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Impatiens capensis

Impatiens capensis


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Jewelweed, Spotted Touch-Me-Not, Slipperweed, Silverweed, Wild Lady’s Slipper, Speckeled Jewels, Wild Celandine, Quick-in-the-hand, Orange Jewelweed.


Impatiens capensis can grow to a height of 2m, though mostly only grows to an average of 1.5m. The plant itself is glabrous and fleshy and the swollen nodes of the stem are either branched or simple. The leaves are thin, ovate and teethed, usually with 5 to 14 teeths per side. The easily identifiable characteristic of these rich green leaves which have water beads on the leaves, as if coated.  When held underwater, the leaves give off a silvery sheen. The bright orange flowers are axillary with reddish-brown spots. From the flowers grow orange seed pods that, when ripe, burst open at the slightest touch, giving the plant the common name of “Touch-me-not”.(9)

Origin / Habitat

I. capensis, or Jewelweed, is an annual herb found native to North America, most readily in moist, rich soils across almost the entire North American continent, with the exception being the drier climate in the southwest quadrant of the continent.

Chemical Constituents

1,4-napthoguinone, lawsone (1)

Plant Part Used

Whole plant

Traditional Use

Native American medical practitioners commonly used I. capensis to alleviate a plethora of skin complaints.(2) Either a poultice was pressed on the skin, or a decoction was used as a wash in order to heal or reduce symptoms of burns, hives, and various venereal diseases with external symptoms, liver spots, poison ivy rash and bruises.(3) The external applications also have been used for its alleged analgesic activity.  The early records indicate that the Potawatomis regularly used I. capensis to treat poison ivy and it is still used today by some tribes in the Appalachian Mountain areas.(4)

Considered by some Native American tribes to be a have diuretic properties, I. capensis has been used as a diuretic(5) and infusions have been used to treat fever, stomach cramps, measles and jaundice.(3)  The infusions also have been used to promote general liver health, with some tribes using an infusion to as a kidney tonic as well.(3)


Crushed leaves and sometimes stems are made into a poultice and applied topically to the affected area.  A water decoction may also be used.



There are numerous species of Impatiens and often common names are miss-matched. In the case of I. capensis and Impatiens balsamina are often confused even in the scientific literature.  Numerous laboratory studies have examined the pharmacology of I. balsamina but not I. capensis. Work on I. capensis has likely been limited due to the lack of its viability as a dermatological agent. Even though this herb has been used for hundreds of years to treat poison oak and poison ivy, clinical evidence to support this has demonstrated findings to the contrary in both human(6),(7) and animal models.(8)

The pharmacological activity of I. balsamina is not relevant to I. capensis as used in Native American traditional medicine.


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

Based on traditional use information, this herb should not be used internally in combination with diuretic or with patients being treated for kidney disease.

Based on traditional use information, this herb should not be used by individuals being treated for liver disease.

For topical applications, there are no know contraindications for this herb.

Due to lack of information, internal use is not is not recommended.


Not to be used with pregnant or nursing women.

Age limitation

Keep out of reach of children.

Adverse reaction

No documentation


  1. Thomson Healthcare.  PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Thomson Healthcare Inc; 2007.
  2. Coffey T. The History and Folklore of North American Wildflowers. New York, New York: Houson Mifflin; 1993.
  3. Moerman DE.  Native American Ethnobotany. Portland OR: Timber Press; 2009.
  4. Lewis WF, Elvin-Lewis MPF. Medical Botany: Plants Affecting Man’s Health. NY. Wiley Interscience; 1977.
  5. Fern K. Plants For A Future: Edible & Useful Plants For A Healthier World. Hampshire, England: Permanent Publications; 1997.
  6. Long D, Ballentine NH, Marks JG Jr. Treatment of poison ivy/oak allergic contact dermatitis with an extract of jewelweed. Am J Contact Dermat. Sep 1997;8(3):150-153.
  7. Zink BJ, Otten EJ, Rosenthal M, Singal B. The effect of jewel weed in preventing poison ivy dermatitis. J Wildns Med. 1991;2(3):178–182.
  8. Gibson MR, Maher FT. Activity of jewelweed and its enzymes in the treatment of rhus dermatitis. J Am Pharm Assoc. 39(5):294-296.
  9. Vit Bojnansky;Agata Fargasoa. Atlas of Seeds and Fruits of Central and East-European Flora; Springer;2007.

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