BOTANICAL NAME: Impatiens capensis synonym Impatiens biflora, and Impatiens pallida
COMMON NAME(S): Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-Me-Not, Pale Touch-Me-Not
PARTS USED: Leaves, stems
ENERGETICS AND TASTE:
ACTIONS AND PROPERTIES: Jewelweed is anti-inflammatory, antihistamine and antifungal. Jewelweed reduces inflammation and itching, combats skin allergic reactions including rashes and hives, and treats fungal infections of the skin (Duke, Brill, Thieret, Meuninck). Jewelweed is antidote (PFAF Plant Database).
CONSTITUENTS: Jewelweed contains 2 methoxy-1, 4 naphthoquinone—an anti-inflammatory and fungicide that’s an active ingredient of Preparation H (used for hemorrhoids) (Brill). A component in the leaves, lawsone, explains reported antihistamine and anti-inflammatory activities. Lawsone binds to the same molecular sites on the skin as urushiol, the oil on Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac. If applied quickly after contact with a poison palnt, lawsone beats the urushiol to those sites, in effect locking it out so you don’t get the rash (Duke).
DESCRIPTION: There are two species of Jewelweed with identical medicinal properties: Spotted Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens capensis) and Pale Touch-Me-Not (Impatiens pallida). The flowers of Spotted Touch-Me-Not appear orange and spotted, with red, yellow, or white spots, whereas the flowers of Pale Touch-Me- are yellow with reddish spots (Brill, Duke). Spotted Touch-Me-Not has 1-inch flowers while Pale Touch-Me-Not has 1.5 inch flowers, and Spotted Touch-Me-Not is 2-5 feet while Pale Touch-Me-Not is 3-6 feet. Jewelweed in general is usually 3-5 feet. Jewelweed flowers from July to October; some say Jewelweed begins flowering as early as June. Both species of Jewelweed are tall and leafy, with succulent semi-transparent stems. The emerald green leaves are oval and may appear almost smooth or very slightly lobed at the edges, but really are very finely toothed (Thieret, Peterson).
HABITAT: Jewelweed is found in wet, shady, or partially sunny areas; Jewelweed favors partial shade. Jewelweed is found in limestone (basic) or neutral soils, often on mountainsides (Duke, Peterson, Thieret). You can find Jewelweed in wetlands, woods, meadows, lowlands, fens, swamps, and floodplains, and along the edges of streams, ponds, lakes, springs, floodplains, and bogs (Duke, Brill, Thieret). The main thing to remember is that Jewelweed needs moisture, and is usually found growing right next to or almost in water (Lewis, Herb FAQ). You can grow or find Jewelweed in woodland gardens with sunny edges, in dappled shade, and in bog gardens. Jewelweed avoids acid soils, is usually found on calcareous soils, and is capable of growing in semi-shade or no shade (PFAF Plant Database). Jewelweed can often be found growing near stinging nettles or Poison Ivy (Brill, Herb FAQ, Elias, Meuninck). Jewelweed grows well in heavy clay soils, but prefers a moist well-drained humus rich soil in a cool shady site. Plants self-sow in areas where minimum winter temperatures go no lower than -15 degrees Celsius or 5 degrees Fahrenheit; Jewelweed is hardy to about -5 degrees Celsius or 23 degrees Fahrenheit. Jewelweed is supposedly capable of succeeding in any reasonably good soil (PFAF Plant Database).
Location: See Habitat
Propagation: Jewelweed is an annual that often occurs in dense stands (Thieret, Meuninck). To plant, gather Jewelweed seeds in fall and spread in a low-lying area of your garden (Meuninck). The seed capsules are sensitive to touch and will explode when touched, making seed collection difficult but fun. To grow from seed, sow in spring in a greenhouse. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer (PFAF Plant Database). For more information on where to plant, see Habitat. Jewelweed is aggressive and will spread. Jewelweed can be grown together with stinging nettle (Meuninck). Jewelweed flowers from July through October, sometimes starting as early as June. In the wild, Pale Touch-Me-Not is less common than Spotted Touch-Me-Not (Thieret). Jewelweed grows from 2 to 6 feet tall, but is mostly between 3 and 5 feet tall (Thieret, Brill, Peterson). The water-repellant leaves are 1 to 4 ½ inches long. You can find Jewelweed growing in the wild from early spring through fall (Brill). Jewelweed grows rapidly in ideal environs, but usually doesn't reach significant size until mid-summer (Herb FAQ). For more information on Jewelweed growing conditions and habitat, see Habitat.
