Impatiens capensis Meerb.

Last updated: 21 Apr 2017

Scientific Name

Impatiens capensis Meerb.


Balsamina capensis (Meerb.) DC., Balsamina fulva Ser., Chrysaea biflora (Walter) Nieuwl. & Lunell, Impatiens biflora Walter, Impatiens capensis f. capensis, Impatiens fulva Nutt. [Unresolved], Impatiens maculata Muhl. [Unresolved]. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Wild balsam, balsam-weed, impatiens pallid, pale-touch-me-not, slipperweed, silverweed, wild lady’s slipper, speckled jewels, wild celandine, quick-in-the-hand, [2] jewelweed, touch-me-not, [3] orange jewelweed, [4] wild touch-me-not, [5] spotted touch-me-not, spotted jewelweed [6].

Geographical Distributions

Impatiens capensis 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. [5]

Botanical Description

I. capensis is a member of Balsaminaceae family. [1] This plant can grow to a height of 2 m, though mostly only grows to an average of 1.5 m. [7]

The plant itself is glabrous and fleshy and the swollen nodes of the stem are either branched or simple. [7]

The leaves are thin, ovate and teethed, usually with 5 to 14 teethes 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. [7]

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”. [7]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

I. capensis was found to contain 1,4-napthoguinone and lawsone. [8]

Plant Part Used

Whole plant. [9][10]

Traditional Use

Native American medical practitioners commonly used I. capensis to alleviate a plethora of skin complaints. [9]

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. [10]

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. [11]

Considered by some Native American tribes to be a have diuretic properties, I. capensis has been used as a diuretic [12] and infusions have been used to treat fever, stomach cramps, measles, and jaundice [10]. The infusions also have been used to promote general liver health, with some tribes using an infusion to as a kidney tonic as well [10].

Preclinical Data


Antiallergic activity

I. capensis extract was found to exhibit therapeutic activity when poison ivy extracts and I. capensis juice were combined in vitro, or on the skin. [13]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

Antiallergic activity

Clinical studies were conducted to test the efficacy of an extract of I. capensis in the treatment of experimentally induced allergic contact dermatitis to poison ivy. However the results demonstrated that an extract of I. capensis was not effective in the treatment of poison ivy allergic contact dermatitis. [13][14][15]


No documentation.

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. [16]

Due to lack of information, internal use is not is not recommended. [17]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

Not to be used with pregnant or nursing women. [16]


Crushed I. capensis has been used as a topical salve for poison ivy; however, no specific dose has been determined in clinical trials. [16]

Poisonous Management

No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


  1. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Impatiens capensis Meerb. [homepage on the Inetrnet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2017 Apr 21]. Available from:
  2. The Family Doctor. Nature’s Pharmacy. Jewelweed. [hompage on the Internet]. c2013 [cited 2017 Apr 21]. Available from:
  3. USDA. Natural Resources Conservation Service. Impatiens capensis Meerb. (Jewelweed). [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2017 Apr 21]. Available from:
  4. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Plant Database. Impatiens capensis. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [updated 2015 Nov 11; cited 2017 Apr 21]. Available from:
  5. Encyclopedia of Life. Impatiens capensis (Wild touch-me-not). [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2017 Apr 21]. Available from:
  6. The Friends of the Wild Flower Garden, Inc. Impatiens capensis. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [cited 2017 Apr 21]. Available from:
  7. Bojnansky V, Fargasoa A. Atlas of seeds and fruits of Central and East-European Flora: The Carpathian Mountains region. Springer Science & Business Media, 2007; p. 437.
  8. Thomson Healthcare.  PDR for herbal medicines. Montvale, NJ: Thomson Healthcare Inc, 2007.
  9. Coffey T. The history and folklore of North American wildflowers. New York, USA: Houson Mifflin; 1993.
  10. Moerman DE.  Native American ethnobotany. Portland OR: Timber Press; 2009.
  11. Lewis WF, Elvin-Lewis MPF. Medical botany: Plants affecting man’s health. New YorkWiley Interscience; 1977.
  12. Fern K. Plants for a future: Edible & useful plants for a healthier world. Hampshire, England: Permanent Publications, 1997.
  13. Gibson MR, Maher FT. Activity of jewelweed and its enzymes in the treatment of rhus dermatitis. J Pharm Sci. 1950;39(5):294-296.
  14. Long D, Ballentine NH, Marks JG Jr. Treatment of poison ivy/oak allergic contact dermatitis with an extract of jewelweed. Am J Contact Dermat. 1997;8(3):150-153.
  15. Zink BJ, Otten EJ, Rosenthal M, Singal B. The effect of jewel weed in preventing poison ivy dermatitis. J Wilderness Med. 1991;2(3):178-182.
  16. more.Be sure. Jewelweed. [homepage on the Internet]. c2000-2017 [cited 2017 Apr 21]. Available from:
  17. Plants For A Future. Impatiens capensis – Meerb. [homepage on the Internet]. c1996-2012 [cited 2017 Apr 21]. Available from: