Poison Oak Treatment :: Zanfel Ingredients

I have used the product Zanfel once before for a bad case of poison oak. You can read my previous article. But what is in Zanfel that makes it work?

You can find the list of ingredients on the product packaging and also by searching the web. But, the specific active ingredient that does all the magic appears missing. The website notes that “U.S. and Foreign Patents Pending” so they probably don’t need to give away the secret just yet.

So, I decided to look into the known ingredients to see what I could find.

Western Poison Oak Photo Gallery (click to view)
Western Poison Oak Photo Gallery (click to view)

Listed below are the ingredients as found on the Zanfel packaging.

Looking at this list leads me to believe that Zanfel is simply a cleanser. Similar to Tecnu. Of specific interest are the ingredients Quaternium-15 and Triethanolamine. These are both known irritants and may cause allergic reactions!
So, before using this product, be sure to follow any precautions and also to read through the ingredients. Note, the descriptions below are from my own quick sleuthing. They may or may not be correct. Let me know if you have corrections.


Zanfel Ingredients

  • Polyethylene Granules – Used to help active ingredients penetrate better when applied.
  • Sodium Lauroyl Sarcosinate – A weak anionic detergent (foaming/wetting agent).
  • Nonoxynol-9 – Commonly used as a spermicide. But, also widely used as a biocide (disinfectant) in cosmetics, baby wipes, detergents and other products.
  • C12-15 Pareth-9 – Typically used as sole detergent in highly alkaline laundry liquids and cleaning formulations.
  • Disodium EDTA – (Disodium Ethylene–Diamine–Tetra–Acetate) Anionic Surfactant. A sodium salt of a mild organic acid and helps the system resist bacterial spoilage.
  • Quaternium-15 – From http://www.dermnetnz.org/dna.acd/q-15.html Quaternium-15 is a formaldehyde-releasing preservative used in many cosmetics and pharmaceutical preparations. NOTE: Quaternium-15 may cause an allergic reaction with people that are either sensitive to formaldehyde or have a specific sensitivity. The reaction is normally a contact dermatitis.
  • Carbomer 2% – Found in many hair and lotion products. Possibly a polymer and used as a thickening ingredient.
  • Triethanolamine –
    From http://ntp-server.niehs.nih.gov/htdocs/IT-studies/imm90005.html Triethanolamine, produced along with mono- and diethanolamine by ammonolysis of ethylene oxide, is used in many cosmetics, fatty acid soaps, household detergents and emulsions, wood scouring, and as a water repellent in textiles. U. S. production and sales for 1989 was estimated to be 72 x 108 lb. Although triethanolamine is a skin, eye, and mucous membrane irritant, no information could be found on its sensitizing potential.
    From http://physchem.ox.ac.uk/MSDS/TR/triethanolamine.html May be harmful by inhalation, ingestion or through skin absorption. Chronic exposure may lead to liver and kidney damage. Skin irritant – may cause dermatitis.
    From http://umbbd.ahc.umn.edu/tea/tea_map.html Over 1.2 billion pounds of triethanolamine are produced annually in the United States. Triethanolamine is widely used as an ingredient in emulsifiers, thickeners, wetting agents, detergents, and alkalinizing agents in cosmetic products; as a chemical intermediate for anionic and nonionic surfactants and surface active agents in household cleaning agents, textiles, herbicides, pharmaceutical ointments, and other products; as a vulcanization accelerator in the manufacture of rubber; and in many other industrial applications.The National Cancer Institute nominated triethanolamine for study because of its widespread use in cosmetics and other consumer products, its high potential for worker exposure due to its many industrial uses, and its potential for conversion to the carcinogen N-nitrosodiethanolamine.
  • Water – Our friend H2O!

That’s all folks! 🙂

195 responses

  1. Hans Avatar

    Greta – If the rash is spreading after 1.5 weeks then it’s possible that you are coming into contact with the oils and poisons again. Have you fully washed the clothes, shoes, garden tools, or other items that came into contact with the poison oak/ivy? Otherwise, you might have a systemic case and you might consult with your doctor and consider prednisone. When you have a systemic case a cleaning product such as Zanfel might provide some relief but it won’t stop the rash from spreading.
    As for taking warm/hot baths, that should be fine at this point as long as you haven’t been coming back into contact with the oils. Bathing with warm/hot water when trying to wash off the oils from poison oak, ivy, or sumac can lead to a worse case. The hot water opens the pores and allows the oils and poison to enter your system.

  2. Greta Sholachman Avatar
    Greta Sholachman

    Broke out with poison oak 1 1/2 weeks ago. Started using Zanafel about 3 days ago, each morning and evening. My rash has continued to spread and that’s what I thought the product could help me with. No dice. It helped with the itching…a tad. Actually, I found this sight looking for advice as to whether or not taking a warm/hot bath would be advisable? I love baths but have refrained from taking one as I think I heard somewhere that it can help spread the rash. Anyone know? Thanks, Greta

  3. GRF Avatar

    The MSDS for the Mean Green cleaner lists the ingredients.
    (http://www.meangreen.com/pages/msds.htm) It’s clear it contains the polyethylene beads and ethoxylate, but it is not obvious that it contains the sarcosinate as described in the patent. The relevant section from the MSDS is listed below.
    Original Date: March 23, 1988
    Revision Date: October 06, 2005
    Product Name: Mean Green Power Hand Scrub
    (and private labels), (including MGL, FG, and OS)
    Manufacturer: Mean Green Hand Cleaners
    Section I: Production Information
    Chemical Family: Synthetic detergent blend
    Section II: List of Ingredients
    CAS: None Inert Polyethylene Granules
    CAS: None Water
    CAS: 26027-38-3 Nonyl phenol ethoxylate ( Mol”y” )
    CAS: 26027-38-3 Nonyl phenol ethoxylate ( Mol”y” )
    CAS: 61788-48-5 Acetylated Lanolin alcohol
    CAS: 137-16-6 Maprosyl L30
    CAS: 139-33-3 Versene
    CAS: 61789-40-0 Witcamide DG
    CAS: None Food coloring
    CAS: None Lemon-Lime Fragrance

