Home Remedies for Poison Oak

home remedies for poison oak

Hiking in the woods or exploring the nooks and crannies of an overgrown backyard places you at risk for stumbling across a patch of greenery that can cause rather unpleasant results. Poison oak is known for easily blending in with your natural surroundings. For some people, all it takes is a pinhead size of oil to bring on a wave of itchiness and rash. Whether you have sensitive skin or enjoy the great outdoors often, stay ahead of the game with home remedies for poison oak.

poison oak

What is Poison Oak?

One of your best defenses against poison oak is to learn how to recognize the plant. Shaped like a miniature oak leaf, poison oak possesses a triple leaf pattern that leads off one stem. The veins of the leaf are quite noticeable with an overall shiny surface. Depending on the region, poison oak leaves stay green when on the stem, while other areas cause the leaves to change colors with the different seasons. Poison oak grows on vines, trailing shrubs, or upright woody shrubs – from deep wooded areas with high soil moisture to exposed hillsides with very dry soil.

Causes and Symptoms

Known as one of the most potent of external toxins in the world, urushiol oil is the chemical responsible for causing a poison oak rash. The oil is found in all parts of the plant, including the leaves, branches, and roots . When you come in contact with the oil, your skin absorbs it. The rash you see is the way your body’s immune system fights this irritating substance. Poison oak is so potent that even dead plants pose a threat with urushiol oil that can stay active for one to five years.

Out of the 120 million Americans who are allergic to poison oak, about 15% exhibit high sensitivities to the oil. Within four to 12 hours of contact with the plant, they experience swelling and a rash to the point that blisters develop on the skin. The eyes of some people swell completely shut. The normal response time for poison oak symptoms to appear is anywhere from a few hours to as delayed as 3-5 days later[1].

Poison Oak Home Remedies

While the poison oak rash is not contagious, be aware that you can still spread itchiness and discomfort to others by transferring the urushiol oil. Immediately wash your hands of the sticky, resin-like substance and become familiar with the following home remedies for poison oak for further treatment:

a)Calamine Lotion:

To treat the itchiness of poison oak, reach for the good ol’ standby of calamine lotion – known to protect and soothe the skin. The cooling sensation that it produces works wonders on distracting the skin from the itch of poison oak. Apply the lotion three or four times a day.

b)Aloe Vera Gel:

Reduce your risk of scarred skin by rubbing aloe vera gel for soothing relief and to boost healing. If poison oak gets into your eyes, use the leaves of the aloe plant to reduce swelling. Skin a leaf to expose the inside. Some people are afraid to apply the gel to their eyes, but no fear – there is no itching or burning when using the leaves.


For two to three times daily, rub rhubarb on poison oak to reduce itching. For some people, their rash faded away within a couple of days. Break open the stem of the plant and rub on affected areas.

d)Oral Antihistamines:

Take advantage of the active ingredients found in the following over-the-counter brands of antihistamines when treating your poison oak: Chlor-Trimeton (chlorpheniramine maleate) and Benadryl[2] (diphenhydramine hydrochloride).

e)Baking Soda:

Run a bath containing room temperature water and add ½ cup of baking soda to create a soothing soak for itchy poison oak rash.

f)Banana Peel:

The inside of a banana peel can treat poison oak sores that have broken open by delivering a drying action that also helps keep the skin clean. Simply peel a banana and rub the inside of the peel across affected areas. Repeat this home remedy about 2 to 3 times per day.

g)Frozen Veggies:

Apply a bag of frozen vegetables to irritated skin to ease the itching of a poison oak rash.


We all know that cucumbers possess healing and soothing components. Take one slice and wipe on itchy skin, allowing it to dry on affected areas. Applying often is a must in order to see quick results.

i)Ban Roll-On Deodorant:

Ban Roll-On deodorant[3] can dry up poison oak rash, but make sure that you use the unscented kind that contains no aloe or added components.

j)Hair Dryer:

Many people swear by the heat of the hair dryer to treat a case of poison oak. Enjoy instant relief from itchy skin by harnessing the power of heat that helps release the histamines responsible for causing your discomfort.

k)Hydrogen Peroxide:

Soak a Q-tip in hydrogen peroxide and apply to affected areas. The bubbling effect seen on the surface is a good thing, which means that you are actively cleansing and fighting itchy skin.


Sometimes, a case of poison oak produces blisters that ooze. Treat this symptom with colloidal oatmeal, such as Aveeno. Using a cloth, apply the remedy to blisters or add to a warm bath.

m)Shoe Polish:

Interestingly, white shoe polish contains pipe clay, which can produce similar results to calamine lotion. Apply this remedy in the same way you would the lotion. Zinc oxide found in shoe polish has also been known to treat poison oak symptoms.

n)Rubbing Alcohol:

Solutions that dry out the skin can bring relief to a poison oak rash. Rubbing alcohol helps remove urushiol oil out of the skin. Avoid using a washcloth to apply the alcohol, as it has a knack for picking up the oil and distributing it to other areas of your skin.

o)A Thorough Washing:

Pure and simple, water causes urushiol to become inactive. After exposure to the poison oak plant, immediately drench affected areas with water. An effective follow-up treatment is to use rubbing alcohol. Additionally, when you’ve come in contact with poison oak, it’s important to stop the spread of the oil. Wash everything that may have been compromised, including your clothing, backpack, shoes, and even your faithful four-legged friend.

p) Milk of Magnesia:

With a cotton ball soaked in milk of magnesia, apply this remedy to your poison oak rash for soothing relief from itchy skin.

q) Compress:

Soak a cotton cloth in cool water and sit in front of a fan to treat poison oak rash. This will produce a cooling effect much similar to using calamine lotion.


[1] http://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases_conditions/hic_Contact_Dermatitis/hic_The_Poison_Plants_Poison_Ivy_Poison_Oak_and_Poison_Sumac

[2] http://www.benadryl.com/

[3] http://www.amazon.com/Ban-Roll-Antiperspirant-Deodorant-Unscented/dp/B001F0QWY2