Help, I have Rue Rash!!!

Manning, SC(Zone 8a)

I had a rash on my right arm a couple of months ago, took ages to heal, and felt horrible. I couldn't figure out where I got it, it sort of looked like that of poison ivy, but I have none around here. Then this weekend, I was moving some black swallowtail butterfly caterpillars from my exhausted parsley plants to my rue plants, and a short time later, my left arm began to itch and puff up and in no time, I was covered with sore, weeping, itchy blisters. I had handled the rue as I placed the caterpillars in it, so I knew then that my earlier problem had also been the rue. The weird thing is, last year I was cutting sprigs of it to put in my caterpillar raising cages and never was affected.
It's disgusting looking, and worse feeling. I can't find any advice about how to treat and soothe it! Any herbalist out there with the secret? The area affected this time is much larger, and I'm pretty miserable.

sun city, CA(Zone 9a)

i dont know if this will work on rue, but i use plaintains whenever i touch stinging nettles and the sting goes away almost immediately. i just crush them and rub it all on the red rashy place.

Deep East Texas, TX(Zone 8a)

Thea611 ~ I suspect the difference with it causing no problem previously and this year you have been burned twice would be sunshine. I've read the Rues' oil will magnify the sun and burn/blister the skin. I am sorry I don't know the remedy for this. I would definitely wear long sleeves and gloves when working around it in the future.

Perhaps Aloe Vera would ease the damage. If it is like poison oak or poison ivy, a drying cleanser like Tec-nu might work.

This message was edited Aug 29, 2011 10:12 PM

Cedarhome, WA(Zone 8b)

I agree with Podster. I occasionally get "photo-phyto-dermatitis" (sun-plant-skin rash) from who knows what plant. Per my dermatologist, it can be caused from any number of plants, at different stages of their development, with sunshine activating their oils. Most common are members of umbelliferae family, but others as well. I had it from my ankles to my knees one year, likely from traipsing around in the fields with bare legs - no clue what plant triggered it, lots of umbelliferae weeds out there.

Perhaps think back to what may have been different from this year to last when working in your rue - was it sunny one time and not the other, at what stage of bloom each year? You may be able to isolate when to leave the rue alone and when it is safer for you. At least you are able to pin down the plant, which is a good start.

I would search online for home remedies for poison ivy and try any of those - vinegar, oatmeal bath, etc. to see what might work for you. Or you can go see a dermotologist who would likely prescribe some sort of cream to ease the symptoms. Good luck.

Manning, SC(Zone 8a)

Thanks everyone, for your thoughts. I have been reading whatever I can find, in between itching and mopping up the liquid draining from the blisters. This is really disgusting!!!! And very uncomfortable. I found some interesting info: apparently, as with poison ivy, the first times you come into contact with rue's oils, you may not have a reaction, but your body is taking note, preparing for the next contact, when your skin will fight it with the blistering and swelling. Which means, I need to keep away from it from now on!!!! We HAVE had endless sun here, very few cloudy days until the hurricane came along. The timing was just right, and the plant and the sun went to work on me.
Rue has so many uses, and has had for centuries, but it's a dangerous herb for many reasons. I'll keep it in my garden for the sake of my black swallowtail butterflies (though even they resort to it only as a last choice, they prefer the dill, fennel and parsley) but I will steer clear of it from now on.
The rash is long lasting, so I will look for some way to alleviate the discomfort. Topical stuff doesn't stay on because the blisters are continually weeping, unless I wrap my arm in gauze, which I may do for a bit.
Thanks again DG'ers!

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from thea611 :
I have been reading whatever I can find, in between itching and mopping up the liquid draining from the blisters. This is really disgusting!!!! And very uncomfortable....The rash is long lasting, so I will look for some way to alleviate the discomfort. Topical stuff doesn't stay on because the blisters are continually weeping, unless I wrap my arm in gauze, which I may do for a bit.
Thanks again DG'ers!


I assume you've tried cornstarch or powdered oatmeal to help dry the open blisters? "Aveeno Bath Treatment Soothing Formula" is 100% colloidal oatmeal (personally, I'd try using the powder first without the water on the open areas, but that's just me).

