is native to China
and India; it grows to a height of 2.5 ft and produces pink to
purple axillary flowers on short pedicels (Ellis, 2000).
Historically, the Native American I. capensis has been used to
treat hives and rashes caused by other plants (poison ivy, stinging
nettles (Henn, 2008)) and to prevent poison ivy rash by rubbing it
on the skin prior to known exposure or immediately after coming
in contact with poison ivy (Foster and Duke, 1990,Lewis and
Elvin-Lewis, 1977). The Southern Cherokee used I. capensis to
treat PI rash (Garrett, 2003;Hamel and Chiltoskey, 1975) and itch,
insect bites, plant stings, (Garrett, 2003) and hives (Hamel and
Chiltoskey, 1975). The Potawatomi used a fresh juice of I. capensis
to treat nettle stings or poison ivy rash (Smith, 1933) and it was
similarly used by the Chippewa (Gilmore, 1933), Meskwaki
(Smith, 1928), and Omaha (Gilmore, 1919) who called it ‘‘zhi
hin nonxe thionbaba’’ which means plant like shiny glass
(teacherweb). In Japan, the juice from the Impatiens spp. flowers
is used to stop itching (Ishiguro and Oku, 1997;Oku and Ishiguro,
2002). Chinese herbal medicine uses the aerial parts to treat pain
and swelling, and as an antimicrobial agent (Ishiguro et al., 2000;
Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jep
Journal of Ethnopharmacology
0378-8741/$ - see front matter &2012 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2012.06.038
n
Corresponding author. Tel.: þ1 419 772 2063; fax: þ1 419 772 2330.
E-mail addresses: v-motz@onu.edu (V. Abrams Motz),
c-bowers@onu.edu (C.P. Bowers), l-young@onu.edu (L. Mull Young),
d-kinder@onu.edu (D.H. Kinder).
Journal of Ethnopharmacology 143 (2012) 314–318
Oku and Ishiguro, 2002;Yang et al., 2001). The historical multi-
cultural use of I. capensis in treating plant-induced dermatitis,
leads many modern day herbalists to recommend rubbing any
area which comes in contact with poison ivy with a crushed
jewelweed plant (Duke, 1999;Robbers and Tyler, 1998). Com-
mercial, jewelweed-containing products are widely available over
the counter and are marketed as effective PI dermatitis remedies.
Walgreensspoison ivy soap lists jewelweed as an active ingre-
dient as does Burts’ Bees poison ivy soap; and myriad small herbal
companies offer jewelweed soaps and creams as poison ivy cures.
Contraindications have not been identified when used topically
(Peirce et al., 1999) although internal use as a tea can cause
digestive upset and consumption of whole plant induces vomiting
and acts as a diuretic (Lipton, 1958).
Poison ivy dermatitis has been documented in the US since the
1600s (Armstrong and Epstein, 1995) and is responsible for more
cases of allergic contact dermatitis than all other plants com-
bined. Toxicodendron radicans produces urushiol, a mixture of
catechols (Armstrong and Epstein, 1995) to which 50–70% of the
population develops sensitivity. The level of sensitivity is highly
variable with some individuals requiring massive exposure to
urushiol and others experiencing a full blown allergic response
(various combinations of scaling, vesiculation, fissuring, and
weeping) to minute amounts (Pray, 2007). Epstein et al. (1974)
determined that a 50
m
g purified urushiol exposure will elicit a
rash in 80–90% of adults. Furthermore, the onset of symptoms can
appear in as few as 4 h or as many as 10 days after exposure
(Aocd.org/skin, 2012).
Efforts to quantify jewelweed’s ability to reduce urushiol-
induced dermatitis are few and have taken varied approaches
which led Senchina (2005) to conclude that jewelweed does not
work. Similarly, small studies using human subjects (Guin and
Reynolds, 1980;Long et al., 1997) and guinea pigs (Gibson and
Maher, 1950) have found the ‘‘juice’’ of aerial parts to be
ineffective in reducing the poison ivy rash. However, human
subjects reported it relieved itching (Long et al., 1997). Other
investigators report contradictory results. Two compounds found
in ethanol extracts of the flowers of I. balsamina relieved itching in
mice (Oku and Ishiguro, 2002) and jewelweed flowers demon-
strate a weak antihistamine effect in the murine system (Ishiguro
and Fukumoto, 1997). Lipton (1958), using whole plants, found
jewelweed treatment to be comparable to steroid treatment,
effectively clearing poison ivy symptoms in 2–3 days. Jewelweed
has been prepared as a glycerin or aqueous extract, and used to
produce sprays, soaps and creams. United States Patent 5888515
was issued to Brian Albert in 1999 (Albert, 1999) for a poison ivy
remedy; a mixture which was predominantly jewelweed to which
plantain and oatmeal were added.
