Spotted Jewelweed (Impatiens biflora) is an invaluable plant to know if you hike or forage. Thankfully, it’s also fairly easy to identify in a sea of green foliage. If the plant is flowering, which is from early summer to fall, the flower stands out the most because it is bright orange and trumpet-shaped. Only pollinators with long tongues can get to the sweet nectar inside without having to chew through the outside. Its sister, Impatiens pallida, has yellow flowers and usually lives nearby.
No flowers? No problem. The leaves grow in pairs opposite one another and have a jagged edge. If it has recently rained, you will see beads of water on the leaves, which gives it the jeweled appearance from which it derives its name. These plants also often grow near water and if you hold the leaf under water, the beading effect makes the whole leaf look silver. This obviously makes it a really cool plant to know and which to interest kids.
This plant is also sometimes called Spotted Touch-me-not because the seeds of the plant will explode off the stem when touched lightly. The seeds are edible but catching them takes some finesse by cupping your hand around the seed before touching them. The plant flowers all summer long, so you will often see seeds and flowers on the same plant.
But Jewelweed isn’t just a flashy display, it’s medicinally useful too. And its biggest treatment is poison ivy. Either the stem can be broken and the juice applied to the area, or the leaves can be chewed to make a poultice and applied to the area. The saponins in the plant help to break down and emulsify the urishiol from poison ivy, much like soap does. And when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, it’s important to know what you can use when you don’t have access to soap and running water.
Similarly, it can also be applied to any skin wound such as bug bites, rashes from stinging nettles, burns, cuts, acne, eczema, fungal infections, or any other skin irritation. You can pick the leaves and stems and soak them in Witch Hazel or, you can make a healing salve from them. It’s better to use mostly leaves and little stem in the oil since the juice will not easily dissolve.
Jen Williamson, ND is a native of Buffalo, New York who earned her Bachelor of Science at Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania and a Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. While in medical school, she became very involved in the student community, most notably as the President of the Student Government Association. For her service, upon graduation she was given the Outstanding Leadership Award.
In the spirit of Docere, the Naturopathic principle of the doctor’s role as teacher, Dr. Williamson was an adjunct professor in the Complementary and Alternative Therapies program at Daemen College. She has had articles in a variety of publications, includingNaturopathic Doctor News and Review, SheKnows.com, local Buffalo magazines and papers, as well as her own newsletter, blog and website. While practicing in Buffalo, she also offered over 30 different classes to the public at various events and locations.
In 2012, Dr. Williamson moved to Vermont to expand her practice of Naturopathic Medicine as well as provide an atmosphere that resonates with her medicine for her son, Victor, and husband, David. As a Primary Care Physician at Avalon Natural Medicine, Dr. Williamson focuses on mental/emotional, gastrointestinal, and endocrine disorders. Most of her treatment plans include a combination of nutritional, herbal and homeopathic remedies, but she has also received additional training in Hair Trace Mineral Analysis and Bowel Nosodes.