Rhus toxicodendron is a homeopathic remedy. It’s also known as poison ivy. Other names include Toxicodendron pubescens and Toxicodendron radicans.

Poison ivy may seem like an unlikely remedy. But it’s used to treat several conditions, including:

  • cramps
  • strains
  • sprains
  • restless leg syndrome
  • flu
  • viral infections
  • arthritis

This remedy has mostly been studied for its effectiveness as a treatment for arthritis pain. But research shows its effectiveness is still unclear.

Homeopathy is a philosophy developed over 200 years ago in Germany. It features two key beliefs:

  • like cures like: Homeopathy suggests that you can cure someone by giving them a substance that reproduces the symptoms they have.
  • law of minimum dose: The substance given should be diluted as much as possible.

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the use of homeopathic remedies is increasing in the United States. Five million adults and 1 million children were using them in 2013.

R. toxicodendron is most commonly used to relieve arthritis symptoms. And it can be given to people of any age. Proponents say that it’s most effective when used during an arthritis flare-up that doesn’t respond well to applying cold packs.

R. toxicodendron doesn’t require a prescription. It’s available over-the-counter in pill, capsule, liquid, ointment, and gel forms.

Consult your doctor and homeopath before trying this treatment. Your doctor can tell you if there are any reasons why you shouldn’t take it. Your homeopath can help you find the best way to use it and the right amount to use.

The U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t evaluate over-the-counter homeopathic medications for safety. So they don’t offer an official list of side effects.

There’s anecdotal evidence that people who are highly sensitive to R. toxicodendron could develop a rash and swelling in the lower extremities. However, this has not been confirmed or supported by the FDA.

The evidence is mixed regarding the effectiveness of R. toxicodendron as a treatment for arthritis. One study assessed a group of rats with arthritis who were given several dilutions of it.

The researchers found that R. toxicodendron protected rats from inflammatory lesions, weight changes, and joint changes due to arthritis and pain.

R. toxicodendron has not proven as useful in trials on humans. The NYU Langone Medical Center conducted two studies on humans.

The first study compared R. toxicodendron against the anti-inflammatory drug fenoprofen, which is known as an effective arthritis treatment. Fenoprofen proved more effective at relieving arthritis pain. R. toxicodendron did no better than a placebo.

The second study compared a homeopathic gel containing R. toxicodendron to a gel made from another anti-inflammatory drug called piroxicam.

The research showed the two treatments were equally effective. But it should be noted that piroxicam in gel form had never been studied as a treatment for arthritis pain. So it’s possible that piroxicam gel and R. toxicodendron are equally ineffective.

Every person will have a unique response to homeopathic medicines. Practitioners are usually reluctant to set a specific timeframe for relief of symptoms.

The goal is for acute symptoms to resolve within a few days. Chronic symptoms, like arthritis pain, should begin to improve quickly. Symptoms will continue to improve over three to four weeks if the treatment is effective.

Homeopathy can be an effective way to treat conditions in some people, but it isn’t for everyone. Each person will respond to R. toxicodendron treatments differently.

Some people need to take the homeopathic remedy only once or twice. Others with chronic pain may need to take it on a continuing basis.

Be sure to check with your doctor or homeopath before using or taking a product that contains R. toxicodendron.