Jewelweed - Impatiens biflora:
This plant is related to the ornamental impatiens, and shares with it the
green stem. It is also known as touch-me-not, for its late summer pods which burst and
spread seed when
disturbed. Its flowers are yellow, and bloom in the late summer.
The plant is tall and gangly, sometimes
reaching five or so feet in height, but more typically not topping three feet.
This is an annual which readily self-seeds. Around here in New England, it is
wildcrafted; I have never known of anyone to plant this. It thrives in partial shade,
enjoying summers of abundant rainfall. It takes readily to disturbed areas, or the
borders between meadows and trees.
Harris remarks that it is possible to gather small jewelweed shoots, from 4-5 inches,
and eat these, presumably as a salad. He notes that one should eat them with other
vegetables, only a few at a time. Older plants, or a surfeit of early plants, act
as an unwelcome purgative. Frankly, I'm not remotely tempted to experiment.
Medicinal Uses in Folklore:
For a topical application, boil the plant down and save the juices. Let it cool.
It can be applied to skin irritations to help relieve them. Native Americans have used
this as a treatment for poison ivy allergic reactions as well as for eczema.
It has also been used as a preventative for the poison ivy reaction if applied
immediately after contact with that plant. (Your author believes in a
multi-fanged approach: strong soap and lukewarm water, followed by vinegar, followed
by more soap and water, followed by jewelweed obtained by slitting the stem and
applying the pulp directly to the site. Alcohol applications, by the way, only
succeed in moving the poison ivy oils around.)
Scanning the Scientific Literature:
I have been unable, so far, to locate anything in the scientific literature regarding
this plant and its properties or constituents.
This plant grows in the same environment as the plant it can help humans against --
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Last Updated: March 7, 1999.