One of the herbs that the family has taken to whole-heartedly is jewelweed. I have been able to find it just about anywhere I have ever lived and it grows in great abundance in the woods behind our house. Anyone who has ever taken a walk with me in the woods has been subjected to a demonstration of how the plant got its name. The leaves are covered with a nearly invisible layer of dense hairs. By holding one of the leaves underwater, the plant shimmers beautifully as if transformed into silver due to the layer of air trapped in the hairs.
Our favorite use for this plant is as a remedy for itchy skin. It has a succulent stem that reminds me of very watery celery. If you crush the stem between your fingers it yields a clear sap that when spread on the skin will relieve mosquito bites, rashes or poison ivy at least as well as anything in the drugstore shelves. During the summer, our household puts this remedy to work a number of times each week. Late evenings will often find me walking out into the woods with a flashlight to retrieve a stem or two to ease someones itchy skin so they can sleep.
The other name commonly used for jewelweed is spotted touch-me-not. It gets this name from the little black spots on the orange flowers and the way the seed pods react when touched. In the fall the plants produce little pairs of seed pods where each flower had bloomed. These pods are attached to the stem by a ingenious little spring mechanism that propels the pod several feel away when disturbed. It is fun to walk through patches of jewelweed at that time of year and hear the little pods springing off in every direction as you pass.
Posted by John @ 12:00 AM EDT