Jewelweed
(Impatiens species)

Jewel Box
jewelweed sprout drawing

Young Jewelweed Shoot

Note the roundish pair of lower leaves and the elongated, toothed upper leaves, which are similar to the mature leaves.

Although this isn't one of my favorite wild foods, It's one of our most important herbs. I call jewelweed the foragerís American Express, because I never leave home without it.
Jewelweed Sprout

Jewelweed Sprout

Note the succulent, translucent, unbranched stalk and the pair of roundish, notched leaves, very different from subsequent leaves.

It's common, widespread, easy to recognize, and invaluable to anyone venturing out-of-doors, because it's a virtual panacea for skin irritation.
Jewelweed

Jewelweed Shoot

The paired, elliptical, coarsely toothed (serrated) leaves of this older shoot are typical of the plant.

This herbaceous native plant has distinctive succulent, translucent, hollow, stem, powdered with a pale blue-green, waxy bloom and partitioned by nodes, making the plant easy to identify. Jewelweed grows up to five feet tall, branching toward the top, and toughening with age. Thereís a clear, watery liquid inside, especially in the nodes.

The delicate, long-oval, long-stalked, leaves are 1/4 to 1/2" long, with a few rounded teeth. The upper leaves are alternate, the lower ones opposite. They're water-repellent, so they look like they're covered with tiny jewels (raindrops) after it rains, accounting for the name jewelweed.

Jewelweed Leaf

Bejeweled Jewelweed Leaf

Either like electrical charges, which repel each other, line up on the surface of the leaf and the surface of the water drop, or a waxy coating on the leaf repels the water, forcing it into a spherical shape.

If you submerge the leaves in water, their undersides will turn silvery, delighting children of all ages.

The trumpet-shaped flowers, which bloom from early summer to fall, are under 1 inch long, with three petals, one which curls, to form a long slipper- or sack-shaped spur.

Spotted Jewelweed Flower

Spotted Jewelweed Flower

The red spots on the orange petals attract pollinators.

Spotted touch-me-not has orange-yellow flowers spotted with red, yellow or white. They're usually in pairs, so the scientific name is Impatiens biflora.
Jewelweed Drawing

Spotted Jewelweed in Flower

The trumpet-shaped flower has a long spur at the end. Pollinators with long tongues, such as butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds, can reach the nectar at the end. Other insects simply chew through the flower's base.

Pale touch-me-not (Impatiens pallida) has yellow flowers with reddish spots. Pallida means pallid.
Pale Jewelweed Flower

Pale Jewelweed Flower

The stamens at the top of the inside of the flower dust pollinators with pollen as they go after the nectar deep inside the flower.

In late summer and fall, you can surround the ripe seedpods with your hand, and grab them tightly.
Spotted Jewelweed Seedpod & Flower
Spotted Jewelweed Seed Pod and Flowers

Because of the long flowering season, flowers and mature seed pods often grow side by side. Note the long, slender flower stalks.

The seeds will pop into your hand, and you can eat them, discarding the coiled "springs." They're very tasty—walnut flavored, but too small for more than a trail nibble. Children, who seek out fun over efficiency, love learning to catch and eat jewelweed seeds.

Caution: Don't grab the seed pods loosely, or the seeds will pop away—especially important if you're Catholic—you're not supposed to spill your seeds!

Jewelweed Seeds and Open Pod

Spotted Jewelweed Seeds and Coiled, Exploded Pod

Mature seeds are flattened-ovate, green to blackish, and with a ridge running along the length on both sides.

Jewelweed contains two methoxy-1, four napthoquinine, an anti-inflammatory and fungicide that's the active ingredient of
Preparation H.
Preparation H

Instructions for Use:

Apply where "The sun don't shine!"

Mosquito at WorkIf you break jewelweed's stem and repeatedly apply the juice to a fresh mosquito bite for 15 to 20 minutes, the itching stops and the bite doesn't swell.

For older bites, it works only temporarily.

Man Getting StungJewelweed's juice also relieves bee and wasp stings, although it doesn't always cure them completely.
Athlete's FoodIt's also good to for warts, bruises, and fungal skin infections such as athlete's foot and ringworm.

It's is also helpful for nettle stings, minor burns, cuts, eczema, acne, sores, and any skin irritations.

If you accidentally touch poison ivy and apply jewelweed juice to the affected area before the rash appears, you probably won't get the rash. One of my best strawberry patches is also infested with poison ivy. You can't avoid touching it as you collect the irresistible fruit. I have everyone apply jewelweed to all exposed areas when we leave, and nobody ever gets a rash.

The Indians treat already-developed poison ivy rash by rubbing jewelweedís broken stem on the rash until it draws some blood. The rash then dries out, a scab forms, and healing occurs.

There are many ways to capture jewelweed's medicinal properties: The fresh plant lasts a week in a sealed container in the refrigerator. 1960s foraging guru and author Ewell Gibbons reported the jewelweed tincture he extracted in alcohol went moldy, but I've soaked fresh jewelweed in commercial witch hazel extract for a few weeks, and the extract of the two herbs works well and doesn't perish.

You can also make jewelweed ointment by simmering a small amount of jewelweed in light vegetable oil (any vegetable oil except olive oil, which burns) 10-15 minutes. Use only a small handful of jewelweed stems per quart of oil, or bubbles of jewelweed juice will form in the ointment and go moldy. Strain out the herb, add a handful of beeswax to thicken it, and heat until melted. Take out a spoonful and let it cool to test the thickness, and add more oil or beeswax as needed. Add the contents of one oil-soluble vitamin E capsule, a natural preservative, and let it cool. Refrigerated, it lasts for months.

Supplemental Reader's Comments

I have been using your book (Identifying and Harvesting Edible and Medicinal Plants...) for a few years now. My favorite is the jewelweed. I have to share with you an experience we had with it.

I was living in Allentown, PA and my 3 kids and I were walking with a friend near the creek. Our friend started breathing oddly and when I looked at him he was beginning to show signs of an extreme allergic reaction. When I asked him what happened he said he must have been exposed to poison ivy (I now realize that it was the start of anaphylactic shock setting in.)

We grabbed a bunch of jewelweed and started smearing him with it. As soon as we rubbed his legs we started heading the 5 minute walk to my house and car. I was prepared to rush him to the ER. While we walked I had him rubbing it on his arms and face. By the time we got to my house all traces of exposure were gone. I had known about this plant but never saw it work so fast nor with such a severe reaction.

I made him go to the ER anyway along with a piece of the plant. Even the doctors were amazed.

After that I found your book and learned how to make the salve. I had a section of my yard that was weedy so I threw some seeds there. I now have a wonderful patch of my own to harvest. We use the witch hazel extract for our faces and are thrilled with the clear complexion. My husband calls it my witches brew, but I have lot of people who ask me for a jar of it yearly. I even keep a local surgeon supplied.

We also had success using the ointment to relieve the itching from chicken pox. The "victim" was a 21 year old young man from our ambulance corp. He said he was afraid to go out in the sun for fear of getting crispy but he went through an entire jar. He tells me it worked much better than his Benedril.

I am trying to learn how to make my own soap so I can create a jewelweed soap for myself and friends.

Thank you for the great information and even more for the website that has such wonderful photos.

Marie Stoves
Lansford, PA

Other Excerpts from This Book, Overview of This Book, Other Books, More Plants, Buy This Book, Home, Back to the Top