Pests and Pollinators: Jewelweed provides good cover and nesting sites for field sparrows (Meuninck). Bees and butterflies are important pollinators and this species is especially adapted to hummingbird visitation (Thieret, PFAF Plant Database). Hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths pollinate the flowers (Brill). The plant is also self-pollinating (Brill, PFAF Plant Database). Deer will eat Jewelweed (Runyon). Horses will not eat Jewelweed (Lewis).
Harvesting: You can find Jewelweed growing in the wild from early spring through fall (Brill). Jewelweed grows rapidly in ideal environs, but usually doesn't reach significant size until mid-summer. Gather the leaves and stems. Take only the top third of plants well before flowering (Jewelweed begins flowering in June or July), thereby giving the plants a chance to flowers and produce seeds. Or, since Jewelweed grows in dense clumps, “thin” the Jewelweed patch by selectively harvesting only a few plants. Jewelweed is an annual so if you take the entire plant, it will not grow back next year. Use Jewelweed immediately after harvesting, as in hot, sunny weather it will wilt and lose its juiciness within five to ten minutes. Jewelweed juice and Jewelweed tea or decoction spoil rapidly at room temperature, so refrigerate as soon as possible. One large four-foot plant should provide enough juice for the largest rash on one person (Herb FAQ, Lewis).
Storing: You can store Jewelweed for quick access and to be able to access the plant’s medicinal qualities in the winter and early spring when Jewelweed is not growing. Store Jewelweed as a fresh plant in the refrigerator or freezer (Lewis). If you refrigerate immediately after harvesting, the fresh plant lasts up to a week in a sealed container in the refrigerator (Brill). You can boil Jewelweed or make a tea of Jewelweed, strain OR squeeze out the juice from the leaves and the stems and store this skin wash/juice in the refrigerator for up to a week, or freeze it in ice cube trays for months (Lewis). You can make Jewelweed into an ointment or oil infusion—refrigerated, Jewelweed ointment will last for months (Brill). Some people tincture Jewelweed in alcohol, but this is not recommended (see Contraindication/Cautions). Steve “Wildman” Brill has soaked fresh Jewelweed in commercial witch hazel extract for a few weeks, and the extract of the two herbs works well and doesn’t perish.
SOLUBILITY: Jewelweed is soluble in water, oil, fat, and alcohol (Brill, Brown, Herb FAQ), though making or using an alcohol extract or tincture isn’t recommended (see Contraindication/Cautions).
PREPARATION AND DOSAGE:
Jewelweed Poultice: Pick Jewelweed and use right away. Fresh Jewelweed works best (Herb FAQ, Lewis). The crushed stems and leaves can be wiped onto the skin or poulticed to the affected area (Brown).
Jewelweed Juice: The juice from the stems and leaves can be squeezed out and applied to the skin (Lewis). One recipe recommends liquefying the plants in a blender at the highest speed possible. Filter the juice out through a cloth, common strainer, or fruit press. Use immediately or refrigerate—this stuff spoils rapidly at room temperature. Don’t refrigerate for more than 5 days without freezing. One large four-foot plant should be adequate for the largest rash on one person (Herb FAQ). Jewelweed juice can be stored in a jar or vial and refrigerated for a few days for quick access (Brown). Freeze the juice into ice cube trays to store long-term (Duke). Apply Jewelweed juice as ice cubes, with a paint brush, with cotton balls, whatever (Herb FAQ, Lewis). According to one source, “Apply the juice to the infected area with a common paint brush; I’ve found one to two inch size works best. Blow-dry the area as you apply it with a hair dryer on low heat… after several coats of 'paint,' an orange-colored "skin" will develop. This "skin" will protect uninfected areas against the poison ivy allergen” (Herb FAQ). The fresh juice can be used as a fungicide; the juice can be concentrated by boiling it (PFAF Plant Database).
