Disclaimer: this article details my experience with Poison Ivy, my own research, and what cures and remedies did and did not work for me. This is not medical advice. Consult your physician before acting on anything you read in this article or any other online source. I am in now way affiliated with any of the products referenced in this article.
While cleaning out a large area of bushes, trees, and brush in my backyard, I came across some vines that were interwoven throughout the area. This vine was strong and proved difficult to remove, but I persisted. It bumped by legs as I pulled it from the ground, I wrapped it around my wrist for extra grip while pulling it out of a tree, and it brushed against my face and body as I piled it up.
As you know from the title, this vine was Toxicodendron radicans, commonly known as Poison Ivy. And the weeks that followed because of the contact I had with it were miserable. The aftermath of it touching me looked something like this, with the oils getting on various parts of my body and wreaking havoc on my skin and mental health.
I’ve since had a few bouts with poison ivy, and think I’ve tried every remedy out there. I’ve obsessed over different old wives tales, obscure home remedies, ointments and creams from drug stores, and even a prescription of prednisone. And I’m certain I’ve found the cure.
What didn’t work
My freezer bag full of things that didn’t really help is busting at the seam. Some of these provided some relief, while others were just a false hope that left me itching and scratching just as much as before.
You can forget about things that just treat the symptoms, as they didn’t do much for me. Itch relief gel, cortizone creams, and even specialty products like Ivarest didn’t help very much. The only thing that felt kinda nice, for maybe a day or two, were some treatments of calamine lotion.
While I believe Tecnu poison ivy scrub can work, its own instructions state that you have to use it immediately. In most cases, people don’t know they have been exposed and, once it has set in, it may be too late for Tecnu to provide much relief.
The ultimate cure (that isn’t even marketed as a poison ivy treatment)
This is going to sound weird, but the treatment you’ve been looking for isn’t even marketed as a poison ivy treatment. It’s marketed as a hand and body cleaner and degreaser, mainly for mechanics and people who work with machines. It’s called Extreme Green (formerly Mean Green).
The big issue with Poison Ivy lies in the Urushiol oils that are part of the plan (also present in Poison Oak, Chinese lacquer tree, poison sumac, and mango trees). These oils are extremely sticky, allergenic, and spread as you itch and scratch. These oils then agitate and penetrate into your skin, keeping your skin extremely irritated and preventing you from healing.
To cure the rash, the ultimate goal is to get the oil out and off of your skin, which few products can do effectively, so it just takes time. This can sometimes mean weeks of anguish before the rash wains and you find relief.
This is where Extreme Green comes in. Extreme Green contains small particles that feel like sand, and when you rub it into your skin it exfoliates and helps re-expose the oils. The degreasers used in the product can then bind with that oil, and with some scrubbing and rinsing, can wash those oils and agitants away.
The relief I found when I first used Extreme Green was euphoric. In that moment, a time I was at my lowest from poison ivy rash having spread all over my body, I would have paid thousands of dollars for that feeling. It instantly removed the oppressive itching and stinging that haunted me, both while I was awake and asleep.
Who Figured This Out?
The following is information I’ve found from searching forums, patents, and legal cases. These are my opinion, and you should research this further before drawing your own conclusions or citing this work. I did my best to only cite official documents, and not conjecture unless otherwise stated.
Zanfel is one of the most expensive, and effective, over-the-counter treatments for poison ivy rash. At $45 for a 1 oz tube (current price at my local CVS), the relief it provides doesn’t come cheap.
Zanfel was created by William M. Yarbrough. As the story goes….. According to Civil Action No. 08-4942, Ivy-Dry, Inc. v. Zanfel Laboratories:
“In early 1997, William Yarbrough was a sales representative for a speciality manufacturer of hand cleaners. (See Decl. of William M. Yarbrough in Supp. of Defs.’ Mot. to Dismiss or Transfer (“Yarbrough Decl.”) ¶ 3.) When Yarbrough contracted an acute case of poison ivy on his face and neck, (See Yarbrough Decl. ¶ 4.), he attempted to treat it by washing the affected area with the hand cleaner and his symptoms abated.”
This little story shows us that Zanfel wasn’t invented out of nowhere, but rather already existed as a commercial product. It was, however, not marketed for poison ivy treatment. Mr. Yarbrough discovered that this hand cleaner he was a sales rep for was effective for poison ivy after using it on his own rash.
Mr. Yarbrough adjusted the formula and created a set of instructions for use, and filed for a patent for the specific use of this formula in treatment for poison ivy in July of 2002. He was granted patent US7008963B2 in March of 2006.
The patent appears to corroborate the story above, as it specifically states:
The inventor discovered that a hand scrub product manufactured and sold by the Redman Scientific, Company of Dallas, Tex. can alleviate the signs and symptoms of urushiol induced contact dermatitis. The product has been sold for approximately twenty years, and is known to be a safe, gentle hypoallergenic product. The product has been sold as an industrial hand cleaner and has never heretofore been known to be effective against urushiol toxicity. It has only been promoted as a hand cleaner.
Redman Scientific, the company referenced in the patent, appears to white label manufacture skin care products, but they aren’t the company that sells Extreme Green. I’ve searched and searched, and I’ve been unable to find much information on Redman Scientific, the products they make, or the companies they work with.
That is the tricky part, and where I don’t have an official source. In reviews and forum posts, many people state that Mr. Yarbrough was selling Mean Green (now Extreme Green). And that this is the hand cleaner that he used on his rash and that sent him off on the path of creating Zanfel.
Is it? It’s hard to say. Redman Scientific list its offices in Dallax, TX. Southwest Commercial Products (the company behind the brand Full Bore) lists its offices to be in Fort Worth, TX. Coincidence? Maybe.
Full Bore makes a hand cleaner that is effective for poison ivy, just as Zanfel is. I personally believe it is all connected, but I don’t have that smoking gun just yet. If you have a source that can connect Mr. Yarbrough to Southwest Commercial Products/Full Bore (the makers on Extreme Green), I’d love to see it and officially connect this story in full.
Go Ahead and Order it Now
The easiest way to get Extreme Green is to order it on Amazon right here. It is available on Prime in the US and in many locations is available next-day. The product comes in 16 oz and 36 oz containers. If you need relief ASAP, I’d pick whichever size is going to get to your house the fastest.
A little bit of old school relief
If you have to wait a day or two to get the best cure (detailed below), there are some things that provided me with a bit of relief. The main one is pretty old school, and you may remember it from your childhood days if you had a bout with chicken pox. It’s calamine lotion. As far as I can tell, calamine lotion doesn’t provide any sort of cure, but rather just helps mask some of the irritation with a soothing, cooling sensation.
This feeling worked on me for about a day or so before the relief wore off. It is readily available, so I’d recommend getting some for a day or two if you are having to wait on Extreme Green to arrive.
Conclusion: Do this now
Extreme Green is extremely effective at removing irritating urushiol oils from your skin. If you are suffering from poison ivy, I recommend ordering some on Amazon right now. If you aren’t currently suffering, lucky!! If you think there is a chance you’ll be exposed to poison ivy in the future, it’d be a great idea to keep some on hand so you have it right when you need it.