  4. For The People Avatar
    For The People

    No. No. There is no secret ingredient…Just read the patent for Zanfel at http://www.freepatentsonline.com/6423746.html and scroll down to the bottom of the page where is states the following:
    “It has been discovered that a hand scrub product manufactured and sold by the Redman Scientific, Company of Dallas, Tex. can alleviate the signs and symptoms of urushiol induced contact dermatitis. The product has been sold for approximately twenty years, and is known to be a safe, gentle hypoallergenic product. The product has been sold as an industrial hand cleaner and has never heretofore been known to be effective against urushiol toxicity. It has only been promoted as a hand cleaner.
    Chemical analysis and research by the inventors has revealed that two of the component parts of the Redman product are central to its effectiveness as a treatment for urushiol induced contact dermatitis: an ethoxylate and Sodium Lauryl Sarcosinate. The ethoxylate is a nonylphenol ehtoxylate. Unlike the ethoxylate of the Tech-Nu.RTM. product, the present invention’s ethoxylate has the large octyl groups removed. In this way, the ethoxylate can “wrap” around the non-polar molecules of the urushiol. Further, the long chain moiety of the present invention’s ethoxylate is only four carbons long, as opposed to ten. This feature also assists the ethoxylate in bonding to the urushiol more effectively. However, the ethoxylate itself is not capable of forming a complete micelle around the urushiol. The inventors have discovered that the addition of Sodium Lauryl Sarcosinate, the micelle is completed and the urushiol can be cleansed away from the skin. SLS also has a long carbon chain that can surround the non-polar portions of the urushiol. In addition, SLS contains a highly polar end that aids in surrounding the polar ends of urushiol and also in the invention’s reactivity with water.
    Thus, the combination of the ethoxylate and SLS create a large molecule that contains flexible non-polar groups and soluble polar groups. This permits the inventive composition to quickly and effectively surround the urushiol and then be rinsed away with water, a highly polar substance.””
    Read the whole patent and it becomes quite clear. The “inventor” totally stumbled across this application for an existing product. I am going to purchase 64 oz. of Mean Green from Phoenix Industries (formerly Redmond Scientific) at http://www.meangreen.com/pages/pricing.htm and provide myself some itching and much needed monetary relief.
    Zanfel has proven to be more effective than any other product for me, however, I will not pay $40 for one ounce when it takes two tubes to treat an average breakout.
    Knowledge is Power. This is all public information. The Mean Green Product just can never be advertised or sold as a poison ivy treatment thanks to this patent, but it doesn’t stop a person from purchasing and using the Mean Green product on their own.
    The “inventor” is from my area and he did an article in the local newspaper about four years ago where he did state that he stumbled upon it by accident, however, he aluded to the microbeads as the secret ingredient, but after reading the patent in its entirety – you all know the truth.

  5. ctrr03 Avatar

    I have a case of poison ivy with a patch on my skin that actually turned purple. I’ve put water, as hot as I can stand on it, followed by an application of absorbine jr. Yes, this will burn it, but, it does relieve the itch for a couple hours. Been using shampoo to shower with, as shampoo is made to remove oil. Been doing this for a week now, but on occasion a new bump will arise. Found out hitting it like this does keep the new stuff from rashing and lets it heal faster. Only problme now, one of the bumps on my finger is infected, so I’ll end up at the doctor’s tomorrow. Right now, I’m treating it with ichthammol ointment to help draw out the infection. Shall see what happens in the morning.

  6. Lyhue Avatar

    I’ve used zanfel previously, and had gotten a postitive result (after about two thorough washings).
    I am now cambating a case of urushiol exposure, and this time even have severe burn-like patches of the rash. After the second wash I feel some releif, but still the itching is there.
    Oh, and I almost forget to mention that frequently smoking some good marijuana during the healing period seems to staunch the pain a bit.

  7. Kim Noller Avatar
    Kim Noller

    Thanks for this site. I am no less confused, but feel better-educated thanks to your site. I am just starting to use Zanfel today (after reading about it on another site), and if it works at all, it will be worth the $35.95 that Wal-Mart charges. We all know that what works for one of us may not work for another. At least now I have some alternatives to try. I will post again if there is any benificial follow-up information.

  8. Todd Avatar

    I got the 2 bottles of Sumactin(not 3 like the operator told me) overnighted to me. I sprayed it all over and succeeded in getting wet. Since this product is almost exclusively water, it simply runs off or dries up quickly. Although the rash was not suppose to spread to new areas that weren’t exposed to the oil – It spread like crazy, especially anywhere that clothing or skin rubbed.
    I finally broke down and went to the doctor. She immediately prescribed 15 days of Predisone (5 days @ 3 pills – 20 miligrams each, 5 days @ 2 pills, and 5 days @ 1 pill. By day 3, my rash had started to subside. By day 8 it is was virtually gone. Believe me, I had a SEVERE rash and my legs, arms, and waist. In the past I never tried steroids and I would continue to have a rash for weeks.
    Aparently, I am EXTREMELY sensitive to the oil in these poison weeds from hell. As I said in my earlier post, I simply got in close to a bush to relieve myself so I wouldn’t flash the public. Contrary to the information I’ve found on the internet, I was exposed even though no leaves or branches were broke or bent and I barely touched the leaves. Also contrary to what I’ve read, my rash spread SIGNIFICANTLY to new areas of my body that weren’t exposed several days after my exposure. These new areas were primarily areas where clothing rubbed or subject to sweating. I took very hot showers and scrubbed vigorously, but it just kept getting worse.
    To sum up…my recommendations are – Shower alot, use Sarna lotion with a fan, TAKE STEROIDS(prednisone) IMMEDIATELY – don’t wait for it to spread!!! ZANFEL sucked, Sumactin sucked, everything else didn’t seem to help.

