Scientific Name(s): Impatiens balsamina L., I. capensis Meerb., I. biflora Willd., I. pallida Nutt. 1 Family: Balsaminaceae
Common Name(s): Jewelweed , jewel weed , jewel balsam weed , touch-me-not , garden balsam 2
Jewelweed is most commonly known for its antipruritic use in the treatment of poison ivy rash. It has also been used as an agent to promote blood flow, for postchildbirth and joint pain, bruises and swelling, and as an antidote to fish poisoning. However, there is no clinical information available to support its use for any indication.
Crushed jewelweed has been used as a topical salve for poison ivy; however, no specific dose has been determined in clinical trials.
Contraindications have not been identified.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Traditional use as an emmenagogue suggests caution.
None well documented.
None known for topical use.
Impatiens balsamina are tender, succulent herbs commonly grown as bedding and house plants. Jewelweed is sometimes called the “touch-me-not.” This name alludes to the presence of a seed capsule made of a soft fleshy tissue that tends to expel its contents if touched or shaken.
Jewelweed has long been recognized as an herbal remedy for the treatment of topical irritation, most notably for the treatment of poison ivy rash. The sap of the jewelweed has been used by American Indians, particularly those living in Appalachia, as a prophylactic against poison ivy rash and as a treatment after the eruptions have occurred. 3 , 4 In Japan the juice of the corolla from white balsamina flowers is painted on the skin as an antipruritic. 5 , 6
The aerial parts of the plant are used in Chinese herbal medicine for rheumatism, beriberi, bruises, pain, and swelling, and as an antimicrobial agent 6 , 7 , 8 Impatiens seeds have been used to promote blood flow, including menstruation, and for the suppression of post-childbirth pain, as an expectorant and, in some Asian countries, as an antidote for fish poisoning. 9
Chemical compounds identified in the white petals of I. balsamina include kaempferol, kaempferol 3-glucoside, kaempferol 3-rutinoside, kaempferol 3-rhamnosyldiglucoside, quercetin, quercetin 3-rutinoside, 2-hydroxy 1,4-napthoquinone, and 2-methoxy 1,4-napthoquinone. 5 Aerial parts of balsamina contain phenolics, flavonols, anthocyanin pigments, quinones, and saponins 8 as well as a testosterone 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor impatienol. 6 , 7
Four novel peptides with antimicrobial properties have been isolated from the seeds of I. balsamina 10 in addition to several saponins. 9 2-methoxy 1,4-napthoquinone, lawsone (2-hydroxynapthoquinone), spinasterol, scopoletin, methylene 3,3-bilawsone (diphthiocol), and isofraxidin (8-methoxyscopoletin) have been identified in the roots. 11
Uses and PharmacologyPoison ivy treatment
Several attempts have been made to verify that jewelweed extracts, when applied topically, have a beneficial effect on poison ivy eruptions. The results of a small clinical trial suggest an aqueous extract of jewelweed stem was ineffective in reducing the erythema, vesicles, and edema associated with poison ivy, but the subjects did report decreased pruritus. 4 In contrast, a study using an ethanol extract of the white petals of I. balsamina suggested that there might be 2 different compounds responsible for antipruritic activity demonstrated in mice. 5Effect on blood pressure
Researchers have evaluated the protective effect of extracts of I. balsamina and I. textori species flowers on severe hypotension resulting from simulated anaphylaxis in mice. The results suggest the presence of a platelet activating factor antagonist, as well as a compound with weak antihistamine effect. 12 , 13 , 14 , 15Antimicrobial activity
Compounds having antibacterial and antifungal activity have been isolated from the aerial parts of I. balsamina 8 as well as from the seeds. 10 , 16 The potential may be limited to the plant's ability to resist pathogens, despite the reported traditional use of jewelweed tea for systemic and fungal infections. 8Other uses
More recent studies have identified chemical compounds supporting traditional uses of jewelweed: the identification of COX-2 inhibitory napthoquinone salts supports the use of jewelweed for articular rheumatism, pain, and swelling, 6 and the presence of a testosterone 5 alpha-reductase inhibitor supports its use against male pattern baldness; 7 however, further studies are needed before any conclusions can be drawn.
Crushed jewelweed has been used as a topical salve for poison ivy. No other specific dosing information is available.
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Considering its traditional use as an emmenagogue, 9 use in pregnancy should probably be avoided until further evidence is available.
None well documented.
Research reveals little or no information regarding adverse reactions with the topical use of this product.
There are no published reports of toxicity associated with the topical use of jewelweed extracts. The safety of internal ingestion is not well-defined.
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10. Tailor RH , Acland DP , Attenborough S , et al. A novel family of small cysteine-rich antimicrobial peptides from seed of Impatiens balsamina is derived from a single precursor protein . J Biol Chem . 1997;272:24480-24487.
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12. Ishiguro K , Fukumoto H . A practical and speedy screening method for murine anaphylaxis: on the antianaphylactic effect of Impatiens balsamina L. Phytother Res . 1997;11:48-50.
13. Ishiguro K , Ohira Y , Oku H . Preventive effects of Impatiens balsamina on the hen egg-white lysozyme (HEL)-induced decrease in blood flow . Biol Pharm Bull . 2002;25:505-508.
14. Oku H , Ishiguro K . Screening method for PAF antagonist substances: on the phenolic compounds from Impatients balsamina L. Phytother Res . 1999;13:521-525.
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16. Patel SU , Osborn R , Rees S , Thornton JM . Structural studies of Impatiens balsamina antimicrobial protein (Ib-AMP1) . Biochemistry . 1998;37:983-990.
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