Benadryl makes a lotion, available at all pharmacies. Doesn't knock you out like the oral stuff. It's in my medicine cabinet all the time.

If that doesn't work, my next choice would be hydrocortisone. I like to use the liquid type rather than the cream - it seems to get into all the tiny places in the skin a lot better. If the blisters are weeping you may need to reapply.

Another old remedy that was once used to help dry up weeping rashes was spirits of camphor. You'll have to make your own now, I suspect - the government has determined that camphor is "dangerous" (even though there are no recorded fatalities). Don't be fooled by the stuff called "white camphor oil" BTW - it's not the same thing at all. When they process camphor wood to get the camphor (it's still valued overseas, where FDA idiocy doesn't dictate the rules), the white oil of camphor is separated out from the actual medicinal camphor gum. You can still find real gum camphor sometimes at veterinarian or equine supply stores - just dissolve some in alcohol (190 Proof Golden Grain preferred) to make the spirits.

Do be careful to keep an eye out for any sign of infection. Open skin is not a good thing, especially if it persists for long or if you're getting it dirty, and if it doesn't start healing quickly I'd recommend a doctor.

-Rich

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from rjogden :


I assume you've tried cornstarch or powdered oatmeal to help dry the open blisters? "Aveeno Bath Treatment Soothing Formula" is 100% colloidal oatmeal (personally, I'd try using the powder first without the water on the open areas, but that's just me).

Benadryl makes a lotion, available at all pharmacies. Doesn't knock you out like the oral stuff. It's in my medicine cabinet all the time.

If that doesn't work, my next choice would be hydrocortisone. I like to use the liquid type rather than the cream - it seems to get into all the tiny places in the skin a lot better. If the blisters are weeping you may need to reapply.

Another old remedy that was once used to help dry up weeping rashes was spirits of camphor. You'll have to make your own now, I suspect - the government has determined that camphor is "dangerous" (even though there are no recorded fatalities). Don't be fooled by the stuff called "white camphor oil" BTW - it's not the same thing at all. When they process camphor wood to get the camphor (it's still valued overseas, where FDA idiocy doesn't dictate the rules), the white oil of camphor is separated out from the actual medicinal camphor gum. You can still find real gum camphor sometimes at veterinarian or equine supply stores - just dissolve some in alcohol (190 Proof Golden Grain preferred) to make the spirits.

Do be careful to keep an eye out for any sign of infection. Open skin is not a good thing, especially if it persists for long or if you're getting it dirty, and if it doesn't start healing quickly I'd recommend a doctor.

-Rich


Sorry, I just realized how old this thread is. Hopefully the information will be of use to someone. What finally worked for you?

-Rich

Manning, SC(Zone 8a)

Thanks very much Rich, I still have the rue in my garden so I may be able to use your info this year!!! I was going to pull it out, but it's growing heartily, and the black swallowtail butterflies will use it to lay their eggs on (though it seems to be a last resort sort of choice for them, they don't go to it until they've exhausted the dill, fennel and parsley). But if I get that horrendous rash again, I probably will pull it. It lasted for months and was so miserable and hideous. Nothing worked!! I didn't try cornstarch or powdered oatmeal, but I did use Aveeno lotion, and I used benedryl, and hydrocortisone creams (I didn't know it came in a liquid, which I'll try the next time). Though I hope there won't BE a next time!!! Thanks so much for your help!!

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

thea, I can't believe you are still allowing the rue to grow in your garden. Your body had a terrible reaction to it. If you become in contact w. this again, it will be worse. If it were me, I would pull the rue out --no, I would pay someone else to pull the rue out, and plant a second round of dill. In other words, grow two crops of dill. Butterflies will survive without the rue and from your comments, it doesn't sound like they like the stuff that well. IF, you happen to have another reaction to this rue, you will probably need prednisone which is a prescription from your doctor. Sorry to sound so parental-just concerned for your health. Please be careful!!