Jewelweed Skin Wash: Jewelweed stems, with leaves still attached, can be boiled to make a skin wash. The stronger you want the medication, the more plant material you use. (Lewis). According to one recipe for Jewelweed skin wash: Take one or more parts Jewelweed and twenty parts water. Boil in non-metal container, add Jewelweed, boil for 15 minutes, strain and store in jar in fridge. Or pour boiling water into a pot full of A LOT of Jewelweed, and let it simmer for 30 minutes, then blend in a blender to extract additional juices, then strain (Herb FAQ). Use immediately, or freeze the skin wash in an ice cube tray to store. Apply the skin wash as ice cubes, with a paint brush, with cotton balls, or whatever (Lewis, Herb FAQ).
Jewelweed ointment: Mixing Jewelweed juice with tallow makes a good Poison-Ivy, Poison-Oak, or Poison-Sumac ointment for extremely itchy areas (Brown). You can also make Jewelweed ointment by simmering a small amount of Jewelweed in light vegetable oil (any vegetable oil except olive oil, which burns) ten to fifteen minutes. Use only a small handful of Jewelweed stems per quart of oil, or bubbles of Jewelweed juice will form in the ointment and go moldy. Strain out the herb, add a handful of beeswax to thicken it, and heat until melted. Take out a spoonful and let it cool to test the thickness, and add more oil or beeswax as needed. Add the contents of one oil-soluble Vitamin E capsule, a natural preservative, and let it cool. Refrigerated, it lasts for months (Brill). King’s American Dispensatory of 1898 recommends an ointment of the plants heated in lard to be applied on hemorrhoids (Angier).
Jewelweed tincture: Making or using a Jewelweed tincture or alcohol extract, taken internally or applied to the skin, is not recommended (see Contraindication/Cautions).
Jewelweed bee sting mud: Make mud for removing bee stingers by mixing Jewelweed juice with mud (Brown).
Combinations: For preparation and dosage information for combinations of Jewelweed and other plants, see Combinations.
In modern times, the whole herb is infused as an appetite stimulant and diuretic; naturopaths administer it to treat dyspepsia (acid indigestion). This treatment isn’t necessarily advisable because Jewelweed, as well as the water Jewelweed is boiled in, contain oxalate crystals that are toxic when ingested (Meuninck). Jewelweed is a scientifically proven antifungal (Duke, Thieret). A 1957 study by a physician found Jewelweed effective (in 2-3 days) in treating 108 of 115 patients suffering from Poison Ivy rash. A component in the leaves, lawsone, explains reported antihistamine and anti-inflammatory activities. Lawsone binds to the same molecular sites on the skin as urushiol, the oil on Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac. If applied quickly after contact with a poison palnt, lawsone beats the urushiol to those sites, in effect locking it out so you don’t get the rash. Lawsone is also an anti-stinging-nettle-hive treatment (Duke). Jewelweed contains an anti-inflammatory and fungicidal compound that’s an active ingredient of Preparation H (used for hemorrhoids) (Brill).
Using Jewelweed on Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac is a well-known folk remedy. Some folk swear by the leaf tea as a Poison Ivy rash preventative; others rub on frozen tea (in the form of ice cubes) as a remedy. Jewelweed poultice is a folk remedy for bruises, burns, cuts, eczema, insect bites, sores, sprains, warts, and ringworm (Duke, Brill). Jewelweed tea or decoction was drunk as a diuretic to treat edema or jaundice or kidney problems (Angier, PFAF Plant Database); however, using Jewelweed internally is not recommended (See Contraindication/Cautions).
PLANT SPIRIT/FLOWER ESSENCE/and/or HOMEOPATHIC INFORMATION:
COMBINATIONS: Make an insecticide by mixing Jewelweed juice fifty-fifty with the tannic acid boilings of cedar bark or another plant with a high tannic acid content; wiped on the legs, face, and arms, it seems to keep ticks away (Brown). Steve “Wildman” Brill has soaked fresh Jewelweed in commercial witch hazel extract for a few weeks, and the extract of the two herbs works well and doesn’t perish. The Creek Indians used a tea of smashed spicebush berries and Jewelweed as a bath for congestive heart failure (Meuninck). According to one source, “Take sweetfern, jewelweed, witch hazel, and rubbing alcohol. Blend in a blender until it's green and mushed, let it sit for two weeks, strain it, and viola—a marvelous liniment for Poison Ivy” (Herb FAQ). Note: making or using alcohol extracts of Jewelweed internally or externally is not recommended (see Contraindication/Cautions).
