LOGAN — As its common name implies, jewelweed (Impatiens capensis) has a very beautiful flower — or is it the color and shape of the bright robin’s egg-blue kernels that hold its green projectile seeds, or its leaf, or all of these?
I always felt it was the leaf, because when the leaves are held underwater, or after a rain, the sparkling droplets bead up on the leaf surface and resembling glistening jewels.
The flowers, although tiny compared to its sometime five foot tall plant, is pretty spectacular upon closer observation. One of the sepals (outer parts of the flower) of the bright orange flower is modified into a large, pouch-like structure with a long spur, this, I think this gives the blossom a pleasingly artistic shape. It’s interesting shape, bright color, coupled with its decorative red-orange flecks make the jewelweed flower irresistible to both humans and pollinators alike.
Jewelweed has a long history of use in Native American medicine. It’s first know use dates back to 1659.
When sap from the leaves and stems is applied topically, it relieves itching and is said to relieve pain from a variety of ailments, including hives, poison ivy, stinging nettle, and other skin sores and irritations. In early American annals it is celebrated as a cure for jaundice and bruises.The plant’s sap has also been shown to have anti-fungal properties and has been used to treat athlete’s foot.
While early users may not have realized this, Jewelweed is affective in relieving icy skin because it contains a compound called lawsone in its leaves which has been proven to have both anti-histamine and anti-inflammatory properties.
This common North American shade-loving annual frequently grows close to skin irritating plants like stinging nettle, as iMother Nature is apologetically pointing the way to the cure for the misery she has caused.
Also called Touch-Me-Not, Eardrop, Silverleaf, and Balsam Weed, the Jewelweed is a close relative of the South American impatiens we all enjoy in our flower gardens. It also has the same watery, succulent stems and leaves, but beyond that, is very different. While the beautiful hybrids impatiens are small plants that enjoy life in our modern shade gardens, wild impatiens is a common wildflower in shady moist thickets and, as mentioned earlier, is a large plant with small flowers.
One of Jewelweed’s names, Touch-Me-Not, refers either of two North American impatiens, Impatiens capensis, typically having orange flowers spotted with reddish brown, and Impatiens pallida with yellow flowers sometimes spotted with reddish brown. The Etymology for touch-me-not refers to what happens when you touch a ripe seed pod. These fat little forcefully dehiscent capsules literally burst spraying their seeds in all directions.
According to Ray Allen, Founder of AmericanMeadows.com, one American naturalist called Jewelweed the Hummingbird Tree because its nectar and small, but brilliant orange flowers are so attractive to hummingbirds.
These little flowers are not just attractive to hummingbirds, they are aesthetically pleasing, and enticing very to bumblebees, and butterflies as well.
In a post written by the Herbal Academy, John Bailey, he related an ancient story that was told to him at a Native American pow-wow about how Jewelweed was discovered to be a cure for itchy skin:
“Long ago our people watched the animals and saw how they took care of themselves when they got hurt or sick. So one day grandmother and her granddaughter were going out to harvest herbs and start gathering different medicines. And the little girl saw a little frog on the path where they were walking. So the little girl chased the little frog and grandmother saw that there was a snake on the path and told her to stop! And the girl looked at grandma and asked why?
“The frog had also noticed the snake and hopped into a patch of poison ivy and the snake had started circling the patch. The snake knew better not to go into the patch or he would get sick.
“After a while the snake went about his way. The girl was nervous for the little frog. Grandma had told her to watch what happens next. The frog got up and went over to the patch of jewelweed and proceeded to roll around in the flowers and the leaves until he felt better.”
Granted, we’re not little frogs, but the Herbal Academy website https://theherbalacademy.com/poison-ivy-remedies-using-herbs/ advised if you have access to jewelweed, and you know you have just brushed up against poison ivy, crush the leaves and apply them to the skin right away to lift some of the oils off the skin and possibly lessen the impact of the poison ivy.
“To have jewelweed on hand for the next poison ivy encounter, make a jewelweed infusion by boiling fresh jewelweed in water or extract jewelweed juice using a juicer. Freeze either of these preparations in an ice cube tray and store in a freezer bag,” advises the site.
Jewelweed seedlings sprout in early spring and reach maximum size by August. Since flowering begins in mid-summer and continues until frost kills the plant, now is a perfect time to explore the woods to adore its beautiful delicate flowers and gather some succulent stalks to use in the preparation of your own medicinal Jewelweed infusion or extract.