  9. Todd Avatar

    Great site…to share our common misery. I ran out of gas the other day and I found myself in the need to relieve myself. Spotting a nice large bush which blocked the view from the road, I got in real close to the bush so as not to flash the traffic passing by. The next day I woke up and immediately realized that I had met my old nemesis. This time I knew exactly where the meeting had occurred. Like most men, I am a huge miserable baby when it comes to get sick. So I begged my wife to go buy anything “poison ivy/oak/sumac” related. I went for the Zanfel instead of the generic because I knew that if the generic didn’t work, I’d end up buying the Zanfel anyways.
    The Zanfel actually seemed to make my breakout worse. I can usually keep myself from scratching because I know once I do…it just spreads like crazy on me. The Zanfel has those little sand-like granuales, so rubbing it on was akin to scratching…and that felt good. However, I don’t think it did a thing for me and actually “activated” those areas that I had managed not to scratch.
    So NO – I don’t feel Zanfel worked on me at all…and NO – that little one ounce tube does NOT cover very much area.
    So far I’ve tried Caladryl Clear (releived itching and didn’t make me pink, Calmine Spray – (temporarily relieved itching, but made me very pink..stick to Caladryl), Benadryl pills – made me sleepy, don’t know if the helped with the rash. Hydrocortizone cream – liberally applied, it seemed to relieve itching and kept the rash from spreading further.
    After wearing sweat pants to run a quick errand and trying to cover up my neon pink legs (from the Calamine spray), I came back home with Huge leathery patches on my legs and my forearms.
    We had some generic Walmart (Equate) apricot scrub with similiar type granuales as Zanfel. Since this was only a couple bucks, I took a shower and scrubbed liberally all over. The rash got a little redder and leathery from the rubbing. I then rubbed Sarna lotion in right afterword. The Sarna lotion offered immediate relieve from pain and itching and had a cooling feeling. About an hour later, the rashes on my forearms has gone down significantly.
    So far it turns out the cheapest remedies are working the best.
    I just ordered 3 bottles of Sumactin for $67 plus $28 overnight shipping. It’s only available by phone/email.
    This is only day 2 so I’ll update when and if anything else works and after I try Sumactin.
    From my past experiences, I believe the “drying” medicines only start working after the blisters and bumps are popped or are oozing. Popping these suckers, although theraputic and addictive at the time, kind of turns into a disgusting version of popping bubble-wrap. Once the blisters pop, the Caladryl works great for drying them up quicker.
    By the way…So as not to make the same urination mistake in the future, I returned to the scene of the crime. After searching the internet for pictures, my nemesis turned out to be poison sumac. It grows just like a small tree and according to the geographic map of where it grows…it’s not suppose to be in Denver, Colorado.

  10. Karen Avatar

    From one sympathetic itcher to another–Oh my, how I have laughed at this site (especially the “swipe a tube” post.) It has helped me forget the itching for just a few minutes. I, too, detest those who are grinning all the way to the bank as they take advantage of our collective miserable states & in our hour(s) of misery looking for the next cure or at least a few hours of relief.
    I itch all over, even when there is nothing visible! Go figure.
    IT’S ALIVE. Just below the surface waiting and waiting–then POW out pops some more. I too picked up the Zanfel and put it down because of the price. ( I had a RX waiting at the pharmacy counter for hydrocortizone) It’s amazing-now I suspect everything I touch has the stuff on it. computer keys, mouse, steering wheel, “good lawd” where do I start wiping first. Have a place on the river here in Texas and I refuse to give up going there just because of this nasty stuff. I just think I will be more proactive about cleanliness.
    I thought I was doing a good job of washing myself and clothes, but from the sound of it and my current round of PI it’s obvious I haven’t. TIDE huh. My mother used to say it will clean anything. That’s worth a try, and I will also go buy GOJO, apricot cleanser, clearsil cleanser, technu extreme, etc. Boy, when I was a kid, I used to play around in the stuff. Just one more thing to hate about getting old!!!
    I have to agree with Ed, we can put a man on the moon or Mars or where ever, but we can’t find a safe cure for this stuff.

  11. Ed Ryley Avatar
    Ed Ryley

    I live and hike in Norhern California, so get P.O. occasionally. Thanks to all for the best comments I’ve read to date. Now, I’ve tried this thrice (three different episodes) and it works and is cheap to try. Use a hair dryer to heat the rash till the pain is too much, or maybe slowly with less pain, and the itch will fade for up to 6-8 hours. SomeOne said it erases the histamines which take time to return. It doesn’t cure, just fades the itch.
    I also believe the medicos could adapt an immunosupressant to this miserable scourge for serious cases, but are too $$$ uninterested.

  12. Hans Avatar

    Anne – Washing your clothes with a detergent should remove the oils and poisons from the clothing. That is what I do and have had no problems. For silk, I should think dry cleaning would also work fine.

  13. Dave Avatar

    I too have had poison ivy. I went to the store and bought cheaper stuff on the shelf and did not get relief and kept itching. I went back and wanted the itch to STOP after 3 days, I bought Zanfel after reading the package and calling the company. They were very helpful. I was told by the company and after doing reseach, that the oil “bonds” to the skin after 20 minutes and can not be washed off with soap and water. Soap and water will wash off the “loose” oil that is not bonded to the skin. Zanfel will relase the bond anytime so the oil can be washed off with water.
    I followed the instructions EXACTLY and my itch stopped right away and did not come back. I also learned from doing research on dermdoctor that if the itch is gone the oil is off the skin.
    I will not use anything else but Zanfel from now on. The price was 34.86 at Wal-Mart and was worth every penny to get the itch to stop.
    Tecnu you have use over and over, Zanfel will stop the itch with one application and then let the body heal itself.