INDICATIONS (including specific):
Primary Uses: Jewelweed is the best treatment for Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, or Poison Sumac rash. Jewelweed is also used to treat Nettles sting. Jewelweed can be applied before the rash has appeared as a preventative, or as an after-the-fact treatment; the plant juices reduce itching and inflammation (Lewis, Meuninck). Finally, Jewelweed is a scientifically proven antifungal, used to treat fungus infections such as ringworm or athlete’s foot. (Duke, Thieret). A 1957 study by a physician found Jewelweed effective (in 2-3 days) in treating 108 of 115 patients suffering from Poison Ivy rash (Duke).
Secondary Uses: Use Jewelweed on all kinds of skin maladies, especially itchy ones. Wipe the fresh crushed stems and leaves onto affected areas from bee stings, insect stings, sunburn, abrasions, and blisters (Brown). Jewelweed juice is good for warts, bruises, minor burns, cuts, eczema/acne, sores, and skin irritation. Apply broken stem to fresh mosquito bites for 15 to 20 minutes to stop itching and make the bite disappear; or apply to relieve bee or wasp stings. For older bites, it works only temporarily (Brill). Apply Jewelweed squeezings to acne and blemishes with good results. Boil Jewelweed stems and leaves and use the water to clean out minor cuts and prevent infection when they can’t be washed with natural soap and water. Make an insecticide from Jewelweed juice (see Combinations). Make a mud for removing bee stingers using Jewelweed—not only does it soothe the sore and remove the stinger, but it cuts down on the burning (Brown). Jewelweed may even be helpful as a wash for skin inflammations on pets (Meuninck). Jewelweed juice and Jewelweed ointment have been used to treat hemorrhoids; Jewelweed contains a compound that is the active ingredient of Preparation H, a drug used for hemorrhoids (PFAF Plant Database, Brill, Angier). Jewelweed is used to treat hives (especially stinging-nettle-caused hives) because it contains a compound, lawsone, that is a first-rate remedy for hives, poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak, and nettles.
SYSTEMS/ORGANS/TISSUES: The skin
1) POISON IVY, NETTLES, RASHES, OR HIVES:
· Poison Ivy: The Indians treat already-developed poison-ivy rash by rubbing Jewelweed’s broken stem on the rash until it draws some blood. The rash then dries out, a scab forms, and healing occurs (Brill). Be careful! You don’t want to get Poison Ivy oil into the bloodstream! This can result in a nasty case of internal Poison Ivy (Lewis). The Cherokee rubbed Jewelweed on Poison Ivy. The Iroquois rubbed the smashed stalks and juice of -----Impatiens pallida on Poison Ivy blisters. The Potawatomi used fresh Impatiens capensis juice as a wash on poison ivy rash (Moerman).
· Nettles: The Meskwaki and Potawatomi used fresh Impatiens capensis juice for nettle stings, applied as a wash or rubbed on (Moerman).
· Rashes: The Omaha poulticed Jewelweed’s crushed stems and leaves, while the Cherokee poulticed the bruised stems of Impatiens capensis, to the skin for rash (Moerman).
· Hives: Native Americans used Jewelweed for treating hives (Meuninck). The Cherokee used Jewelweed root tea to treat babies with hives (Moerman).
2) OTHER EXTERNAL USES:
· Cuts, Bruises, Burns, Sores, Sprains, and Soreness: The crushed flowers of Jewelweed were used on bruises, cuts, and burns (Meuninck). The Mohegan crushed the buds of Impatiens capensis and poulticed them to burns, cuts, and bruises, or mixed the buds with rum and used as an ointment for burns, cuts, or bruises; the Penobscot and Nanticoke also used this ointment for burns, cuts, and bruises. The Nanticoke applied Impatiens capensis tea and leaf poultice to burns. The Ojibwa rubbed the juice of Impatiens pallida, while the Meskwaki poulticed fresh Impatiens capensis, on sores. The Iroquois poulticed smashed stems of Impatiens capensis to sore or raw eyelids. Decoctions or teas of whole Impatiens capensis plant were used as a liniment for sprains, bruises, and soreness by the Potawatomi. The Shinnecock made a Impatiens capensis skin salve made of the buds and Vaseline.
