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November 14, 2018

Don't Get Fooled by Poison Ivy

If you think you know what poison ivy looks like, think again. Poison ivy can take the form of a vine, shrub or ground cover. It has leaves that are shiny and leaves that are dull. Its edges can be smoothed or notched.

So how can it be recognized and avoided? The old phrase “leaves of three,” let it be” is a good way to do it, says Lou Paradise, president and chief of research of Topical BioMedics, Inc., makers of Topricin. And if the berries are white, we should “take flight.” That’s true whether you’re hiking in the woods or spending some time in your yard.

Poison ivy tops the list of plants to avoid, Paradise says, because it contains urushiol, an oily resin that binds to the skin on contact and may result in itching, burning skin eruptions. This rash-causing poison ivy sap is a clear liquid found in the plant’s leaves and the roots.

Urushiol oil is extremely potent, and only one nanogram (billionth of a gram) is needed to cause a rash, Paradise says. Even if you’ve never broken out you cannot assume you are immune; in fact, the more often you are exposed to urushiol, the more likely it is that you will break out. About 90% of the population develops an allergy to it.

What’s more, urushiol oil remains active for several years, so even handling dead leaves or vines can cause a reaction. In addition, oil transferred from the plant to other objects—gardening tools or an article of clothing—can cause the rash when it comes in contact with human skin.

(It’s also possible to get poison ivy from your pet. The primary danger to the pets themselves is ingesting the plant; if that happens, go to a vet immediately or call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control line at 888-426-4435. Luckily, pets can’t “get” poison ivy, according to the company Pet Veterinary Insurance, because their coats are usually too long for the oil to reach their skin.To be on the safe side, Paradise says, bathe your dog or cat after exposure. Use thick rubber gloves, not latex.)

To prevent poison ivy, Paradise recommends that when going on a hike or walking through a wooded area, you minimize the possibility of exposure by wearing long pants, a shirt with long sleeves, booths and gloves. The same is true if you’re cutting down trees or mowing or removing brush. If you stay at a campsite, give it a once-over so you’re aware of any hazards. Look around any campsite.

Prior to any outdoor activity, it can also help to apply a cream or lotion that creates a barrier on the skin.

If you get poison ivy, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) suggests that you:

Rinse your skin with lukewarm, soapy water – ideally, immediately after touching.

Wash your clothing, even down to your bootlaces, Paradise says, and use bleach if possible. The oil can stick to clothing, and if that touches your skin, can cause another rash.

Wash everything that may have the oil on its surface. Besides clothing, Paradise and the AAD say, the oil can stick to gardening tools, golf clubs and leashes. Wash with warm, soapy water.

Do not scratch, the AAD says. Scratching can cause an infection.

Leave blisters alone. If they open, don’t remove the overlying skin, because that skin can protect the wound beneath.

Take short, lukewarm baths in a colloidal oatmeal preparation that you can buy at a drugstore. You can also add a cup of baking soda to a bath. Short, cool showers can help as well.

Consider applying calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream. But talk to your doctor before applying an antihistamine cream, because that can actually worsen the rash.

Poison ivy can’t always be handled with self-care, though. Paradise says that symptoms requiring immediate medical attention include trouble breathing or swallowing; many rashes/blisters or a rash that covers most of the body; a rash on the genitals; swelling, especially of the eyelid.

For more information, visit topricin.com and the American Academy of Dermatology, aad.org.

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Don't Get Fooled by Poison Ivy

Homeopathic Pain Medicine Contains Poison

Homeopathic remedy Rhus toxicodendron, derived...

Homeopathic remedy Rhus toxicodendron, derived from poison ivy. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At my local mega-grocery store last weekend, I happened to stroll down the aisle dedicated to homeopathic treatments. I saw shelf after shelf of brightly colored packages, all claiming health benefits. Most of these “medicines” were not cheap.

Amazing. To an average shopper, all of these products look like real medicine. The packaging is similar, the claims are similar, and it’s all on display at a respectable grocery store. The difference, though, is that none of these products do what they claim to do. Thanks to a special exception for homeopathy created all the way back in 1938, none of the claims on these medicines need to be tested. The homeopathy aisle is an organized, state-sanctioned scam.

The 1938 law was the brain child of a U.S. senator, Royal Copeland, who happened to be a homeopath. Sen. Copeland inserted language into a major food and drug law that declared homeopathic preparations to be drugs. It also allowed homeopaths themselves to maintain the official list of these drugs, called the Homeopathic Pharmacopeia. Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse! Thanks to aggressive lobbying by homeopaths, homeopathic ingredients are not subject to the normal review required of real drugs. Most importantly, homeopathic drug makers do not have to prove their products are effective.

Homeopathy is based on the long-discredited beliefs of Samuel Hahnemann 200 years ago. Hahnemann thought that “like cures like,” as long as you dilute the substance sufficiently. Thus caffeine will cure sleeplessness, poison ivy extract will cure an itch, and paralyzing plant toxins will cure pain. None of this is true.

The other key principle of homeopathy is that the more you dilute something, the stronger its effect. This is not only wrong, but it is exactly the opposite of what really happens. Greater dosage levels, unsurprisingly, have stronger effects. In Hahnemann’s defense, science wasn’t very far along when he came up with these notions.

Real medicine moved on long ago. But homeopathy persists, because there is money to be made – lots of money.

Back to my grocery store. Several shelves were filled with something called Topricin(R), which claims to relieve pain. Sounds like a medicine, right? Real drugs often use “cin” or “in” in their names because the word “medicine” itself ends with that sound. Clever! In front of me I saw Topricin for pain, Topricin foot cream, even Topricin for children. The Topricin packages and the company’s website proclaim, in big letters, “Ideal Pain Relief”, and in slightly less big letters: “Safe. Effective. Free of Side Effects.” It also claims:

“Topricin’s 11 homeopathic medicines are proven to be safe and effective for the elderly, pregnant, children, pregnant women and all skin types. Experience Topricin’s relief for damaged muscle, tendon, ligament, and nerve tissue.”

This is simply not true. It even seems to go beyond the bounds of what the (very weak) FDA regulations allow. The website specifically claims that Topricin is effective for arthritis, back pain, bruises, bursitis, fibromyalgia, minor burns, tendinitis, and more.

Well, what is it? Let’s look at just two of the homeopathic ingredients in Topricin:

  • Belladonna 6X…………….. Treats muscles spasms, night leg cramps
  • Heloderma 8X…………….. Relief of burning pain in the hands and feet
Old Belladonna remedy, homeopathic.

Old Belladonna remedy, homeopathic. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Belladonna for pain? Belladonna is one of the most toxic plants known to man. Eating just a few small berries is lethal. And the one study I could find showed that it has no clinical effect when used in a homeopathic preparation. That’s lucky for unwitting consumers: if it wasn’t so diluted, Belladonna would make them very sick indeed.

Heloderma? That’s the venom from a gila monster. Although rarely fatal, it causes severe pain, bleeding, nausea, and vomiting. This is not something I would take for pain – and I certainly would never give it to children.

I know that Big Pharma is often guilty of deceptive marketing, and I’ve criticized Pharma many times. But CAM CAM (“complementary and alternative”) pharma is every bit as bad. Big CAM takes advantage of generous laws to make medical claims with impunity, often skirting as close as possible to what the law permits. And the Big CAM companies profit handsomely in the process. Everything on the Topricin package – the name, the packaging, the claims – is designed to make the consumer think that it is an effective pain treatment. It’s not. It’s a modern package of snake oil.

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Homeopathic Pain Medicine Contains Poison

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