  14. anne Avatar

    Oh, yeah. Any ideas about how to clean a silk sweater that requires dry cleaning would be greatly appreciated. (I put the sweater on just after the hike . . .).

  15. anne Avatar

    Last winter I had a systemic reaction to PO; I was sick for 6-7 weeks, had to take a lot of time off from work (couldn’t really wear clothes); took Prednisone which made me nuts (or maybe it was the sleep deprivation that made me nuts – I couldn’t sleep while taking Prednisone, even with Benadryl, which usually knocks me out).
    My question deviates a little from the treatment track . . . I live in a poison oak ridden area, and I do a lot of hiking. I’ve had PO before. I’m sure I’ll have it again. Does anyone know what to do with the clothes you were wearing when you came in contact with the PO? Everytime I go hiking I do the requisite washing off and toss my clothes into a pile. The pile is growing. After this last bout I am terrified to just wash the clothes, wear them, and risk coming in contact with the oil again. At this rate I won’t have any clothes left. Any clothes cleaning advice?

  16. Michelle Avatar

    i need something for posion sumac i have had it for 5 days, and nothing is working, my doctor gave me 3 medcines and they arent working any suggetions, COMMENT PLEASE

  17. Hans Avatar

    Jessica – Sounds like your son might have poison oak or ivy. Normally, at that stage you need to use a product like Zanfel. The oils that contain the poison have probably already been washed off so you need a treatment rather than a cleaner. Also, I don’t know if there are any issues with treating children. I would recommend talking with a dermatologist.
    Steve – Interesting about drinking goat’s milk from a goat that consumes PO. But you also describe taking Immunoak at the same time. So it’s not possible to know if it was one or the other that helped you.
    Now, your comment about eating small bits of PO makes alarms start ringing. I would *not* recommend eating small bits of PO!
    The body treats PO as a toxin. As you have mentioned, you have become hypersensitive to PO. That’s because the body learns to recognize and attack the poisons from PO. Eating it may cause a very dangerous reaction. Another commenter on my site mentioned trying this experiment and learning the hard way it does not work. You can not become resistant to PO. Do not even try.
    I don’t know if dermatologists have PO allergy shots. They will treat severe cases of PO with prednisone. But note that prednisone can have side effects. So it’s not something to take without a doctor’s supervision.

  18. Steve Moore Avatar
    Steve Moore

    Well, I’m back in CA after a 20 yr absence and now so is my poison oak. I’m 55 and used to get PO so bad as a child I’d lay in bed for days with my eyes completely swollen shut and my mother putting corn starch plaster on me (didn’t help at all). Cortizone shots were the only thing that helped. I got it so many times I became hypersensitive and if I got a sunburn or some other skin irritation it would turn into poison oak and spread over my entire body. Immunoak helped me, I first got it from a friend that worked PG&E and then they started selling it over the counter. Very sorry it is no longer available. Another thing that helped was drinking milk from my goat that ate a constant diet of PO. Between the immunoak and goats milk I would only get small patches like a normal person, hardly noticable to me with my history. I had bought the goat for my first born in 1971 and when I went to the dairy to buy the goat I saw that PO was very prevalent at the site. The owner told me it would help build an immunity. For someone that is not hypersensitive I would think it might work really good. I happened to have a couple acres completely covered in PO. The milk is really good if you get the right kind of dairy goat. I would serve it to guests and they wouldn’t even notice any difference. Got about 1/2 gal per day, perfect for a small family. Goats are pretty fun to have around and do a fine job in keeping the PO trimmed back (way better than me using the clippers and a rake). I hear there is now a good Round-up that kills it. Good luck to all of you sufferers. Thanks for the good information. You’ve answered my question of why I can’t find Immunoak anymore. Does anyone know if dermatologists have allergy shots for PO? I don’t have a place for a goat, anymore. I’m tempted to encapsulate small bits and eat it, like the previous poster mentioned the indians may have done.

  19. RonH Avatar

    Wow! There is a lot written here. I didn’t know this site existed. I thought I was an expert on poison oak, since I have gotten its rashes from time to time over the last 55 years. Anyway, my treatment: TIDE POWDERED DETERGENT and hot water is the magic bullet for me. I take a small pile of Tide powder on my hand, add some water to make a paste, apply to a washcloth and rub the skin forcefully. Let it stay on a while so skin is quite slippery, rub some more with (comfortable) hot water, and wash away. Yes, it will leave your skin dry since it has removed its oils from the surface. That is why it works. I discovered this method it works about 30 years ago when I was using to remove the black grease, dirt, and oils from my skin when I worked on my car. It worked better for me on the grease than any other soap or hand cleaner. So I figured it should work for an oil that I can’t see (the urishiol of poison oak). If I do the treatment with a few hours of PO exposure, I don’t get the rash except maybe at a few scratches. I do cross country hikes, race events (orienteering), and mountain biking in California and contact the plants. I have used Fels Naptha also; I don’t think it works as well, but it is a useful intermediary. I’ll wash with it and cold water on site to remove some of the oil until I can get home. If do get a rash later because I didn’t know I was contacted or a long time elasped, I use a hot water treatment. I do apply very hot water from the faucet until the itching is relieved. I may have some skin flake off a couple days later because it got burned a bit, but no itch.

  20. Jessica Avatar

    okay Im not sure about any thing I have a 13 year old son who has poison something he has bubbles between his fingers can we pop them if we run his fingers under water. And what can I put on him to stop the itching, what actually works.