The methods of exposure to poison ivy employed in these
studies were varied and include direct exposure to urushiol (Long
et al., 1997), constant exposure to poison ivy leaves for 15 min
(Zink et al., 1991) and exposure to mixtures of poison ivy and
jewelweed extracts (Gibson and Maher, 1950) none of which is an
accurate representation of normal poison ivy exposure. The
treatment options have also been varied; some studies have
examined the ability of the Impatiens family plants to treat an
existing inflammation while others have attempted to prophyl-
lactically prevent poison ivy rash by treating an area with jewel-
weed prior to poison ivy exposure (Guin and Reynolds, 1980;
Long et al., 1997). This study revisits the use of the Impatiens
family plants and soaps derived from them in an attempt to
emulate the successful experience of Native Americans and
modern herbalists who use these plants to prevent dermatitis
after brushing against a poison ivy plant.
Jewelweed flowers contain kaempferol, quercetin and lawsone
(Oku and Ishiguro, 2002) and other aerial parts contain phenolics,
flavonols, anthocyanins, quinones, saponins (Yang et al., 2001)
and impatienol (Ishiguro et al., 2000;Oku and Ishiguro, 2002).
The seeds of I. capensis contain antimicrobial peptides (Yang et al.,
2001) and saponins (Shoji et al., 1994) and the seeds of
I. balsamina have cysteine-rich compounds with antimicrobial
and antifungal properties (Tailor et al., 1997). Lawsone
(2-hydroxy-1, 4-naphthoquinone) was also identified in the roots
(Panichayupakaranant et al., 1995; see Fig. 1); it has been used to
treat fungal infections and exhibits antioxidant, immunomodula-
tory and antimicrobial properties (Ganora, 2009). The napthoqui-
none salts, including lawsone and its derivatives have been
shown to be COX-2 inhibitors, which may help to reduce the
pain and swelling (Oku and Ishiguro, 2002) typical of a poison ivy
response. In prevention of poison ivy dermatitis, lawsone is
purported by Rosen of Rutgers University to work by binding to
the same site as the urushiol oil, suggesting a competitive binding
mechanism to inhibit hypersensitivity (Duke, 1999). This study
targeted lawsone effectiveness as a prophylactic agent in the
prevention of PI dermatitis by assessing correlation of lawsone
dose with symptom development. The impact of lawsone as the
chemical mediator of this response was determined. Key to this
investigation was a realistic simulation of PI exposure. Conse-
quently, we were able to replicate the successful results of Native
Americans and subsequent herbalists in using jewelweed to
reduce PI dermatitis.
2. Methods
This Institutional Review Board (IRB) approved study exam-
ined both the native I. capensis and the alien I. balsamina to
determine their lawsone content and ascertain the validity of
anecdotal reports of jewelweed’s ability to prevent poison ivy
contact dermatitis. Fresh plant material, as well as aqueous,
ethanolic and olive oil extracts of fresh, frozen or dried plants
and a steam distillate of I. capensis were analyzed. Reversed phase
HPLC analyses for the determination of lawsone were carried out
with an Agilent 1100 equipped with a UV–vis diode array
detector. The detection wavelength was 278 nm. The separations
were performed at room temperature using a Zorbax Eclipse Plus
C18 column (2.1 50 mm
2
, 3.5
m
m particle size) in an isocratic
mode using a solvent system of 25% methanol and 75% 0.1 M
acetic acid. The flow rate was 0.500 ml/min with an injection size
of 10
m
l.
Fresh plant mash was prepared by chopping whole plants in a
blender until a stringy, thickened pulp formed. Aqueous and olive
oil extracts of I. capensis and I. balsamina mashes were cold
infused in glass jars by blending 250.00 g fresh plant pulp with
500 ml of distilled water or 500 ml olive oil, respectively. After
one week, the infusions were filtered, and both aqueous and oil
extracts were used in soap preparation. To prepare soap, 60 g of
NaOH was added to 150 ml of the aqueous infusion, and set aside
to cool to 38 1C/ 110 1F. In a glass pot, 100 ml grapeseed oil and
200 ml coconut oil were warmed to 38 1C/110 1F. Once both
preparations were at 38 1C/110 1F, the aqueous extract was
Fig. 1. Lawsone structure.