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Open sores weep onto a clean area and start new sores- lad benadryl is supposed to dull the itching, hydrocortisone 10 and Rhuligel are good if the sores haven't started weeping- like poison ivy can spread into your lungs and tummy, so can those sores. Stay out of sun and heat and see Dr- you REALLY need to get a shock treatment like prednisone shot- do not wrap, protect exposed sun, be very careful with lad benadryl, and I honestly believe the childrens bottle is the strongest - because you can easily overdose it trying for relief, they are how my allergic reactions can get from some plants too

Grosse Pointe Shores, MI(Zone 6a)

I recently had an allergic skin reaction go systemic (talk about itchy!!) The dermotologist gave me an Rx for a topical cream, but also suggested using compresses of vinegar in water! I thought, is he kidding?? But tried it anyway. I could not believe how much relief it gave me, and I didn't even smell like pickles!!!

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Yup vinegar or baking soda also for sunburn, darn iPhone can't read my mind very well, chuckl, calamine lotion to dry up weeping sores, and every one of those lad benadryls are supposed to read lqd benadryl, and protect exposed skin, chuckl,

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from thea611 :
I still have the rue in my garden so I may be able to use your info this year!!!

Rue is one of those perfect examples of what I have long believed: that one man's meat is another man's poison. It seems true of everything from foods to prescription meds to scents.

E.g.: I used to get little muscle spasms (tics) around my eyes from too many long hours working on the computer. They would drive me crazy - I couldn't read or watch TV or sleep. I found in several old herbals that Rue had served once as a fairly strong "anti-spasmodic" - so I tried it. I used to chew up and swallow a leaf or two at a time, and it almost always worked. I never had a bad reaction...

-Rich

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Wow!

Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

Those tics are a neck nerve pinch, my whole neck an shoulders tighten and freeze up and burn now, but changing my position and how I sit helps that, now I just go get busy doin Anything! to make the ache let go,

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

Hmmm, nerver pinch might help to see a chiropractor. My lower back was killing me--could not life my legs to walk w/o it hurting. This went on for three weeks. I finally broke down and went to the chiropractor twice with a week between two visits. Haven't had any problems since.

Please take care--that's very painful.

Gainesville, FL(Zone 8b)

Quote from kittriana :
Those tics are a neck nerve pinch, my whole neck an shoulders tighten and freeze up and burn now, but changing my position and how I sit helps that, now I just go get busy doin Anything! to make the ache let go,

In my case it was just tired eyes - I got so wrapped up in the work I would forget to blink or move my eyes off the screen. The little muscles around the eyes are just like any others - if they stay contracted too long without relaxing they tend to spasm.

-Rich

Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

My eyes do that when I don't get enough sleep.

Manning, SC(Zone 8a)

birder17, I just read your May 3 post (didn't realize this thread was still active) and got a chuckle out of it. Your parental advice is sound, I am so gosh darned stubborn. I haven't pulled the rue out yet but will at the end of the season I think (in the meantime, I'm being VERRRRY careful around it). It's just not that pretty, and the butterflies use it as a last resort for their egg laying. My concern is that it outlasts all of the other host plants for the black swallowtails; it still thrives when the dill, parsley and fennel are on their last legs, so I can pick the caterpillars off the dying plants and put them on the still-fresh rue to munch. That's when I got into trouble last year!! This year I'll use gloves and a long sleeved shirt!

Cedarhome, WA(Zone 8b)

As I weeded around my established rue this year, I took extra precautions to try not to rub against it too much. I've never before had any problem with a rash but figured it wouldn't hurt to be cautious. It was a hot sunny day when I was working around it (lots of bare skin) and so far, no rash of any sort. In the past I've dug right into the midst of it for pruning etc. and have never had a problem. BUT I do know that certain plants release their oils at different stages of maturity and can also be triggered by weather conditions, so I will continue to play it safe around the rue. I love its sharp smell.

Thumbnail by bonehead
Jackson, MO(Zone 6b)

thea, not to be persistent, but confused. Why can't you just plant a second round of some of the other annual herbs for those little rascals to feed on? Like dill?
Oh, and please be careful!! :-)

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