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eradicating Poison Oak

 
Paige Wyatt
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Hi folks!

I'm new to permaculture and am getting really excited about the possibilities. I have a small slope in front of the yurt I live in that gets the best sun near my dwelling. It is over run with poison oak. I'm struggling with what to do with it. I did manage to have a fireman who is immune to poison oak chainsaw it down to the ground. I don't like decimating the landscape however I really want to grow my food in that little patch of sun so I can have a lighter footprint on the rest of the planet. I have been toying with the idea of laying down cardboard and layering leaves and mulch and then topsoil to just choke it out. Problem with this idea is that it's got a bit of a slope to it and without a retaining wall it will all just slide down hill. Soooo....I need to get at least some sort of retaining wall in at the bottom of the slope to catch what wants to come down hill. I discovered hugelkultur last night and wondered if I could put a hugelkulture mound at the bottom to make a retaining wall of sorts and then do the cardboard layering trick.

I tried to put my goats on the project but they wanted to eat everything but the poison oak and they gave their people poison oak so I abandoned the goat mower idea.

Any words of wisdom or ideas for me would be so greatly appreciated!!!
 
Jami McBride
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We too have a poison oak situation, however from my years in permaculture trial and error (classroom)

I have obtained a soil analyses and I'm planning on amending the soil to change the PH.

If you notice the PO likes damp soil usually, because of shade and/or heavy tree growth (damp forest)
which is perfect for mushrooms and hawthorn, blackberry, poison oak, etc. The low mineral high acidic
soils. I plan on raising the soils minerals and PH in heavy PO areas, and adding animal and green
manures as well.

After the animals have defoliated a padlock area we go in and chop-n-drop all the acid loving plant life,
then I add lime and spread the manure. I'm also throwing out new seed for plants to replace what is
growing there now. I will repeat this process as needed. Already I am seeing signs of new
orchard grass growth in places that were PO fields before.

I hope this helps give you some other ideas in your fight against PO
 
Meryt Helmer
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Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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I know this is an old thread. I found it searching for info on poison oak and what soil it likes. Jami I am curious how your method has worked out? any updates?
 
Jami McBride
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Yes, we are slowly clearing out big sections, we prefer to pull the poison oak up whenever possible. More of a rip-n-drop operation.

But the big news is - how we are avoiding all distress from PO while we clear it out of our way . . . .

We had it bad from the time we moved onto our land, swelling up, not able to sleep for nights on end, finally going for shots and still being miserable. Popping antihistamine pills - yikes. My face was so swollen my daughter said she didn't recognize me -

Starting early this spring 2014, as the PO leaves just began showing up we would eat 3 leaves every time we went out. Some times eating from 6 - 12 small leaves a day.

Wow, what a difference eating the leaves makes. My daughter and I started off by breaking out in small patches, in the same places as we had the big nasty patches the year before. It's like the old places still had poison and it woke back up, but much smaller in size, and this time it was not a misery! We could ignore the patches, or scratch them and they actually felt better, relieved like when you scratch an itch and it goes away.

We would be in the PO up to our arm pits and the patches did not increase, and we got no new patches. This went on for about a month as it takes a while to heal. Then we didn't break out at all no matter how much we touched it. So we began pulling the PO up with our bare hands (lopping gets old and tiring) PO pulls easily, even 1" think stems can be pulled. We stopped taking any special precautions for washing up when we came into the house, just our hands as usual and didn't change our clothes or pre-soak them.

We ate PO leaves (small and not red, the red ones are bitter and nasty to chew) as much as we could into June. I tried one the other day, and even the small green ones are really bitter now, so I've stopped . . . until next spring I actually began to like them. But our sheep and alpacas are still eating it after the sweet grasses are gone. You have to leave animals in an area long enough for them to eat their least favorite things.

We are not lopping brush now during the heat of summer, but we still get into it when we are moving the animal areas without any problems. Last month, wearing tank tops I got a big red patch just under my left arm toward the back. My daughter had to point it out to me, I didn't feel a thing. It lasted a couple of weeks (I think) and finally went away, it never itched or bothered me in any way.

So I now recommend eating it in the Spring as the first step toward removing it ~ then add animals, minerals, clear up dead and sickly woods which it feeds on, and let in more light. Everything works together to discourage it's regrowth. And if it does regrow, with your immunity built up each spring, you can simply pull those new little starts up . . . . by-hand!


July2014 026.JPG
[Thumbnail for July2014 026.JPG]
This spot cleared of poison oak this spring
 
Meryt Helmer
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Location: west marin, bay area california. sandy loam, well drained, acidic soil and lots of shade
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That is very cool!

I and my husband and kids are very fortunate in that so far we have absolutely no allergic reaction to it at all. no reaction at all but a local friend told me she eats the leaves too and that now she has almost no allergic reaction. I worry that someday i and or my kids and husband will become allergic. I know my cats and dog play in the stuff and we like to have friends over so we need to clear it out whether or not we are allergic plus it is a big fire danger plant and we live in a very high fire danger zone.

it is great to see the photo of your success! Thank you!
 