V. Abrams Motz et al. / Journal of Ethnopharmacology 143 (2012) 314–318 315
poured slowly into the warm oils and stirred continuously until
soap mixture drizzled across the top of the mixture left a ‘‘trace’’.
At this point, 150 ml of the plant infused olive oil extract was
added. Stirring was continued to bring back to trace and to obtain
a homogeneous mixture. The finished soap mixture was poured
into a 6 8 in. mold, covered with a towel and set aside to harden.
After 48 h it was cut into blocks of soap.
Efficacy in preventing poison ivy dermatitis was evaluated for
the fresh mash of each Impatiens species, cold infused extracts
and soaps made from these extracts. Comparators used were:
single wash with distilled water, double wash with distilled
water, a solution of lawsone equivalent to the concentration in
the I. capensis infusion, and Dawnsdish soap. The volar forearm
surfaces of 40 volunteer subjects, aged 18–65, were examined and
determined to be free of prior inflammation. Forearms were then
washed with tap water and patted dry with a cotton towel. Three
22cm
2
squares were drawn on each arm with permanent
marker. Fresh poison ivy leaves were attached to an applicator
stick and gently rubbed on a metal grater to ensure exposure to
urushiol. The marked areas of the forearms were exposed to PI by
stroking an ivy covered swab five times in the same direction
within each square. This was thought to be a much more realistic
exposure than those used by Long et al. (1997) or Zink et al.
(1991). After 2 min each area was wiped with distilled water to
remove any remaining poison ivy. The six areas were then treated
using one of two similar protocols. Protocol one (N¼25) treated
squares with (1) single water wash, (2) double water wash, (3)
fresh I. capensis mash, (4) I. capensis aqueous infusion, (5) lawsone
solution containing 154.5
m
g/ml (equivalent to the fresh I. capen-
sis extract) and (6) jewelweed soap (see endnotes); according to a
previously assigned, randomized sequence. Protocol 2 (N¼15)
treated PI exposed squares with: (1) single water wash, (2) I.
balsamina extract, (3) I. balsamina mash, (4) I. balsamina soap, (5)
I. capensis soap, and (6) Dawn
s
dish soap. Each test substance was
applied with standard cotton-tipped applicators which had been
saturated with the treatment. Five one-way strokes across the
application area perpendicular to the application of PI were made,
wiped with a cotton swab and the areas bandaged with gauze
squares for 48 h. Results were read on a scale of 0–14 (adapted
from Zink et al., 1991) as described in Table 1 at 24, 48, and 96 h
and 7 days (protocol 1) and 96 h, 7 days and 10 days (protocol 2 ).
3. Results
A filtrate of mashed I. capensis harvested toward the end of its
growing season yielded 213
m
g lawsone/g plant material (see
Fig. 2) and 381
m
g lawsone/g plant material from the root and
aerial parts (hypocotyls and epicotyls), respectively compared
with 744
m
g lawsone/g plant material, from the mash of whole
I. balsamina, midseason and 84
m
g lawsone/g plant material at the
end of its season. Aqueous cold infusions of fresh plants had
greatest lawsone content (745
m
g lawsone/g plant material for
I. balsamina and 750
m
g lawsone/g plant material for I. capensis).
The yield of lawsone per gram of plant material was greatly
reduced if extracts were made from frozen or dried plants or if
extractions were made in alcohol or olive oil. Soap made of our
extracts contained 113
m
g lawsone/g of I. capensis soap and
111
m
g lawsone/g I. balsamina soap.
Approximately half of the study participants failed to develop
any significant poison ivy dermatitis during the course of the
study. Rash developed in 15 of 25 participants in the first protocol
and 7 of 15 participants in the second protocol with a median
value of 10 on the rash development score. Data were analyzed on
day 7 (both protocols) for only those people who developed a
poison ivy rash and did not have an allergic reaction to lawsone or
Table 1
Scoring scale for rash development in response to
poison ivy exposure.
