Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Jewelweed Plant

All summer long I have been struggling with an invasive plant which has been growing in the bushes under my kitchen window.  Every now and then, I go out and pull out big bundles of this plant. They pull out super easy with a shallow root system, but I had to stomp down the bushes to get to some of them.  I never inquired as to what this plant was.  I just knew it grew everywhere.  It did have a pretty little flower which I liked, but I couldn't confine these plants to a certain area so I pulled them out.  They gave the term "wild flower" a new meaning.

Some of you may know what this is, but I did not.

I discovered this plant is a Jewelweed or a Touch Me Not plant.  It is a great plant that has value.  I had no idea.  It can be made into a salve or a tincture to treat poison ivy, nettles and bug bites.  It is called Touch Me Not, not because is shouldn't be touched, but by what happens when you touch the seed pod.

Here is a seed pod to the left of the flower.

There are five main modes of seed dispersal in plants.  They are gravity, wind, water, by animals and ballistic.  The way this plant spreads its seeds is "ballistic".  The seed pod is sensitive to the touch of your fingers or when an insect or animal brushes past.  It explodes when it is touched.  The pod is made up of five valves fused together.  When touched they twist away from each other and fling out the seeds inside.  No wonder the plant is called invasive if the seeds disperse that easily. 

Through some research, I learned how to make the salve.  Here is how I did it.

I went outside and gathered a bundle of plants.  Fortunately I haven't destroyed all of the plants.  I have been pulling these plants out for years, and they always return in abundance.

These are growing in the compost pile where I threw the dead
plants (or so I thought they were dead).

I cut the roots off and chopped up the stems and leaves.  I kept about six or seven cups, and put them in a saucepan.

To these chopped up plants, I added two cups of olive oil.  I read you can use coconut oil as well.  I then heated this to a simmer and let it cook for an hour or so.

After an hour, I turned off the heat, put a lid on the saucepan and let it cool overnight in the oil.  Then in the morning, I put a coffee filter into a fine metal sieve.  I put the cooked, steeped leaves still in the oil into the coffee filter.  I let it drain into a measuring cup until all the liquid had drained.

At this point, I put the oily liquid back in the saucepan and added one cup of beeswax beads.  I heated it until the wax was melted.  Then I put in ten drops each of lavender, tea tree and sweet orange essential oil.  I let is cool for a short time and poured the liquid into containers.  This is where I didn't plan ahead well enough.  I had some little metal Altoids boxes.  I thought that would be perfect.  I forgot there is a hinge half way up, and I filled them too full.  I had wax all over the cutting board.  Fortunately it scraped off quite easily.  Then I had to find containers for all the rest of the liquid.  I filled all the little containers I could find.  If I do this again, I will have to order some metal tins to store this salve in.

This was an experiment, and I am not even sure if the stuff works.  I am not going outside to find a bee to sting me or pull out a nettles plant just to see if it works.  When my sister visited she got into some unknown plant or was bitten by an insect.  It caused a lot of discomfort and itching.  It took a long time to heal.  I wonder if this salve would work on something like that.  I am sure that in time we will be able to test it on some bite or reaction.  Until then, it actually is a good moisturizer for the hands.  While cleaning up my mess, I was able to test it out.  Right now I have the skin of a frog.  Water just rolls right off.  Maybe I should apply some to my back so my feelings won't get hurt.  It will just roll right off my back as the saying goes.

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