From mosquitoes and black flies to wasps and bees, there are all manner of biting and stinging insects just waiting in the wings to put a damper on your summertime enjoyment. Should you happen to have an unfortunate encounter with any of the aforementioned (and if you go outside, it's inevitable that you will), just use one of the recipes I've provided below and you'll be itch and bump free in no time. Okay, the worst has happened: you've been bitten or stung. Now what?
First of all, seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following:
- difficulty breathing
- swelling of the throat and tongue
- a weak, rapid pulse
- nausea, vomiting or diarrhea
- dizziness or fainting
If you are not experiencing any of these signs, it should be safe to begin soothing the site of the bite or sting with a drawing poultice made from the following:
- 1 tsp French green clay
- ¼ tsp activated charcoal or baking soda
- vinegar, witch hazel, Calendula or plantain tincture
- Combine the clay and charcoal with enough vinegar, Calendula or plantain tincture to moisten into a spreadable paste.
- Smooth the paste liberally over the bite and allow to completely dry (about 10-15 minutes) before gently rinsing away with cool water. The tightening and drawing action of the poultice is especially helpful in drawing out stingers from the skin (also useful for splinters).
*Alternatively, if you happen to be outside when the bite/sting happens and spot a plantain growing nearby, you can chew up a plantain leaf and apply the pulp straight to the site of the sting for immediate comfort.
*In a pinch, a cooled tea bag (green tea or chamomile is best) or a paste made from baking soda and water can also be applied as a poultice to the bite to soothe swelling.
The poultice can be repeated twice daily for bites or stings until swelling comes down.
To soothe subsequent itching of the bites, the following topical mixture has often proved invaluable in my household. To make, mix together the following in a 2 oz. spray or dropper bottle:
- 30 mL witch hazel or Rose water
- 15 mL Calendula succus or tincture
- 15 mL Echinacea or burdock tincture
- 20 drops lavender essential oil
- 20 drops mint essential oil
- Shake well before using and apply directly to the skin as often as needed to soothe itching and irritation. These herbs also support a healthy inflammatory response and promote a swift healing process.
If you happen to get particularly unlucky and end up with a spattering of bites all over your body (after a camping trip next to a bog, let's say) an oatmeal bath can be an absolute dream. Just fill up an old sock or some cheesecloth with a handful of oats, secure the top, and throw the bundle into your bath water along with a few drops of lavender essential oil. Gently squeeze the oat bundle to release the emollient polysaccharides into your bath water. You can also squeeze the oat juice directly onto your skin. The emollient and antioxidant effects will soothe itching, speed healing, and leave your skin feeling renewed.
Writer Danielle Charles Davies holds a Bsc in Herbal Science from Bastyr University and completed the two-year clinical training program at the Vermont Center for Integrative Herbalism in Montpelier, VT. Her writing has appeared in Taproot, The Journal of the American Herbalist Guild, and Kindred Magazine, among others. She lives in Northern Michigan with her husband, two dogs and eight ducks. She blogs at www.bluemoonkitchen.com.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.