Beware of Carrasco: Puerto Rico’s Poison Ivy

Posted by Cassie

A friend of ours recently posted a warning similar to this title. Shortly thereafter, we were working in the area under our newly found avocado tree and we spotted the tell-tale leaves. They are holly-like lined with spikes. The plants can grow small or long and almost resemble a viney tree.

Comocladia Dodonaea

I was careful of handling it, but then a small amount touched my leg. I expected a painful burn like the stinging nettles we also have in the yard. But no, there was nothing at all. No sensation whatsoever. I was relieved. I had expected either a pokey burn or perhaps to swell up with hives as I do when I touch sunflower plants. So I thought perhaps I was one of the lucky ones that does not react to Urushiol, the plant oil in poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and Carrasco, this Puerto Rican poison ivy. We continued working without much thought again about the plant and cleared a nice sized area.

However, about two-three days later I started noticing rashes appearing in certain places, then more places. On my forehead, on my arms, on my hands, on my belly, on my back, all over my legs. I was covered in red welts. The next day they blistered up and then started oozing. They were super itchy and I sometimes just couldn’t help myself but to scratch them. I tried every ointment and remedy I could find. Hydrocortizone cream, anti-itch cream, turmeric, zinc oxide and cocoa butter.

Poison Ivy

Of these, the zinc oxide was probably the most effective but really, I just had to wait it out. After about a week, they had lost the inflammation and started to scab and heal. Working outside in the jungle is a lot of fun and hard physical work. It is difficult to want to wear a lot of clothing when it is 80-85 degrees and high humidity, but if you see this plant, beware! I certainly will be much more careful the next time I do! Thankfully, it is not widespread like some of the other jungle discomforts (like the biting ants).

Urushiol, the active compound in the plant’s sap can be neutralized with rubbing alcohol.

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6 thoughts on “Beware of Carrasco: Puerto Rico’s Poison Ivy

  1. Michelle Hicks

    When I make contact with poisonous plants or suspects, I immediately wash it and apply vinegar. Baking soda is good too but I just pour or pat on the vinegar and no more itch. Prevents the oils from getting a hold into your system.

  2. Annie

    Our family has a tendency toward allergies to both plants and insect bites, as you have found out! This type of response worsens at the second, third, fourth, etc. exposures. When in the bush, I wear unglamorous head to toe gear, even in the heat, with long pants treated for insects like bees, ticks and fleas. I have had allergic reactions on the skin, but the worse is throat swelling which is very dangerous but treatable.
    Mother nature has a bite. But hey, we are descendants of emperors and kings who never had to worry about brush clearance.

  3. mom

    I am a little worried about visiting. Please don’t let me near those bushes!! should I bring my EpiPen? love you guys……see you soon. Mom

  4. Deborah Marchant'

    Here is another tip on how to respond to if the toxins of the plant touch the skin.

    A paste made with water, can be made from clay and activated charcoal powder, to coat the exposed skin and draw up and out the poison.

    You may open up two capsules of activated charcoal powder, and add its powder to enough clay powder to cover the exposed skin. Mix both powders together with water.

    When a first coat of this paste is dry, apply another coating over the first coating.
    Leave the layers of dry paste on, and repeat layering as needed, or at your discretion.

    Eventually, rinse the dried paste off gently with cool water.

    Repeat the making and the application of the paste as needed, or at your discretion.

    An Acknowledgement: A similar version of this healing tip was provided to me by Lalita at the Ann Wigmore’s Natural Health Institute in Aquada, Puerto Rico.

  5. Michael

    I just want anyone concerned to know that only Rubbing Alcohol will kill the oil. If you are worried then bring some and a rag with you when you may need it. The oil gets on everything and can infect for up to 90days (steering wheel of the truck you drove when you got it, shoelaces, etc) so you will want to clean what you can and pack some coveralls for when you have no choice but to risk it to keep your clothes free from the oil. Then wash those coveralls in a bucket of boiling hot water and soap ASAP.

  6. S.K.

    I had a wild reaction on my right hand after climbing a hill. About 24 hours later it turned red and about 48 hours later huge blisters appeared. I thought I was bitten by a snake and got scared to death, because I saw quite a few snakes on that hill. I rushed to emergency and found out it was only some poisonous plant. I guess it could have been worse, but this looks pretty bad and takes a while to heal.


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