Scientific Name(s): Impatiens balsamina L., Impatiens biflora Willd., Impatiens capensis Meerb., Impatiens glandulifera Royle, Impatiens pallida Nutt., Impatiens textori Miq.
Common Name(s): Garden balsam, Impatiens, Jewel balsam weed, Jewel weed, Jewelweed, Spotted snapweed, Touch-me-not, Zhi hin nonxe thionbaba (American Indian [ie, the Omaha])
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Aug 22, 2022.
Jewelweed is most commonly known for its use in the topical treatment of poison ivy rash due to its antipruritic properties. Various plant parts have traditionally been used orally to promote blood flow, to relieve postchildbirth and joint pain, to treat bruises and swelling, and as an antidote to fish poisoning. However, there is no clinical information available to support use of jewelweed 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 the need for caution.
None well documented.
Use of Impatiens spp. tea has been reported to cause digestive upset, while consumption of the whole plant induces vomiting and diuresis.
I. capensis and the closely related I. balsamina are tender, succulent herbs commonly found along wet woodland borders, shaded riverbanks, and roadside ditches, locations where position ivy is also commonly found. These species grow 0.6 to 1.5 m in height; bear either orange to yellow or pink to purple flowers, respectively; and are commonly grown as bedding and house plants.Motz 2012 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 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.Long 1997, Motz 2012, Motz 2015 The Southern Cherokee, Potawatomi, Chippewa, Meskwaki, and Omaha used I. capensis for various forms of pruritic dermatitis, including for the treatment and prevention of poison ivy rash and itch, stings from other plants (eg, stinging nettle), and insect bites.Motz 2012 In Japan, the juice of the corolla from white I. balsamina flowers is painted on the skin as an antipruritic.Ishiguro 1997, Motz 2012, Oku 2002
The aerial parts of Impatiens spp. have been used in Chinese herbal medicine to treat pain and swelling, rheumatism, beriberi, and bruises, and for antimicrobial purposes.Ishiguro 2000, Motz 2015, Oku 2002, Yang 2001 Impatiens seeds have been used to promote blood flow (including in menstruation), for the suppression of postchildbirth pain, as an expectorant, and, in some Asian countries, as an antidote for fish poisoning.Shoji 1994
Commercial products containing jewelweed for prevention of poison ivy are widely available.Motz 2012
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.Ishiguro 1997 Aerial parts of I. balsamina contain phenolics, flavonols, anthocyanin pigments, quinones, and saponins,Yang 2001 as well as the testosterone 5-alpha–reductase inhibitor impatienol.Ishiguro 2000, Oku 2002
Four novel peptides with antimicrobial properties have been isolated from the seeds of I. balsamina,Tailor 1997 in addition to several saponins.Shoji 1994 In the roots, 2-methoxy 1,4-napthoquinone, lawsone (2-hydroxynapthoquinone), spinasterol, scopoletin, methylene 3,3-bilawsone (diphthiocol), and isofraxidin (8-methoxyscopoletin) have been identified, as well as cysteine-rich compounds with antimicrobial and antifungal activities.Motz 2012, Panichayupakaranant 1995 In addition to antimicrobial activity, lawsone has demonstrated antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2)–inhibitory actions.Motz 2012
Uses and Pharmacology
Limited studies have identified chemical compounds with properties that support traditional uses of jewelweed for articular rheumatism, pain, and swelling. The identification of COX-2–inhibitory napthoquinone salts in I. balsaminaOku 2002 and attenuation of inflammasome activation in mouse models of acute lung injury by an I. textori whole plant extract have been reported.Sun 2015 One study of an I. balsamina extract in a rat model of rheumatoid arthritis noted significantly decreased edema compared with placebo, but the decrease was less than that with the active comparator methylprednisolone.Ih 2016
In vitro data
Compounds with antibacterial and antifungal activities have been isolated from the aerial parts of I. balsamina,Yang 2001 as well as from the seeds.Patel 1998, Tailor 1997 The potential value of these findings may depend on the plant's ability to resist clinically relevant pathogens, despite the reported traditional use of jewelweed tea for systemic and fungal infections.Yang 2001 In one study, neither antimicrobial nor antifungal activity was evident with saponin-containing extracts (at concentrations of 1 g of I. capensis plant material per gram of saponin-containing extract) when tested against gram-negative or gram-positive bacteria (ie, Staphylococcus epidermidis, Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli) or Candida albicans.Motz 2015 A further study reported greater activity of peptide fractions from I. glandulifera against gram-positive carries–causing bacteria than gram-negative bacteria.Miazga-Karska 2017
Blood pressure effects
Researchers have evaluated the protective effect of I. balsamina and I. textori flower extracts 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 antihistaminic effects.Ishiguro 1997, Ishiguro 2002, Oku 1999, Ueda 2003
In vitro data
