Jewelweed: A True Gem


Mary LewisOne of my fatal flaws is insatiable curiosity. My dad calls it “got-to-know-itis.” So, when I see something new, I try to find out information about it. And that’s where my jewelweed story begins.

My husband and I were hiking one of the beautiful trails here in Minnesota when I saw a pretty plant next to a creek. The blooms looked like tiny orange orchids, and I was smitten. When we got home, I opened Google on my laptop, and started searching. I discovered this orchid like flower is called jewelweed (Impatiens capensis).

Jewelweed is a common plant that grows in moist, semi-shady areas throughout the northern and eastern areas of North America. It thrives in floodplain forests and around the forested edges of wetlands. Jewelweed contains a compound called lawsone, in its leaves, proven to have antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. According to the USDA, “Jewelweed has a long history of use in Native American medicine. When applied topically, sap from the stem and leaves is said to relieve itching and pain from a variety of ailments, including hives, poison ivy, stinging nettle, and other skin sores and irritations. The sap has also been shown to have anti-fungal properties and can be used to treat athlete’s foot.”

After doing my research, I figured someone must have a way to preserve jewelweed for use when it’s no longer in season, so I did a little more digging. And, yes, of course, I found that the sap can be infused into a carrier oil, and then made into a salve.

flowering jewelweed plant
Photo by Katera/AdobeStock

A friend of mine has a large patch of jewelweed growing on her land, and she was happy to let me harvest some back in August. I cut about 20 2-foot-long stems. Then I cut those into 1-inch pieces, added them to small jars and just covered them with olive and almond oil, and let them simmer in a couple inches of water in a crock pot for about 6 hours. (I set the lids on top of the jars loosely to keep the condensation out of the oil.) Once the oil had cooled, I poured the contents of the jars through a fine sieve into a measuring cup. I wanted the infused oil, not the jewelweed stems. Then I poured the oil back into the jars.

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