Background: Jewelweed (Impatiens biflora) is a plant which has been used for centuries for the treatment of poison ivy/oak allergic contact dermatitis. Numerous claims for its effectiveness exist in the lay press, and over-the-counter medicaments containing jewelweed are reputed to be an effective remedy for poison ivy/oak dermatitis. Despite these claims, few scientific studies testing the effectiveness of jewelweed have been performed.
Objective: Our objective in this pilot study was to test the efficacy of an extract of jewelweed in the treatment of experimentally induced allergic contact dermatitis to poison ivy/oak.
Methods: A randomized, double-blinded, paired comparison investigation was performed. Ten adult volunteers were patch tested to urushiol, the allergenic resin in poison ivy/oak. For each volunteer, one patch test site was treated with an extract prepared from the fresh stems of jewelweed; the remaining site was treated with distilled water to serve as a control. Sites were examined on days 2, 3, 7, and 9 with reactions graded on a numerical scale.
Results: All subjects developed dermatitis at each patch test site. There was no statistically significant difference in the objective scores at the sites treated with jewelweed extract versus the distilled water control sites.
Conclusion: This study demonstrated that an extract of jewelweed was not effective in the treatment of poison ivy/oak allergic contact dermatitis.
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