  21. Hans Avatar

    Tom – I got tagged again with PO and have been doing the itch and scratch. I did a mountain bike race that was known for the quantity of PO on the course. So planned and I brought the Tecnu. Right after finishing I cleaned up with the Tecnu head to toe. I also tossed the clothes in a bag and later off into the wash.
    Well, I still got one good patch of PO on my arm and a few spots on the legs. Argh. I guess I should try the Tecnu Extreme.
    Btw – My friend was a forest fire fighter. He inhaled so much PO smoke that now all he has to do is walk past some PO and he will react to it.

  22. Tom F Avatar
    Tom F

    Guess What I just got poison oak again. This time on my head. I had long hair to my back. The oak was so itchy that I had to buzz the hair! I did get back from my doctor. She said that prednisone for the most part, and its side effects mostly effect people that have to use it on a daily basis. I’ve been trying to pay attention about any side effects, ie. mood swings, grumpyness, loss of sleep, and others. I havent noticed any ill effects on my body, but everybodys individual chemistry is different. Just like I’m more susecptable to poison oak than other people.
    As far as preventative measures goes… My bathroom has Maries poison oak soap, Two bottles of technu, Tea tree oil W lavender(seems to help a bit) Sarna (an anti itch lotion) Calendula lotion (Marygold), Old used bottles of Zanafel (with a drop or two left) and now Technu Extreme.
    I’d have to say after reading your forum, that the advice to purchase Technu Extreme @ 14.99 was a really good tip! after two applications the rash has gone down considerably and the weeping started to dry and scab over! Yeay!
    The poison oak is on my property and everywhere surrounding my property in groves! (Columbia River Gorge!) If you’ve been here you know what I’m talking about. We try our best to keep our dogs out of it but you have to watch their every move (off their runner) My girlfriend dosent get it and loves to take the dogs for walks (sometimes off the leash…) I love the dogs but just dont really pet them except after baths. If I do pet the dogs I always wash my hands right after. I have friends that keep a bottle of rubbing alchol at their bathroom sink and rinse and dissolve the Urisol oil.
    My doctor also recommended the steriod shot in your ass. She said it would help me treat my current poison oak and it would help fend off other contact of poison oak for up to three months. She said that a lot of wildland firefighters get the steriod shot before fire season. Could you imagine fighting a forest fire and inhailing burning forest and poison oak!
    I elected to take the shot.. We will see in the next three months. Thanks for the Sumactin testimonial Cindy, I may have to try some in a couple of months! Good luck on a miricle cure for oak!

  23. Hans Avatar

    Tom – Good information. But I would like to note that I would not recommend taking prednisone as a deterent without a doctor’s recommendation. It can have bad side effects on your system. If you haven’t already, please talk to a doctor about the possible effects of taking it.
    Cindy – There really isn’t any way to become less allergic to the poison. Once your body has learned the “signature” of the poison it reacts more and more. You can help to reduce the risk by applying barriers, washing after contact, etc.. There are a few “blocking” lotions on the market that you apply before venturing out.

  24. cindy Avatar

    HI Tom,
    I can’t take predinose, so I was extremely grateful to find
    sumactin. It not only works, but you can spray it. It is helpful
    in that you can reach places like your ears or awkward to reach
    places, and you can spray as needed. I keep it at work and at
    home, its a gift from heaven. I have also used zanfel, it worked
    for me.
    I am hoping to find a way to become less allergic. It makes
    me not only have a rash, but just feel terribly terribly sick.
    I’m about to order another bottle of sumactin since I gave the
    rest of mine to someone who lives near a lot of it. Only
    down side is it needs refrigeration.

  25. Tom F Avatar
    Tom F

    I’ve been looking for the miracle cure for poison oak. After getting it all year long from our dogs, I feel like I’m pretty much a poison oak expert.. But without a cure. I’ve been looking online and came across Sumactin. Only available on line through a super shady pharmaceutical company.Check out this link about the shadyness..
    Although they use about 5 all natural ingredients.

  26. Jane Avatar

    I stumbled across this site while researching Zanfel, a product I discovered after having spent @ $50 on other meds, including tecnu, Ivy Off, and Caladryl (and assorted band aids and bath salts and gauze, etc). I learned more from the links on this one site than all the other websites put together, so I just wanted to say thanks for helping me make an informed decision. I’m skipping Zanfel for now but filing it away – and hoping it, like the poison ivy, will soon and forever be a very distant memory! 🙂

  27. Robert Avatar

    I too am sufferring from a small brush with poison oak. I only had a small patch on one arm, so I just washed with soap and water. After 8 days, it was getting worse and spreading. I found this site, and decided to try Tecnu Extreme. I decided on this product due to the price and my past good experiences with Tecnu (regular) to remove oils after exposure. Tecnu Extreme was $15, less $2 with their website coupon. It claims to remove the poison oils, cure itching, and speed healing. I’ve been using it now for 3 days and I think it does all three very well! The thick rash on my arm is healing very rapidly, and after each use I had almost no itching for about 6-8 hours; great relief. I can’t compare to Zanfel because I’ve never used it. Unfortunately I’ve had many cases of both poison oak and ivy over the years, and this is the best product I’ve ever used for an established rash. (I would still trongly recommend regular Tecnu to clean off the poison oils as soon as possible after suspected exposure, and put all clothers immediately in the laundry. An ounce of prevention is still worth a pound of cure.)

  28. Tracy Avatar

    OK Guys, I read all you comments — went to Walgreens, chose Tecnu Extreme over Zanfel because of the price. If it didn’t work, I could come back for the Zanfel. I had a pretty convincing outbreak of poison ivy on my neck and face, along with scattered spots everywhere else. My eyes were starting swell closed, I had rashes and bubbles, but not oooozing. Extreme seems to be working pretty effectively, and after not quite 24 hours the outbreak is definitely in remission. I’d recommend it.