· Other external uses: The Creek Indians used a tea of smashed spicebush berries and Jewelweed as a bath for congestive heart failure (Meuninck). The Cherokee rubbed the crushed leaves of Jewelweed on “child’s sour stomach”. The Iroquois rubbed the smashed stalks and juice of Impatiens pallida on mosquito bites. The Iroquois applied a poultice of mashed Impatiens pallida plants to women’s breast injury. The Omaha poulticed the crushed stems and leaves of Jewelweed to the skin for eczema. The Cherokee poulticed bruised stems of Impatiens capensis to various skin troubles. The Iroquois used a decoction of Impatiens capensis plants as a wash for liver spots. The Ojibwa rubbed the juice of the fresh Impatiens capensis plant on the head for headache. The Creek made a decoction of Jewelweed and used it as a wash for edema. The Shinnecock made a Impatiens capensis skin salve made of the buds and Vaseline.
3) INTERNAL USES (NOT RECOMMENDED; see Contraindication/cautions)
· As a diuretic, for kidney problems, edema, and jaundice: The Iroquois used Impatiens capensis as a diuretic, drinking the root tea to increase urination and drinking the plant decoction for kidney problems, edema, and stricture or difficult urination. The Malecite used the leaf tea of Impatiens capensis for jaundice. The Micmac used Impatiens capensis for jaundice. Using Jewelweed internally is not recommended; see Contraindication/cautions.
· Other internal uses: Native Americans used Jewelweed for treating dyspepsia (acid indigestion) and measles (Meuninck). The Cherokee drank Jewelweed leaf tea for measles. The Iroquois drank a cold tea of Jewelweed plants for fevers. The Potawatomi drank a tea of the whole Impatiens capensis plant for stomach cramps. Tea of whole Impatiens capensis plant was taken for chest cold by the Potawatomi. Using Jewelweed internally is not recommended; see Contraindication/cautions.
CONTRAINDICATION/CAUTIONS: Don’t worry; there are no poisonous lookalikes (Brill). Using Jewelweed internally is not recommended. Jewelweed contains calcium oxalate crystals that are toxic when ingested (Elias, Lewis, PFAF Plant Database). You may also be poisoned by Jewelweed’s high selenium content (Brill). Especially people with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones and hyperacidity should never use Jewelweed internally. Jewelweed is considered to be dangerous and 'wholly questionable' when used internally (PFAF Plant Database). Jewelweed tinctures are only used with the most severe cases of Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac, Nettles, or fungal infection. Be extremely careful in applying an alcohol extract or tincture of Jewelweed on anybody. Steven Foster reported three extremely severe skin reactions from such applications, in each case landing the person in hospital. Euell Gibbons also referred to the possibility of allergic reaction to Jewelweed tinctures. Don’t take Jewelweed tincture when pregnant or nursing. Do not take Jewelweed tincture internally longer than 2-4 days. Other methods of application, such as a fresh poultice or ice cubes of frozen Jewelweed juice, don’t have these risks (Herb FAQ). Euell Gibbons reported that the Jewelweed tincture he extracted in alcohol went moldy (Brill). If you think the plant might have bacteria on its leaves, such as if the plant is growing in or near water that might be infested with bacteria, it is best not to apply the fresh poultice of the plant or the uncooked juices to open cuts or wounds to prevent infection (Angier).
“Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wild Edible and Medicinal Plants” by Brown, Tom, “Harvesting Nature’s Bounty” by Duffy, Kevin F., “The Green Pharmacy”, by Duke, James A., “Guide to Eastern/Central Medicinal Wild Plants” by Duke, James A. and Steven Foster, “Edible Wild Plants A North American Field Guide” by Elias, Thomas S. and Peter A. Dykeman, “Medicinal Plants of North America: A Field Guide (Falcon Guide)” by Meuninck, Jim, “Native American Ethnobotany”, by Moerman, Daniel E, “Edible Wild Plants: Eastern/Central North America”, by Peterson, Lee Allen, “The Essential Wild Food Survival Guide” by Runyon, Linda, “National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Wildflowers” by Thieret, John W. and William A. Niering and Nancy C. Olmstead
Plants For A Future (PFAF) Plant Database: http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Impatiens+capensis
Lacking the following references:
“Stalking the Healthful Herbs”, and “Stalking the Good Life”, by Gibbons, Euell; and “The Book of Swamp And Bog” by Eastman, John