Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Holy Shit, Poison Ivy!

Poison Ivy rash
This weekend, I was mowing the lawn when I spotted a bushel of trifoliate weeds. Remembering the old adage, "Leaves of three, let it be (unless it's under your backyard tree)," I sprang into action. With gloved hands, I yanked the whole damn thing out of the ground, roots and all. Then I put it into a plastic bag and tossed it into the trash.

Alas, one of the leaflets brushed against my hand, spreading the urushiol onto the bare skin there. Then I wiped the sweat from my brow with the same spot on my arm. Now my arm has an infuriatingly itchy rash, my eyes are swollen and bumpy, my heart is a pit of black rage, and every fiber of my being is screaming in hatred of Toxicodendron radicans, more commonly known as poison ivy.
Poison Ivy
Or "Satan's Salad"

So we're going to talk about this little son-of-a-bitch weed. First and foremost, how it works. Poison ivy is one of many plants that produces urushiol, an oily substance that 85% of human immune systems treat like Genghis freaking Khan. If you're allergic, like most people are, your body will throw everything it has at the urushiol, and that's why I hate botanical world right now.

Once your dumbass pores absorb the oil (probably because you took a hot shower, which opens them), you are very unlikely to be contagious. The blisters are full of water and pus, but not poison ivy juice. Any clothing you have that came into contact with it, on the other hand, is highly contagious and should be washed as soon as possible. Or burned in a cathartic bonfire. Or nuked from orbit. Your choice, really.

From there, depending on the severity, you either wait it out, take some antihistamines, apply some itch cream, or take steroids to unleash the hidden powers of your manly immune system or something (citation needed). I'm on the steroids route.

Artist's rendition

Now here's the weird stuff. You knew it was coming. First of all, humans are the only animal we know of that is allergic to poison ivy. Even chimps, who share a ludicrous amount of DNA with us, are completely immune.

In fact, one of the preferred (or at least entertaining) methods of getting rid of an infestation is your yard is to hire a goat. They love the stuff. They'll eat it all up for you without getting so much as a stomachache.
Goat eye
I knew there was a reason I don't trust them. I could see it in their eldritch eyes.

The other big weird point: urushiol is not restricted to poison ivy. Of course, most people know that poison oak and poison sumac work the same way. That's true enough. There's also a tree found in Asia called the Asian lacquer tree that has it. The Japanese call it the urushi. I respect you enough as a reader to assume you can make that connection. That's not too weird, though, is it? You were expecting more.

I guess I'll have to throw in some mangoes.
Mango Tree
I'm generous like that

Mango leaves and stems (and possibly also skins) have the same allergenic compound as poison ivy, and are, in fact, the number one cause of plant-based rashes in places where mangoes are cultivated, like Hawaii.

The moral of this story is fuck mangoes, fuck urushiol, and most of all, fuck poison ivy.

So holy shit, or whatever. I'm gonna go take some more Benadryl.

1 comment:

  1. "The moral of this story is fuck mangoes..."

    Holy shit!

    I was not expecting that hilarious ass comment.