  29. scott Avatar

    I’ve gotten PI and PO many times and some intense cases in all the wrong places. researched and have tried every over the counter,perscription,and folk cure that seemed plausable. 1-immuoak could do severe liver damage. native americans used a similar technic; they ate the leaves to build immunity (don’t!). repeated exposures cause a sensitivity
    (opposite of an immunity). 2-cortsone injection with predisone orally works but you might have to find a doc willing to give injection. predisone will make you feel strange. don’t devate from the decending dose schedule. 3-tecu(have not tried tecnu extreme)as with any wash to remove method, the sooner the better,and if an hour or so passes from exposure time anything is pretty ineffective. 4-the exception being zanfel.tried it on two occasions at first sign of rash and was amazed at itch relieve and rash dissapaering. I think it’s overpriced but if you consider missing work and going crazy with itch the alterntive, well… I could tell about my research and into other so called “treatments or cures” but no point really. 5-antihistimes (benedryl) oral and topical and colloidal oatmeal bath give a little itch relief. scott

  30. Rick Kristian Avatar
    Rick Kristian

    I have also used Tecnu Extreme, the latest improvement to Tecnu which I had previously used without fail for 25 years. Tecnu Extreme is amazing! Just as good as Zanfel but you get 4 ounces for $14.99. You can also print off a $2 coupon on their website, http://www.tecnuextreme.com

  31. Hans Avatar

    Robin – That’s an interesting allergic reaction to salicylic acid. Although possible, be sure you aren’t blaming the wrong source. I did a quick search and found the following information:
    “Do not apply salicylic acid and sodium thiosulfate topical to large areas of open, broken, burned, or infected skin without first talking to your doctor. Large areas of damaged skin may allow more medicine to be absorbed by the body, possibly resulting in side effects.”
    Source: http://www.drugs.com/MTM/salicylic_acid_and_sodium_thiosulfate_topical.html
    So applying it as you did might have been the cause. Of interest though is that most serious allergic reactions to it are rare. Some symptoms of a serious allergic reaction are shortness of breath; closing of the throat; swelling of the lips, face, or tongue; or hives. Someone experiencing any of these conditions should seek emergency medical attention or contact a doctor immediately.

  32. Robin Avatar

    After reading on this page that salicylic acid might be beneficial, I went out and bought some Stridex pads. Within an hour or two of applying the Stridex to the affected areas (both arms from shoulder to wrist), I got intense stomach cramps, faintness, sweats, and diarhea. I tried rinsing the affected areas to remove any residual Stridex, and the cramps soon stopped. SO, be careful before applying alot of salicylic acid to large areas of poison-oak affected (possibly broken) skin. A remedy that is safe to apply to small patches of acne may not be safe to apply to large areas of poison oak.

  33. Sam Avatar

    Hello folks,
    Just thought Id offer my .02 Ive got poison oak all over both arms..and Im simply too damn cheap to cough up the 30+ bucks for the zanfel. So instead, I bought some “Gold Bond” medicated powder, with the active ingredients zinc oxide and menthol. Is the itch still there? YES! Is it somewhat improved? YES! I applied it liberally, and ofcourse it turned both of my arms a nice alabaster. There is also the pleasant aroma. Im as much of a crybaby about suffering as anyone, but I flat out refuse to allow some rip-off company to take advantage of my suffering. I’ll wait it out for the 14-20 days if I must. If youve got it on your face or genitals, see a doctor..otherwise, grin and bear it. Do what ya can with what ya got…and resign yourself to the fact that its going to take atleast 2 weeks before you see the end of it.

  34. jan Avatar

    I am laughing at some of these descriptions because I am suffering now, and do every year. This year was worse – actually handled the vines, cutting and moving. Tried Zanfel first. It did seem to help dry, and legitimize the scratching but certainly no cure – I think mine was too far gone. Went the prednisone route – two consecutive doses. I am at day 18. I still have some itchy spots and of course lots of red scars.
    The itching is not as widespread, but it is still there.
    Today I am trying to detox with rhus toxicodendron and I think I am itching worse so perhaps it will work.
    I was relieved to see the reports of doctors not wishing to prescribe the steroid – I thought it was just my area. But when you have a systemic exposure, what recourse? All this topical stuff is fluff. So far this year, I’ve spent $148 trying to get cured. This is America and they can’t find a remedy for urishol?

  35. Lori Avatar

    Thank you, everyone, for your comments. I frequently get poison ivy from my cats who are indoor/outdoor. Everyone tells me to just keep them inside, but I don’t have the heart. I’ve been through so many remedies, I can’t list them all. Something that works great for me when I first get it is to take Beta Glucan, 200mg several times a day. Beta Glucan builds up the immune system. However, this time around, I have it all over and I’ve been through 3 bottles already and can’t seem to keep up as it is getting expensive (it’s about $13-$14 for a bottle of 30). I bought Technu and have been washing with that twice a day and got some Benedryl Extra Strength spray, but, after reading everyone’s comments, I think I’m going to try Mike’s suggestion of Clearasil and Dr. Scholl’s Exfoliating Foot Scrub. Thanks to those also who mention the dangers of taking Prednisone. I’ve taken it several times and the side effects are pretty bad. Thanks again..Lori

  36. David Gurney Avatar

    Everyone should be aware that steroids can destroy your vision. Steroid medications like topical creams, shots, and allergy inhalers are associated with central serous retinopathy, (sometimes called chorioretinopathy), in which a blister forms under the retina. The sometimes-subtle blurring of vision is on ly one symptom; even after the fluid subsides, there is a permanent loss of color perception and contrast.
    Some literature makes it sound as though CSR resolves itself in most cases and the victim is just fine afterward. This is outdated and simply wrong. Very specific studies have proven that permanent damage always remains.
    You should avoid steroids unless they’re the last resort and you deem the benefits more important than your vision. Tell your doctor and MAKE SURE you know what’s in your medicine.

