Case Study

Homeopathic Case Study: Poison Ivy

Do you love to get outdoors in the summer time? You might be concerned about you or your kids having a run-in with poison ivy or poison oak while you are playing, camping, or hiking outside this summer. Read on to figure out how to find relief from the rash that results using homeopathy.

The Case:

The first thing you need to do is determine the symptoms that you are experiencing or observing. Good observation is key to choosing a good remedy. It also what homeopaths refer to as “taking the case”. Here’s our sample case of symptom observation:

The patient developed a red itchy rash on his legs after hiking in a wooded area yesterday. He’s not sure what he came into contact with but the rash became increasingly itchy through the night and during the day at work today. He has been using a warm, wet rag to cover the rash to help keep the itching at bay. He is also finding excuses to get up from his desk to move around, as this seems to distract his mind and make the itching less prominent.

Before you look up your remedies in your reference book of choice, remember that you want to have tunnel vision — you want to focus in on your most prominent symptoms, such as the color of the rash, intensity of the itchiness, and what brings relief. Just because a remedy might say it has a vesicle discharge, you do not NEED to have that symptom in order for it to work for the symptoms that already match.

Remember that a keynote is a symptom that is especially telling — if that symptom is present, it more readily points to that remedy. Keynotes are marked with **. Read the following remedy notes and see if you can pick the correct remedy.


Anacardium is an excellent remedy for varying kinds of skin ailments that include an itchy rash. The rash may be *intensely itchy* for which it seems nothing brings relief. Anacardium is also helpful if there are skin eruptions that swell and burst open to release a yellow discharge. The itching is not relieved, and possibly even made worse, from scratching the rash. The rash may also get worse or more itchy from applying hot water.

A possible emotional reaction would be increased irritability. This could be emotional irritability, where you are reacting to others in ways you normally don’t. But it could also be a mental irritability, where you may just have a lack of mental clarity.

Rhus tox:

Interestingly, Rhus tox is made from the poison oak plant. Usually in homeopathy we like to pick a remedy that produces symptoms similar to — not the same as — the symptoms produced. In this case, we have a remedy that is made from the same substance that has caused the problem!

You may want to consider Rhus tox if the rash is red and extremely itchy. Often the rash will break out in boils that scab over and the skin becomes scaley. The itching may be described as burning or smarting. If a *hot water application brings relief*, Rhus tox would likely be a good choice for you.

There are a few possible emotional symptoms that may accompany a rash that could help you choose Rhus tox. These symptoms include a cloudy mind, when you may not be able to think straight or remember what happened. Another possible symptom is *restlessness*, which may be due to the fact that moving around relieves the discomfort of the rash.

Which did you pick?

I like to first look at the physical symptoms. If there is a clear match that’s the one I go with! If it’s close, I move to the etiology (the cause) and if it’s still difficult I look at the emotional/mental symptoms as well. Remember to have tunnel vision and discard any symptoms that don’t relate to your case.

In this case, the etiology — which is a contact rash from some sort of plant — is the reason we looked at these remedies in the first place. So focusing on physical symptoms is a good plan.

The first symptom, intense itchiness, can be disregarded because it matches both remedies. The fact that the itchiness bothered the patient during the night is the first sign that the rash is causing restlessness. This restlessness is confirmed when he goes to work the next day and can’t stay at his desk. The wet rag is also a clear differential: one remedy would be for a rash that responds well to the rag and the other remedy for a rash that gets worse. So with the combination of restlessness and relief from the wet rag, Rhus tox is a great first choice for this rash.

Honestly, when it comes to this type of contact rash, I would reach for Rhus tox first no matter what. Then if it doesn’t work I would go to the books to find another remedy to try (Anacardium {affiliate} is a good second choice). Try the Rhus tox {affiliate} in a 30C if you like. Or try it in a 6C if you are concerned about aggravations (likely increased itchiness) of the rash. (Or try this handy formula. {affiliate}) Follow the Rule of 3s, stopping after 3 doses if there is no improvement.