In vitro anticancer activity was investigated in breast, melanoma, and colon cancer cell lines with test solution made from dried I. capensis extract and applied at concentrations of 34, 48, 64, 80, and 100 mcg/mL. Dose-response cytotoxicity was observed in MCF-7 breast cancer cells, with low concentrations producing a 39.8% reduction in cell growth and high concentrations resulting in no growth; the MCF-7 cells appeared shrunken with blebs, typical of cells undergoing apoptosis. Cytostatic activity was documented in colon cancer cells, and no growth inhibition was observed in the melanoma cell line; neither of these latter 2 cell lines exhibited apoptotic characteristics.Motz 2015 Decreased cell viability and increased apoptosis in oral squamous cell carcinoma cells have been demonstrated in an in vitro study evaluating methanol extracts of I. balsamina.Shin 2015 In another in vitro study evaluating antineurodegenerative biflavonoid glycosides from I. balsamina, a neuroprotective effect via enhanced nerve growth factor was suggested, but when evaluated for cytotoxicity against some human tumor cell lines, the compounds were inactive against all cell lines studied.Kim 2017
A possible positive chronotropic effect was observed with the addition of I. capensis saponin extract to the controlled aqueous "pond water" environment of black worms (Lumbriculus variegatus) at a concentration of 100 mg extracted plant material per milliliter of pond water. Resting heart rate of the 5 black worms increased immediately to 107.5% of resting rate and, within 5 minutes, to 138% of heart rate; no increase in heart rate was seen in the 3 controls.Motz 2015
Jewelweed extracts, when applied topically, may have a beneficial effect on poison ivy eruptions. Approaches, formulations, and preparations have varied (ie, glycerin or aqueous extracts, whole-plant mashes, juice from aerial parts, sprays, soaps, creams).Motz 2012
A study using an ethanol extract of the white petals of I. balsamina suggested 2 different compounds possibly responsible for the antipruritic activity demonstrated in mice.Ishiguro 1997
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.Long 1997 An experimental controlled study seeking to validate ethnopharmacological use of jewelweed for prevention of poison ivy dermatitis as well as to determine whether lawsone concentration correlated with jewelweed preparation efficacy enrolled 40 volunteers 18 to 65 years of age across 6 US locations. Both I. capensis and I. balsamina were studied. Preparations varied and included fresh, frozen, and dried material prepared as a mash of whole plants and plant parts (harvested at different times during the growth season), cold aqueous infusions, soap preparations, ethanol extracts, olive oil extracts, neutral decoctions, and a basic decoction. The comparators included distilled water administered as a single wash and double wash, a lawsone solution equivalent to the I. capensis infusion, and Dawn dishwashing liquid. Lawsone concentration was highest in the fresh aqueous extract and fresh mash of I. balsamina from the mid-season harvest (744 to 750 mcg/g of plant material) and lowest in the olive oil extract and ethanol extract of dried material. Approximately half of the participants developed poison ivy dermatitis following exposure to urushiol, with a median rash development score of 10 on a scale of 0 to 14. On day 7, 11 of 12 patients (91.67%) exhibited reduced rash in the areas treated with either of the Impatiens spp. compared with the control (water). The rash score averaged 6.7 for the Impatiens spp. extracts, which was not significantly different from the control (9.3); however, both Impatiens mashes resulted in significantly lower rash scores (4.7) compared with control. All 3 soap products (Impatiens soaps and Dawn) provided improved mean rash scores of 3.1 (a 67% reduction in rash), irrespective of the lawsone concentration. The lawsone solution produced a rash score of 7, appearing to play no role on its own in preventing rash development. The efficacy of the soaps and the mashes is likely associated with the water content washing away the urushiol, with the plant material serving as an abrasive, which supports earlier findings with commercial soaps (ie, Dial, Technu, Goop Hand Cleaner) that produced a 62.7% reduction in rashes.Motz 2012 An additional study using the same methodology in 23 volunteers investigated the role of saponins (the major constituent of soap) in contributing to the efficacy of jewelweed for prevention of poison ivy dermatitis. In patients exhibiting severe rash response, the greatest rash score reductions were from the soaps and a double-strength extract (P<0.05) compared with fresh mash, plant strength extracts, and control. In patients with mild rash, the soaps with and without addition of jewelweed extract provided a reduction of 48% and 46%, respectively, and the jewelweed mash exhibited a 33% reduction compared with control (P<0.05 for all). These data indicate that the detergent action of the soaps was effective in reducing rash development, likely due to emulsification of the urushiol oil.Motz 2015
Testosterone 5-alpha–reductase inhibitory activity
In vitro data
One investigation showed that an I. balsamina plant extract and the isolated compound impatienol markedly inhibit testosterone 5-alpha–reductase activity, supporting potential folk medicine use in the treatment of male pattern baldnessIshiguro 2000; however, further studies are needed before conclusions can be drawn.
Crushed jewelweed has been used as a topical salve for poison ivy. No specific dosing information is available.
Pregnancy / Lactation
Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Considering traditional use as an emmenagogue,Shoji 1994 use in pregnancy should be avoided until further evidence is available.
None well documented.
Research reveals little information regarding adverse reactions with the topical use of jewelweed. Use of Impatiens spp. tea has been reported to cause digestive upset, while consumption of the whole plant induces vomiting and diuresis.Motz 2012
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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