  37. adam Avatar

    I find zanfel to be the most effective solution, but too expensive to use for as often as I get PI. This weekend I tried the only thing in my garage to address a new case – GOJO hand cleanser. Seems to work about as well as the clearasil/dr. scholls solution (but i’m much more likely to have gojo nearby). Just noticed steve mentioned waterless hand cleansers above. Definitely a good first line of defense. I have since stocked all my bathrooms and kitchens with emergency gojo reserves.

  38. Steven Traylor Avatar
    Steven Traylor

    If Zanfel does not work you should move immediately to Tecnuextreme. It is so much cheaper and it works better. Brand new product from the same company that makes Tecnu.

  39. dave Avatar

    Last year I vigorously applied a locally made spray of Jewelweed (with other plant extracts) for my poison ivy. It didn’t seem to work, and I ended up taking an oral steroid. I got a small poison ivy rash this year, and after succumbing to scratching and opening the blisters, I applied the jewelweed. Remembering how it didn’t work last year, I immediately applied some hydrogen perxoide just for the heck of it. It immediately made the skin dry and seal up, permanently relieved itching. It was miraculous, and the area continued to heal without any symptoms. I doubt it was the combination of jewelweed and hyd.peroxide, but I thought I’d mention it to be accurate. Anyone try hyrdogen peroxide on open blisters?

  40. Barry R. Nicholson Avatar

    July 14, 2005 07:11 PM
    This worked repeatedly for me in stopping the itching of a bad but isolated case of Poison Oak under my forearms.
    Very Hot Compresses (as hot a as you can bear without scalding) using a towel, wash cloth, or cotton sock and applied with a little pressure for 30 seconds to the rash and repeated five (5) times. This completely relieved the itching for 8 hours, didn’t take as much time, or use as much hot water as using a showerhead spray. The latter works just as effectively if you use as hot as you can bear hot water without scalding and the heavy rather than light spray setting on the showerhead. When you initially apply the hot compresses or hot water, you will experience an initial increase in itching, but after repeated application under either method you will eventually reach a “flush” of no itching. Ahhhh!
    This method does not appear to prevent or reduce weeping of blisters (in my case it was more like crying than weeping especially at the silver dollar size leather like rash on the underside of my right forearm next to the elbow) and may actually increase weeping, but it controls the itching 100% for long periods of time.
    Whether this method has any deleterious effects or aids/prolongs healing has yet to be determined, but it controls the itching 100% for long periods of time (up to 8 hours or more.)
    I tried ZANFEL after 7 days from contact and needed two (2) consecutive 3 minute washings as prescribed to eliminate the itching for only 4 hours and did not want to scrub again due to the tenderness of the skin from the prior 2 back to back washings. (I am still evaluating its efficacy.) I instead “shower headed” the forearms with hot water and got complete relief from the itching.
    I’m still experimenting with “healing” topicals. There has to be a natural or generic solution to this NASTY NASTY affliction!
    Barry bearsf@pacbell.net

  41. Annie Avatar

    Hans, thanks for your reply. He tried it again last night and it did not burn. I don’t know why it burned the first time.

  42. Hans Avatar

    Annie – I haven’t experienced a burning feeling from Zanfel. The only irritation I noticed was from scrubbing on the areas where the poison oak had already ruptured the skin. It’s possible that your boyfriend’s skin is sensitive to the ingredients. Always test first with a small dose on a small area of skin to check for reactions such as that.

  43. Annie Avatar

    My boyfriend tried Zanfel last night but we were dissapointed when it did not help. He said it just burned. Has anyone experienced this?

  44. Steve Avatar

    Many years ago there was a liquid product that came with popsicle sticks and I simply can’t remember the name. You would apply the liquid to the area infected and then rub vigorously with the sticks to irritate the skin. It burned a little, but felt blissfull while you legitimately scratched the hell out of the area. This stuff dried everything up over night like a little pack man eating up those dots. It was incredible stuff, and probably dangerous considering how it ate the poison up, and I’m sure that’s why they took it off the market soon thereafter. Wish I had bought a ton of it. Any one remeber the name of this stuff and if, per chance, it is still available simewhere?

