Simple Medicine, Merciful Friends

Seven Ponds Friends of Herbs gather to celebrate summertime and good food.
Poison ivy is no laughing matter. Let my guard down in a fit of compulsive pruning and weeding with bare hands and arms, and I’ll regret it.
                  When those unruly wisteria vines caught my eye, for instance. Should’ve put on my garden armor before I attacked the suckers. No, I went wild yanking them from the Sweet Woodruff, a perfect cover for sinister, creeping, oily plants like Toxicodendron radiacans.
                  Since I’m no pro at identifying its ubiquitous three leaves, I scrubbed my hands, arms, and face with cool, soapy water the moment I walked into the house—then tossed my clothes into the washing machine.
                  In a succession of seven days, that unmistakable itch blossomed into my most widespread case of dermatitis since puberty, the left side of my face and neck blistered red. All the while I applied plantain poultices to draw out the poison and lavender oil to soothe and heal my skin.
                  At the peak of this unsightly irritation, I hosted my Seven Ponds Friends of Herbs group. It poured rain, so we canceled lavender harvesting and put Plan B into motion. We gathered indoors for another delicious, nutritious potluck lunch.
                  Afterward, we formed our circle in the living room and talked herbs and future meetings. Ever supportive, some of the folk offered their poison ivy history.
                  “My husband uses jewelweed,” Joyce said.
                  “Hmm, I’ve not seen it along the roads for years,” I replied.
                  Later that night, Joyce left a voicemail message. “My husband would like to talk with you.”
                  Next morning, Art relayed this story.
                  “I was a boy, covered with ulcers, dehydrating. My mother changed my bed linens every two hours. The doctor said there was nothing else he could do. I had no flesh on my joints. I thought I was going to die.”
                  “Your mother didn’t know about jewelweed?” I asked.
                  “No. It was a priest I’d heard my buddies talk about, but had never met. A friend stopped by the house with the news that the Father was in town. He really liked the guy and said, “You’ve gotta meet him.”
                  Art recalled the visit. “The priest walked into the room, took one look at me and said, ‘Come with me!’ I pulled on some clothes and followed him to a roadside where he uprooted tall plants. He split open a stem with a fingernail and said, “Here, rub the juice on your arms. Don’t you know God planted the poison and the cure together?’”
                  Two days later, Art and Joyce made a house call with a handful of wilting plants with knobby joints I recognized. He repeated the story to my husband as I applied jewelweed juice to my rash.
                  Art concluded his story. “In thirty-six hours I was on the ball field with my buddies.”
                  Dear Reader, the itch and blisters are gone. Yes, perhaps healing came by the combination of treatments.
                  Nevertheless, I was in a lavender field the next day, harvesting lavender with my husband.