Time to Eat Poison Oak

Perfectly edible

Every year at this time (early spring), we eat the new, pinky-sized, purple leaves of Rhus Diversiloba (Western Poison Oak) before digging around our property. New areas of cultivation and landscaping are invariably woven with what we jokingly call ‘the mother root’ (as all these roots probably come from the same plant); poison oak seems to be everywhere in California. And when itching oneself silly in the middle of the night it’s good to have a sense of humor.

Eating these new spring leaves (little groupings of 3 leaves once a week for a few weeks, or as needed), has saved us untold suffering since starting the practice when I discovered our son eating it in 2004 when he was 9 years old. We had heard stories about the Chumash eating poison oak, but I personally didn’t have the guts to try until my son did, without getting itchiness in his throat. When I found him munching away I asked how long he’d been eating the little leaves and he’d been doing it for 3 weeks.

Previously to that, for years as a family we ate at least 100+ pills a week of the Rhus Diversiloba pills one can find in some medicinal sections of health food stores or online. We used Technu, and still do, to wash clothing after being exposed to roots and leaves while digging and clearing brush. But the true magic of avoiding the brutal symptoms of poison oak is eating the pinky-sized, purple leaves one can see now popping out all over the West.

If one doesn’t eat the little leaves before going out and getting infected, it’s still good to get reduced effects from exposure by chowing down afterwards. Just be sure to do it early enough in the season, as these pinky-sized, purple leaves become rare as Summer progresses. A guy I worked with refused to eat these poison oak leaves until he had a black, oozing wound on his forearm and wasn’t getting much sleep. Between getting up at night and flushing the skin with the hottest water he could take (the absolute best feeling in the world, possibly with one exception, but maybe not depending on how messed up one is) and eating the leaves…and I gave him Rhus Diversiloba, he was able to slowly nurse his skin back to almost normal (he has a scar 4 yrs. later).

None of my family have had adverse effects in our throats or otherwise from eating these pinky-sized, purple leaves. They grow on the end of poison oak branches in groups of 3 and can be chewed a bit, then washed down with water. This dose, of 3 leaves every week for 3 weeks (or longer, depending on exposure and increased dosage), will last through the Summer and even if one’s skin gets ripped by a branch badly, symptoms will be so much less than waiting until after to eat leaves, Rhus Diversiloba pills, Technu and hot water treatment. All this beats going to the doctor for oral corticosteroids.

This is free medicine, growing all around us. Every rat’s nest I’ve discovered while brush clearing on our property had a stash of poison oak leaves piled up like a pantry. Deer eat it too. Go for it humans! Happy digging and brush clearing!