  45. Debbie W. Avatar
    Debbie W.

    Hello to all my fellow poison “plant rash” sufferers. I have read all the comments and home remedies and would like to offer my advice. As for myself, I have had 4 bouts of this bane from Hell, never really knowing which plant was the culprit, but I do know how maddening the intense itching can be and how horrid it can make you look & feel. Some of the home remedies I have read here are definitely harmful as your skin absorbs all those chemicals not meant for prolonged skin contact like bleach, ammonia, goo gone, etc. and could make you quite sick now OR in the future. Your liver will have to try to detox these chemicals and I would advise not to use ANY of them for your rash. I have found that FELS NAPTHA LAUNDRY SOAP in bar form is SAFE and is excellent for removing any kind of plant sap or oil from your skin after exposure and should be used after any questionable contact. This has always worked for me as long as I do it IMMEDIATELY after exposure. Last year I was so tired after 7 straight hours of hedge trimming, I just washed up with regular “antibacterial” liquid hand soap and I paid the price for my laziness–1 whole month of intense itching torture & ugly oozing blisters. I did not sleep more than 2 hours a night for 3 weeks from the itching. Hand towels soaked in ice water were the only things that brought some temporary relief. In the past I have tried calamine, calagel, benedryl, Iva-rest, cortisone, vinegar, tea bags, baking soda paste, aloe…none of these really worked well for itch relief. Keeping the area very cold is best if possible. Yesterday I was out in the yard & when I came inside I felt an itchy tingle on my wrist, and looked to find that familiar “red line” that you KNOW is the beginning of a rash from one of the big 3-poison oak, ivy, or sumac, and I knew I had to react right away. This time I wiped it with isopropyl alcohol and then rubbed some EMU OIL on it. It stopped itching in 1 minute and hasn’t itched since! Today it is much lighter pink, without blisters, and NO ITCHING! So I am very impressed with the EMU OIL which has anti-inflammation properties. It is healing already and I can tell it will not blister over and ooze. As for the one comment about the Clearasil/Footscrub combo for already blistered skin, I would change the footscrub to just using SUGAR SCRUB which is easy to find or you can make your own. Your foot skin is much thicker and can tolerate rougher treatment. After rinsing & patting dry I would gently rub in EMU OIL to heal the raw skin and reduce redness. One of the benefits of the emu oil is it is like a first aid oil and goes through all the layers of skin with beneficial vitamins. It even makes scars and wrinkles go away. Chrsitine K. if you read this it sounds like you may have re-exposed yourself on the tender areas by contact with something that still has the plant poison on it…it could be clothing, your pet, or even your chair that you sat in when you had the poison on your skin. Try to remember what you did right before you got the first bumps. I know of a man that kept getting it on his face because his steering wheel of his car was contaminated with the poison, and of course he would transfer this to his face. Wipe down anything you touched with alcohol to cut through the oil.I hope this helps you and anyone else reading this in your time of misery!

  46. christine k. Avatar
    christine k.

    I have to say that I tried the Zanfel with little relief. I am going on week #3 with Poison Oak. I have gotten a steroid injection and am still taking Prednisone. I am also using Fluocinonide cream which is a topical steroid on the rash itself. I have found the only true temporary relief is using ice packs on the affected areas. I am concerned due to this going into week number three, how long does it take for this misery to go away. People typically say it takes 10 days. According to my doctor this is a systemic reaction. I took a fall and had direct contact with the bush.
    Can anybody out there offer any advice for relief? I’m tired of taking steroids, they make me feel really weird.
    Just one more thing to add, my rash was getting better, but in the areas it is healing there are other areas that are getting new breakouts. Is this normal?

  47. Cliff Avatar

    I have read your Site with much gratitiude for the extensive focus on pi\po I found unfourtunatly that zanfel isn’t available directly in canada though I have ordered it, it will take “14 to 30 days” long past the time when this batch of pi will be gone .In frustration I applied a generic shampoo and a generic hand cleaner that had some of the same ingredients as Z I got some immediet relief and good long term relief with this simple test ,I’m going to forge ahead and try and synthezise a Zanfel clone and call it Zinfindel from the base of Zan-infedel” with strong recommondations that one does’nt try to drink it. Poison Ivy forces the mind into some dangerous places doesn’t it? I think I’ll use that as my defence of a civil suit ever comes forward. As I would recommend to our clypto-zanfel artist Mark who was obviously temporarily out of his mind when he risked a a shop lifting charge for a little tube of hope for relief .Anyway from the Patent office here is the listed formulation in the application.I should have paid more attention in chemistry but Dr Sholls and spermicide in a mean green base here I come
    “Thus, a representative composition for the inventive solution might be polyethylene granules, sodium lauroyl sarcosinate, nonoxynol-9, C12-15 pareth-9, disodium EDTA, quaternium-15, carbomer 2%, triethanolamine, and water. ”

  48. Yoed Cameron Avatar
    Yoed Cameron

    Oh, this is hillarious. Myself, thought I had a case of the bed bugs until an allergist’s nurse told me I had PI (what’d you expect? I am from Puerto Rico, well, now in the States). Anyway I’ve been scratching like crazy to the point of looking like a dog infested with fleas…
    She told me to get Ivy Free but we had no luck at the drugstore. We were shown Z but ended getting the Rite Aid version. 27 dollars later all I feel is like I’ve given myself a good rubdown with GoJo. I too read the ingredients and to me it is nothing but a suspension of recycled plastic. I believe the abrasion opens the skin to release and rinse out the offending oil. I myself will try a fine scrub next time. After reading this I believe the next product that will be sold for a ridiculous amount is going to be water.
    –“I am desperately thirsty”
    -“I got the thing for you, just $29.50 a gallon”
    –(reading out loud) H 2 0″
    I just wonder how people with eczema/psoriasis deal with this as their skin is already lacking elasticity.
    Also, why does the skin turns “leathery”?

  49. Nancy Sterner Avatar
    Nancy Sterner

    Well, I just broke down tonite and bought the Zanfel…Cost $39.99 at Rite Aid, but they had a sale, so I bought it for $29.99…I dont even know where i got poison..Im pretty sure I didnt touch the plant, but we live in the mountains in the woods, and my husband had it on his arm from working outside, a week or so ago…I could have got it laundering his clothes, or just touching something that had the oil on from his poison…I really only have 3 spots on my stomach, and a patch on my back..I think I have had it about a week or a little more..The blisters are scabby and seem to be healing, not oozing or anything, but the itchy and pain is driving me crazy, esp. the itching…I used hydrocortisone cream, Caldryl, and Benadryl tablets, but the creams didnt help the itching and sorenes…I used the Zanfel, and as I was doing it, it felt great and no itch, but after I rinsed, I noticed the itching came back, maybe not as bad..I have a feeling I didnt use enough of it..I may have only used 1/2 inch, rather than the 1 1/2 inch, and I dont think I left it on long enough…It says a minute…I am going to have to do it again before I go to bed to see if it really works…

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