Ask Buck

Eat Poison Ivy: Build Immunity?

Is it true that you can become immune to poison ivy's itch by ingesting a small bit of the leaves?


I have a friend who is a city arborist. He knows a bit about plants as well as trees. He told me that it was possible to build up a relative immunity to poison ivy by ingesting the leaves of the plant in small doses over time. Is this true?

Submitted by – Josh, Knoxville, TN


Back in April 1987 a study on ingesting poison ivy to develop immunity was reported in the Archives of Dermatology. The report said it didn’t work. But cases of severe reactions in the mouth of people who have tried a nibble of poison ivy are well documented. The future may bring a pill that decreases sensitivity to poison ivy, oak, and sumac, and the pill may be derived from the plants, but no doctor I have ever talked to recommends eating poison ivy, no matter how small the bite.