Old-fashioned calamine lotions are nearly impossible to find anymore. Retail brands are mostly watered down and combined with ineffective topical antihistamines. But it’s easy to make our own, and with the right botanicals added, powerful enough to tame even poison ivy rash. Start with cosmetic-grade bentonite clay, found online at NAWebstore.com. Mix in some kaolin clay if possible. Start with one part water and one part clay, adding water to make a soft paste. Mix in aloe vera or vegetable glycerin for a smoother spreading lotion.
Calamine works because minerals tend to be alkalizing, which soothes the skin. Increase the effect by adding zinc oxide, either as a cream (found in drug stores) or powder. If it just has to be pink, add a bit of iron oxide powder. Stir in baking soda for increased alkalinity and a satisfying scratch when the lotion is rinsed off.
Up the effectiveness by adding essential oils or herbal tinctures. The key is focusing on the three Cs of rash relief: calm, cool and constrict. For calming the poison ivy rash, turn to anti-inflammatory herbs such as calendula, chamomile, grindelia or plantain, or best of all, the essential oils blue chamomile or helichrysum. Create a cooling calamine by adding camphor, mint or sassafras. If the rash turns blistery, create a constricting calamine made with burdock, horse chestnut or witch hazel.
Amy Martin is the author of the new book, Itchy Business: How to Treat the Poison Ivy and Poison Oak Rash, Prevent Exposure and Eradicate the Plant. For more information, visit Itchy.Biz.