Rebecca Norman
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Whoah, my mind is blown by the eating poison oak story!

Jami McBride wrote: So we began pulling the PO up with our bare hands (lopping gets old and tiring) PO pulls easily, even 1" think stems can be pulled. We stopped taking any special precautions for washing up when we came into the house, just our hands as usual and didn't change our clothes or pre-soak them.


Thanks for warning us all. We'll remember that if we ever visit your house!
 
Jami McBride
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Yes, I guess that's the catch 22 - immunity requires exposure. But eating is the pain-free method for exposing one's self - other people's results may vary, but I'll never neglect my exposure through eating again. It's been a life saver.

My handicapped son who stays indoors and is not immune, and doesn't catch it from us. But friends who visit and go to look at our animals do get it. So far since none of our friends join us in taking out the brush they only get mild break outs, nothing like our experiences of the past.
 
R Scott
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Word of warning: Eating it doesn't work for everyone, and the reaction can be life threatening to a few.
 
Meryt Helmer
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that is very good to know
 
Meryt Helmer
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Jami McBride wrote:Yes, I guess that's the catch 22 - immunity requires exposure.


my children are immune so far but where never exposed to it before moving here. so they where born with their immunity. my daughter has ran through it naked and both kids often run through it barefoot. I try not to let them do that but maybe because they are immune they have no reason to listen to me! I have a vague memory of some sort of rash as a child and maybe I was allergic once but I know in my life I have accidentally touched it many times and never had a rash. I tend to be super sensetive to things to and many prescription and over the counter medications cause me to develop strange itchy rashes.
 
Jami McBride
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R Scott wrote:Word of warning: Eating it doesn't work for everyone, and the reaction can be life threatening to a few.


Yes that is true, like peanuts, shell fish and bee stings on occasion people can be severely allergic to substances. And everyone trying something new should be careful and proceed with caution.

I'm just telling my story, I'm not telling anyone else what they should do. We started slow, one leaf a day for the first three days, when nothing happened I added more. I found that if we forgot to eat we would get small rashes about the size of an eraser popping up to remind us we were not eating enough. So we ate more as often as we could.

Meryt, that is wonderful about your children. I guess I should have said "immunity for those who react to PO requires exposure I have one friend who says they were immune their whole lives and now in their 50's they are starting to react to it. Others have said that after so many years working out of doors they became immune. All I know is we get it bad, but have no way to avoid it - so after years of forgetting to eat PO in the Spring because we lived in the city, I now have my own crop - it's very convenient.
 
Meryt Helmer
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most of the women I meet where I live tell me they did not become allergic until their mid 30's and I am 35 so I am watching to see if I start reacting! I have an aunt who the more exposure she had the more allergic he became. she had a job that involved spending a lot of time around the stuff and the guy she worked with the more exposure they had the less allergic they got. this is skin exposure though and not eating it. I think if I ever try eating it I will do so closer to a hospital the few few times. I don't live near one and a severe allergic reaction out here could be pretty dangerous. I am very open to the idea of eating it. I know people who do and have found it helps them the same as you. most of them eat less than you though. It sounds like different people need different amounts.
 
Jami McBride
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That is good to know... and reminds me - I plan on starting out slow again next Spring and see how it goes. As I break out I eat more until I stop over-reacting (rash break out) to it. That is how I found the amount to eat last Spring.

I've got this idea that over time I'll have to eat less, but will see.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Hmm, this is all really crazy! My partner gets poison oak allergy really really bad, like to the point where he refuses to hike anywhere near it and so I told him about this but he said it can be toxic to eat. And you can somehow get the allergic reaction like on the inside of you? Is this true?
 
Meryt Helmer
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I believe there is truth to it. I know you can have an allergic reaction inside the body from inhaling smoke when it is burned. I had an elementary school teacher who's mother almost died that way. I also know eating it helps many people. Like I said earlier if I ever eat it I will do so near a hospital. I will try eating it if I ever become allergic. I think if he wanted to try it he would want to be very near a hospital and only eat a very very tiny amount the first time.
 
Cassie Langstraat
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Yeah I don't think it is going to happen. He seems pretty freaked out by the idea of it.. Looks like we will just keep not hiking, ever..
 
Meryt Helmer
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go hiking without him and tell him about all the awesome stuff you saw? I love hiking but lately usually go alone.
 
Jami McBride
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Cassie Langstraat wrote:Hmm, this is all really crazy! My partner gets poison oak allergy really really bad, like to the point where he refuses to hike anywhere near it and so I told him about this but he said it can be toxic to eat. And you can somehow get the allergic reaction like on the inside of you? Is this true?


There is lots of urban-legend, fear and hearsay regarding poison oak -
I did research back when we were having such a hard time with it and no two people wouldn't even agree on how to treat it. I had one Doc say I don't want to touch you I could catch it, and the next Doc say that's a crazy urban-legend. I was so confused I spent months reading scientific articles and found out a lot about how the sumac oil works. On top of that I have my own real life experiences. I found no evidence of anyone eating PO and getting rashes in their stomachs. I was wondering about my tongue, but all was fine, I just chewed it real good mixing saliva with it and swallowed. I'd like to add that the leaves one eats are the size of your thumb nail or smaller. So even eating 9 would not cover one slice of bread. You eat the 'first' Spring leaves and these are very small.