0 no reaction
1 redness
2 1–3 papules
3 4–8 papules
448 papules but not continuous
5 continuous covering 0–10% of area
6 continuous covering 11–20% of area
7 continuous covering 21–30% of area
8 continuous covering 31–40% of area
9 continuous covering 41–50% of area
10 continuous covering 51–60% of area
11 continuous covering 61–70% of area
12 continuous covering 71–80% of area
13 continuous covering 81–90% of area
14 continuous covering 91–100% of area
0 100 200 300 400 500 600 700 800
I. capensis aqueous extract
I. capensis olive oil extract
I. capensis in 95% ethanol
I. capensis neutral decoction
I. capensis basic decoction
I. capensis olive oil extract
I. capensis neutral decoction
I. capensis basic decoction
I. capensis aqueous extract
I. capensis in 95% ethanol
I. capensis olive oil extraction
I. balsamina olive oil extraction
I. capensis basic decoction
I. capensis neutral decoction
I. capensis 95% ethanol extraction
mash whole I. balsamina end of season
mash hypocotyl/roots I. capensis end season
mash of aerial parts I. capensis end season
mash whole I. balsamina mid season
I. balsamina aqueous extract
I. capensis aqueous extract
Fig. 2. Lawsone content of preparations in
m
g lawsone/g plant material as measured by reversed phase HPLC. Black bars represent fresh material, dark gray: frozen
material and light stippled gray: dried material.
V. Abrams Motz et al. / Journal of Ethnopharmacology 143 (2012) 314–318316
the soaps (determined by lawsone rash, extract rash, or soap rash
appreciably worse than the poison ivy control). Of the twelve
individuals who developed poison ivy dermatitis with no other
allergic response, 11 had a lesser rash in those areas treated with
plant mash of either Impatiens spp. Thus we can say with a 95%
confidence interval that jewelweed mash is effective in decreas-
ing the development of urushiol-induced contact dermatitis. We
rejected the null hypothesis that there was no difference between
treatment groups by ANOVA. Each set of data was analyzed via
paired t-test against its own control. The control (water only)
averaged 9.3 on the scale of rash development (see Fig. 3); and no
significant difference was seen between a single rinse of distilled
water and a double rinse.
The I. capensis and I. balsamina extracts averaged a rash
development score of 6.7; this represented 71.5% of the control,
thus rash development was decreased (but not significantly) from
the distilled water control (see Fig. 4). The lawsone solution had a
rash development score of 7.0 and was not significantly lower
than the control score. However, I. balsamina mash significantly
differed from the control with average rash development for the
mash treated areas reaching only 50% of the control levels.
Furthermore, there was no significant difference between the
two mash preparations which averaged a rash development score
of 4.7 or any of the three soap preparations with a mean rash
development score of 3.1 (see Fig. 4).
4. Discussion
Although we hoped more subjects would develop a full blown
poison ivy rash, dermatitis rate was consistent with Armstrong
and Epstein’s (1995) estimate of 50–70% of the population
developing poison ivy sensitivity. We also agree with Zink et al.
(1991) and Long et al. (1997) in finding that Impatiens extracts
were ineffective in preventing the development of PI dermatitis.
However, the plant mash was effective, as were washing with a
0
100
200
300
400
500
600
700
800
0.0
2.0
4.0
6.0
8.0
10.0
12.0
Lawsone content in µg/g
plant material
Rash development on a scale
of 0-14 +/-SE
Rash Development and Lawsone Content
*
*
*
*
Fig. 3. Rash development score and Lawsone content. Rash development (bars) on a scale of 0–14 (left axis); *indicates significant diminution of rash. Lawsone (curve) in
m
g lawsone per gram of plant material (right axis).
100
71.5
50
33
0
10
20
30
40
50
60
70
80
90
100
water control Impatiens extracts Impatiens mashes Impatiens soaps
% Rash Development
*
*
Fig. 4. Percent of maximum rash developed.
*
indicates significant diminution of rash.
V. Abrams Motz et al. / Journal of Ethnopharmacology 143 (2012) 314–318 317
soap made from jewelweed extracts and Dawn
s
dish liquid. In
that there is no difference between either of the Impatiens soaps
and the Dawn
s
dish liquid, it is likely that the efficacy of the
soaps is due to their amphipathic nature permitting binding and
removal of urushiol rather than to any effect of their lawsone
content. Similarly, the mash is effective in dermatitis prevention;
however, this also appears not to be associated with the lawsone
content of the jewelweed. It seems likely that the water content
of the plant is serving to wash away the urushiol, possibly
enhanced by the natural saponins, and the plant material is acting
as an abrasive improving the scrubbing action. This is in keeping
with the findings of Stibich et al. (2000) who observed that the
soap products they tested (Dial
s
, Technu
s
and Goop
s
) were
equally significantly effective, averaging 62.73% reduction in rash,
compared to our soaps 67% reduction in rash developed. It is
interesting to note that Native Americans used plant saponins,
such as those derived from Yucca plants in the southwestern USA
(Vestal, 1952) as ‘‘soap’’, but we have no evidence that they used
plant saponins to wash off poison ivy exposed skin.
