SCHOOL OF WILDERNESS
MEDICINE AND SURVIVAL
Copyright 2012 School Of Wilderness Medicine And Survival
Impatiens capnesis, also known as jewelweed, and in this case, also known as the Spotted Touch-Me-Not, is an
annual plant that prefers wet areas. In fact, I took most of these pictures within a couple feet of the bank of a
river. The name "jewelweed" is derived from the way that water droplets form on the leaves, making them
"shine like jewels" (see picture #3). It's leaves are alternate, oval shaped, and have relatively sharp teeth (See
picture #1). The plant tends to be pretty tall when it's mature. Another identifying feature of this plant is that
the stems are nearly translucent (see picture #2). One of the coolest things about this plant is that it's leaves
appear to become "silvery" when they are looked at under water (see picture #4). My son thought it was cool,
The flowers are orange, spotted, and have an
unmistakable shape (see pictures #5 and #6).
As the seed pods ripen, little fibers develop
tension and "expolde" when touched. Hence the
name, Spotted Touch-Me-Not (see picture #6).
So, what is this plant used for? Well, it's seeds are
edible. However, they are really small and hard to
collect a lot of. Some sources claim that the leaves
and stems of some varieties are edible if cooked.
Other sources claim that the plant is mildly toxic if
ingested. I've chewed on the leaves but haven't eaten
a lot of them, so I can't comment on that. More
importantly, the liquid inside the leaves and the
stems has long been used as a natural remedy for
poison ivy, poison sumac, poison oak, nettle stings,
mosquito bites, and similar afflictions.
Does it work? I have used it for the pain and itching
caused by insect bites and nettle stings and have had
relief. So, I'd say "Yes." A study conducted in 1957
says that it works. However, other, smaller, studies
did not demostrate any benefit. The plant contains a
chemical called lawsone, also known as
2-methoxy-1, 4-naphthoquinone, which is an
antihistamine and has anti-inflammatory and
fungicidal properties. As others have pointed out, this
chemical is also an active ingredient in Preparation
H. Think about that if you ever rub this plant on your
face! It is thought to work by bonding with the skin
more effectively than the urushiol resin found in
How do you use it? Well, that's fairly simple. If you
have an itchy insect bite or nettle sting, just rub the
liquid from inside the green parts of the plant on
the site. Do the same if you know that you have been
exposed to poison ivy. I've heard of people rubbing
the plant on themselves even before they were
exposed to poison ivy, but I have not been able to
find much information to support this activity.
However, in theory, it should help prevent a rash.
There is also a plant known as the Pale
Touch-Me-Not in our area (Wisconsin). It looks very
similar but has yellow flowers. It can be used in the
Click on the links at the bottom of the page to see
where this plant grows and to get some more
information on how it has been used in the past.
Photo Credit: Woods Walker
Photo Credit: Woods Walker