I would say if afraid, stay away - but that doesn't mean eating PO is reckless or dangerous, it's just not something everyone is comfortable with.

Lungs are not the same as the digestive system - the thing that protects when eating PO is the digesting process (Saliva, Stomach Acid, etc.) There are many safe guards between our digestive systems and our blood streams. I certainly would not breath the smoke from burning PO, that is a proven lung irritant.


But back on Topic - Returning animals back to the PO area each time new leaves begin to emerge so that the plant never can create food for it's self is how to kill it permanently - same for blackberry. You may need to lop it down the first time, as it is established, thick and woody, not appealing to eat. But when it grows back it is fresh, soft and tender and all browsers (goats, sheep, alpacas) really go for it at that stage. It won't stand a chance. So give your goats anther try, after you mow that patch down.

I hope this helps you Paige


 
Meryt Helmer
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Awesome information!
 
joseph vandyck
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I've been reading about this eating of the poison oak leaves and guessing that the same works with poison ivy? I've been hesitant to try this. I also have found an interesting remedy for treating poison oak. If you have Oak trees you can harvest the acorns for eating. To make them palatable you can boil the shelled acorns in water for about ten minutes and the water turns brown from the tannic acid released. This tannic acid water can be used instead of thrown away as a way to heal poison oak. Heres a quote I read recently, does anyone have experience with this?

"While the season for poison ivy is just about behind us, the season for acorns is in full swing. Many people have heard that acorns can be eaten, and a few have actually put them in their mouths, only to spit them out while their faces puckered up. This is due to the tannic acid in the acorns, which much be leached out. To do this, bring a large pot of water to a boil, then dump in the shelled acorns. Let them boil until the water turns a dark color, then remove the acorns and put them into another pot of clean, boiling water. Continue this process until they no longer have the puckering effect when you chew on them. Then use them for snacks, grind into flour, or use any way you please. It is important to put them into boiling water for good-tasting acorns, as putting them into a pot of cold water, then bringing it to a boil tends to lock in the tannic acid. Don't throw out the water, as it is naturally astringent (contracts or tightens up tissues) and great for the skin. By now you might be curious how this relates to poison ivy. The connection is that acorn water is amazingly effective in eliminating it. A recent discussion with a quick-witted summer camp director from Pennsylvania confirmed my anecdotal evidence. I was informed that it had eliminated symptoms in 95% of cases at his camp within three days. The method used in this case was to pour the acorn water into ice trays and freeze, then rub the ice on the affected area. Cold also helps with inflamed tissues, making the ice an ideal delivery mechanism. If you grind the acorns into flour you can make delicious and nutritious acorn bread."
 
Meryt Helmer
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I read that for some uses of acorn it is best to leach the tannins with cold water so they don't get cooked. A friend gave me acorn flour she made by first leaching them in cold water which took several days I guess and the water had to be poured out with fresh water added each day. Would that water work too or would it be too diluted since it uses so much more water to get the same amount of tannins out?
 
Hal Craston
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glad I found this thread! just today I came across what turns out to be a mass of poison oak in my back yard! ugh... this'll be fun to remove. lol.
 
Troy Rhodes
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Urushiol is the active ingredient in poison oak and poison ivy that causes your immune system to overreact.

I deal with allergy problems on a weekly or daily basis with patients. I'm an optometrist.

Everyone's immune system is different. You can grow out of allergies. You can grow into allergies. It's fluky.

Allergists use injectable low doses of allergens that you are specifically allergic to in an attempt to desensitize you immune system to x, y or z allergen.

Eating local raw honey works more or less the same way--if you are allergic to an airborn local allergen. It won't help if you are allergic to your cat.



Here's the deal though...even when done with the most sophisticated version we have (at an allergist's office, with all the proper testing, using a very carefully diluted allergen) they make you hang around for a certain length of time, typically 20 minutes, just to make sure you're not going to go into anaphalactic shock.


There was a study published a while back in a Dermatology journal that showed no convincing effect from eating urushiol bearing plants to reduce sensitivity to poison ivy/oak/sumac.

http://www.backpacker.com/community/ask_buck/96


Meh, studies aren't always right. It might work for you. Or maybe your immune system just decided not to react any more and you coincidentally started eating a leaf now and then. With such a small sample size, it's pretty much impossible to tell what caused your new immunity to poison ivy/oak. I'm not being critical of this approach, just pointing out that a small data set doesn't tell us very much that we could apply to everybody with any reliability.


I am convinced that some people will react badly, perhaps very badly, to eating poison ivy/oak.


Is it worth taking the chance? Only you can decide. It would be fun and informative for us to have an ongoing thread about people who try this and what their results were. Bigger sample size almost always improves the reliability of the conclusions we draw.


I'm a beekeeper. I tried a similar thing for my arthritis in my hands using bee venom therapy. It helped me. It might kill you.



HTH,

troy

 
I agree. Here's the link: http://richsoil.com/email
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