It is possible that the time frame is the culprit in the failure of
jewelweed to prevent poison ivy rash in many studies. Zink et al.
(1991) applied poison ivy to the test site for a full 15 min prior to
treating with jewelweed extract, an experimental exposure time
far exceeding normal contact time, which possibly resulted in
urushiol binding which could not be counteracted by delayed
jewelweed treatment. Another potential factor in jewelweed
failure to prevent PI dermatitis may be the point in the season
during which the Impatiens spp. were harvested. Although we
noted no significant decrease in rash development with lawsone
application, we did discover its content to be considerably higher
in midseason flowering plants than those harvested at the end of
the season. If urushiol-lawsone competition mediates this der-
matitis, then variable lawsone concentrations due to jewelweed
harvest times could explain the inconsistent results in other
studies. Further investigation is necessary to potentially correlate
lawsone content with growing season to standardize our protocol
for future experiments.
Based on our findings, it is clear that jewelweed can effectively
prevent rash development or decrease its severity. This is con-
sistent with the Native American use of the plant in treating skin
exposed to poison ivy. Soap and water was more effective in
preventing the formation of the contact dermatitis in this study;
however, ancestral peoples would not have had access to soap in
early days of their habitation in the Americas, making jewelweed
an important medicinal plant.
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... Impatienol also exhibited significant testosterone 5a-reductase inhibitory activity to prevent the development of prostate cancer (Ishiguro et al., 2000). The saponin components of the plant extract were likely to be effective in reducing poison ivy dermatitis (Abrams Motz et al., 2012). ...
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The new third edition of the Foster and Duke Field Guide to Medicinal Plants has been expanded to include 60 new species not found in previous editions. The book includes 531 species accounts with information on 588 medicinal plant species. With 705 color photographs by Steven Foster, over 88% of the images are new. Over 66% of the plants in the book are native species, while 33% represent non-native, mostly European and Asian aliens.
Background: Jewelweed(Impatiens biflora)is a plant which has been used for centuries for the treatment of poison ivy/oak allergic contact dermatitis. Numerous claims for its effectiveness exist in the lay press, and over-the-counter medicaments containing jewelweed are reputed to be an effective remedy for poison ivy/oak dermatitis. Despite these claims, few scientific studies testing the effectiveness of jewelweed have been performed. Objective: Our objective in this pilot study was to test the efficacy of an extract of jewelweed in the treatment of experimentally induced allergic contact dermatitis to poison ivy/oak. Methods: A randomized, double-blinded, paired comparison investigation was performed. Ten adult volunteers were patch tested to urushiol, the allergenic resin in poison ivy/oak. For each volunteer, one patch test site was treated with an extract prepared from the fresh stems of jewelweed; the remaining site was treated with distilled water to serve as a control. Sites were examined on days 2, 3, 7, and 9 with reactions graded on a numerical scale. Results: All subjects developed dermatitis at each patch test site. There was no statistically significant difference in the objective scores at the sites treated with jewelweed extract versus the distilled water control sites. Conclusion: This study demonstrated that an extract of jewelweed was not effective in the treatment of poison ivy/oak allergic contact dermatitis.
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Poison ivy is well known for the painful, sometimes long-lasting lesions it may afflict on sensitive individuals. The plant, a member of the family Anacardiaceae, is known by several Latin binomials in the scientific and botanical literature: Toxicodendron radicans (L.) Kuntze, T. rydbergii (Small ex Rydb.) Greene, and Rhus radicans (L.). A bewildering number of herbal remedies, which vary widely in efficacy, are suggested by both the popular and scientific literature for treating poison ivy dermatitis (hereafter Toxicodendron dermatitis, TD). This critical review summarizes the existing medical data relating to the capability of these plants to heal inflammatory skin disorders such as TD. Due largely to a lack of research, many remedies have scientifically unproven efficacy, such as gumweed (Grindelia spp. Willd., Asteraceae). Other recommended remedies have scientifically disproven efficacy. An especially poignant example is jewelweed (Impatiens capensis Meerb. and I. pallida Nutt., Balsaminaceae), perhaps the most popular traditional herbal remedy for treating TD, which has been discredited by a number of studies. Though these findings may at first seem disheartening, there are several herbal remedies that have demonstrated efficacy in treating inflammatory skin conditions similar to TD. Among this category are echinacea, aka purple coneflower (Echinacea spp. Moench, Asteraceae) and witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L., Hamamelidaceae). Continuing research in the field will likely expand this list in upcoming years.