Impatiens capensis is a North American native annual. Related to the garden-variety impatiens, it does not like to dry out and is often found growing in ditches, near waterways, and in bottomland forests. A common name is spotted touch-me-not, named for the seed pods which pop when touched, scattering its seeds. The leaves repel water, and appear silver underwater, possibly the origin of its other common name, jewelweed.
Another species, pale jewelweed (impatiens pallida) has yellow flowers rather than orange, and is less common.
Jewelweed is a traditional remedy for various skin conditions, and is best known as a remedy against poison ivy rash. The sooner it is applied, the better it works. Happily, where poison ivy grows, jewelweed is often not far away.
The leaves of jewelweed can be crushed and used as a poultice after coming into contact with poison ivy, and often this prevents the rash altogether. The juice from the stems can be used, but this is most effective before the plant has flowered. A tea can be made from the crushed leaves, frozen into icecubes, and applied to the skin as needed. Jewelweed can also be applied before potential exposure as a preventative.
The active compound found in jewelweed, lawsone, is proven to have antihistamine and anti-inflammatory properties. The plant also contains balsaminones, which have strong antipruritic (anti-itch) properties.
Jewelweed can also be used for nettle stings, hives, eczema , insect stings and bites, cuts, acne, and other various skin irritations. The seeds, while minute, are edible and pleasant tasting.