Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
African poison ivy, Anacardiaceae (family), heptadecylcatechol (HDC) diacetate, oleoresin, pentadecylcatechols, rhus radicans, Toxicodendron radicans, Toxicodendron radicans resin, urushiol.
Note: This monograph covers poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) only; poison oak, sumac, and other members of Anacardiaceae family are covered in other monographs.
Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) is a plant native to North America that grows well in most areas. Its leaves are arranged in groups of three and vary in size and color during the season. In spring to summer, the leaves are small and red, eventually turning green, glossy, and smooth. In the fall, the leaves may turn red, orange, yellow, or brown.
Poison ivy contains compounds that cause allergic reactions. In the United States and Canada, poison ivy is one of the most common causes of skin rash. Potentially serious reactions may result when poison ivy is used on the skin or eyes or if it is taken by mouth or inhaled.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Eczema, erectile dysfunction, herpes virus, immune stimulant, poison ivy rash (reduction of sensitivity), tumors (on the surface of the eye).
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (18 years and older)
There is no proven safer or effective dose of poison ivy in adults.
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose of poison ivy in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid with known allergy or hypersensitivity to poison ivy, or any of its components, such as urushiol, the primary irritating compound in poison ivy. An estimated 85% of people are sensitive to urushiol, which usually causes a fluid-filled, itchy rash, but may cause a rare, severe, systemic allergic reaction (called erythema multiforme) in some people. Rash may result from contact with anything that comes in contact with the plant, such as clothing, animals, and tools.
Individuals with sensitivity to poison ivy may be sensitive to other members of the Anacardiaceae family, such as cashews, japonica, mango, Rhus copallina, Rhus javanica (semialata), Rhus trichocarpa, and Spandia magnifera.
Side Effects and Warnings
Poison ivy is a commonly reported cause of skin rash. It most often causes a self-limiting, itchy, bumpy, fluid-filled rash, either reddish or noncolored and followed by blistering.
Taking poison ivy by mouth may cause several skin disorders, such as erythema multiforme, as well as liver function abnormalities and a higher than normal white blood cell count. Liver inflammation or kidney damage may occur in patients with erythema multiforme.
Bacterial infections secondary to poison ivy rash may occur.
Avoid using poison ivy on the skin or eyes or by mouth.
Avoid in patients with known hypersensitivity to poison ivy, oak, sumac, or other members of the Anacardiaceae family.
Avoid use as an alternative or homeopathic remedy for various skin ailments such as eczema and herpes, either by mouth or on the skin, due to the potential for development of skin reactions or diseases.
Avoid in patients with blood disorders, kidney diseases or disorders, or liver diseases or disorders.
Avoid in pregnant and breastfeeding women, due to a lack of available scientific evidence.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
There is a lack of available evidence on use of poison ivy in pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
Poison ivy may interact with anticancer drugs.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Poison ivy may interact with anticancer herbs and supplements.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Amrol D, Keitel D, Hagaman D, et al. Topical pimecrolimus in the treatment of human allergic contact dermatitis. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol 2003;91(6):563-566. View Abstract
Briant D, Brouder G. Identification and treatment of poison ivy dermatitis. Nurse Pract 1983;8(7):13, 16, 19. View Abstract
Canavan D, Yarnell E. Successful treatment of poison oak dermatitis treated with Grindelia spp. (Gumweed). J Altern Complement Med 2005;11(4):709-710. View Abstract
Cardinali C, Francalanci S, Giomi B, et al. Contact dermatitis from Rhus toxicodendron in a homeopathic remedy. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004;50(1):150-151. View Abstract
Cardinali C, Francalanci S, Giomi B, et al. Systemic contact dermatitis from herbal and homeopathic preparations used for herpes virus treatment. Acta Derm Venereol 2004;84(3):223-226. View Abstract
Davenport P, Land KJ. Isolation of Leclercia adecarboxylata from the blood culture of an asymptomatic platelet donor. Transfusion 2007;47(10):1816-1819. View Abstract
Gladman AC. Toxicodendron dermatitis: poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Wilderness Environ Med 2006;17(2):120-128. View Abstract
Grater WC. Hypersensitivity dermatitis from American weeds other than poison ivy. Ann Allergy 1975;35(3):159-164. View Abstract
Hershko K, Weinberg I, Ingber, A. Exploring the mango-poison ivy connection: the riddle of discriminative plant dermatitis. Contact Dermatitis 2005;52(1):3-5. View Abstract
Johnson RA, Haer H, Kirkpatrick CH, et al. Comparison of the contact allergenicity of the four pentadecylcatechols derived from poison ivy urushiol in human subjects. J Allergy Clin Immunol 1972;49(1):27-35. View Abstract
Mohan JE, Ziska, LH, Schlesinger WH, et al. Biomass and toxicity responses of poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) to elevated atmospheric CO2. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 2006;103(24):9086-9089. View Abstract
Oka K, Saito F, Yasuhara, T, et al. A study of cross-reactions between mango contact allergens and urushiol. Contact Dermatitis 2004;51(5-6):292-296. View Abstract
Skin protectant drug products for over-the-counter human use; final monograph. Final rule. Fed Regist;2003;68(107):33362-33381. View Abstract
Werchniak AE, Schwarzenberger K. Poison ivy: an underreported cause of erythema multiforme. J Am Acad Dermatol 2004;51(5 Suppl):S159-S160. View Abstract
Wooldridge WE. Acute allergic contact dermatitis. How to manage severe cases. Postgrad Med 1990;87(4):221-224. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017