Digital publication - Page 17

Live Positive Today/July, 2015 17

Spotted Jewelweed, Pale Jewelweed (Impatiens capensis, I. pallida)

Another "gem" of an herb (sorry, I had to). Jewelweed is so called for the way water beads on its leaves, and the bright silver sheen on the backs of the leaves when immersed in water (Children love that trick). The Latin "Impatiens" refers to the way the seed pod will burst when touched, throwing the seeds to the earth, earning it the other common name of "Touch Me Not". There are several varieties, although the orange spotted type seems most common (Impatiens capensis). The yellow flowered variety (Impatiens pallida) works just as well.

This annual can reach 5 ft. in height and often grows in thick stands at the water's edge (fresh) or in moist lowlands. Jewelweed has a wide range, covering most of the eastern U.S. The medium green leaves are toothed, alternate, about 3 inches long. The flowers are irregular in shape and are up to 1 inch long. They are orange and yellow with darker splotches. Blooms first appear in early summer and continue into late summer. The flowers have a wet, delicate appearance. The sack-like back of the flower is actually the larger of three sepals, which has a turned down spur to ½ inch long. The fruit is a bright green, shiny pod, containing small brown seeds.

The juice is used to treat many types of skin eruptions and injuries and is especially touted as a cure and even a preventative for Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac rash. It also relieves bug bites and stings, nettle stings, minor burns, sunburn, cuts, eczema, acne, athlete's foot, and sores. Just break open a stem and rub the juice on the affected area. You can keep some fresh on hand for several days if it's put in a container and kept cool. You can also boil a few handfuls of it for 15-30 minutes (start with enough water to cover the herb) and strain the liquid when cooled. This may be kept in a jar in your cooler for several days. The key here is to apply with gauze or cotton, and apply often!

When I find a stand of Jewelweed, I bring home a bucketful (quickly, they wilt fast) and put the whole plant in the blender with some pure water. I strain the mixture through cheesecloth and pour the liquid into ice cube trays. When frozen, put the cubes in a freezer bag. The cubes are good for at least 6 months if kept frozen. Instant relief for many skin irritations at the ready!!

The seeds are tasty as well. Wrap your hand snugly around the capsule and feel it explode. Pick out the curled pod pieces and munch on the walnut flavored seeds. It's a small trailside nibble, both fun and nutritious.

Precautions: None known for the fresh juice or decoction (boiled herb in water). There have been cases in which the tincture was used (alcohol base) and caused an allergic reaction. A safer (and certainly more tolerable on irritated skin) would be to soak Jewelweed in commercial Witch hazel for several days, and use that for minor skin problems. Some practitioners claim that short-term internal use is helpful in severe cases of Poison Ivy. Since little is known about its effects, I wouldn't recommend it be used internally.

Judith Millar is an herbalist and educator, a forager of wild foods, a gardener and Reiki Master. She maintains a health consultation practice --(Sacred Ground Herbals) out of her home, and teaches herbal/foraging/energy medicine classes. Jude makes herby messes throughout Ocean County, NJ, and all over the Western Catskills, NY. Class notices are posted on Facebook (Sacred Ground Herbals) or on her MeetUp page, "Herbalists of NJ"