Category: Natural Remedies

Natural Remedies for Bug Bites and Bee Stings: #2 in our Natural First Aid Series

Well, it’s official. Sitting in the pre-tornado humidity of our Spring evening in Austin, it happened…my first mosquito bite of the season. Fighting back the urge to cry, “I’m not ready!”, I am reminding myself that this Friday for Recipe Weekend we’ll be posting a recipe — and mixing up a batch! of natural homemade bug repellent that will hopefully make this first bite my last.

But I know that this first bite heralds the start to an entire post-Winter season – of camping trips, picnics, pool parties, trips to the park, summer vacations — and general outdoor merriment that comes with the lurking dangers of everything from yellow-jacket-riddled trashcans to noseeums and sand fleas.

So as we welcome the return of long sun-lit days, and these unwelcome accompanying hazards, I want to refresh everyone’s memory on the best easy remedies to stop the gnawing itch of bug bites and the pain of stings. If forewarned is really forearmed (as my mother likes to say), impending Spring and Summer fun just got a little bit safer.

For MOSQUITO and other BUG BITES, have you tried:

  • A drop of tea tree oil dabbed gently on the site of a bite or applied to a band-aid which then covers the bite area can provide both soothing relief, and ward off infection. Add a drop of lavender essential oil for increased pain and itch relief.
  • A cotton ball soaked in witch hazel can provide immediate pain relief, and stop the swelling of a bug bite.
  • Ice cubes!!! Ice cubes are a great, easily-accessible and free line of defense against itch and swelling.
  • Calendula — Both antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory, calendula oil or cream is one of the most effective remedies in the bug bite repertoire. Just rub it on the site. And p.s. it’s also great for cuts, wounds and rashes.
  • Aloe vera gel — its not just for burns, it’s a great itch, irritation and wound healer.

For Ant Bites:

  1. Start by washing with soap and water.
  2. Apply apple cider vinegar directly to the bites.
  3. Finish with healing salve, baking soda mixed with a dab of water or green clay

For BEES, WASPS and other nasty STINGS:

  1. Scrape out the stinger with a fingernail or credit card (avoid pulling it out with tweezers, which can release more venom into the site of the sting).
  2. Wash the area with soap and water
  3. Apply an antiseptic, such as witch hazel or apple cider vinegar.
  4. Mix baking soda with water until it forms a paste and apply to the area. The baking soda will tenderize the skin, relieve pain, and stop inflammation. You can also try meat tenderizer mixed with water. The bee sting venom is made up of proteins, which the meat tenderizer breaks down.

Other Options:

  • lavender-blossomFor stings, place a slice of papaya over the site for up to an hour. The papain enzyme in papaya is excellent at breaking down the venomous proteins causing inflammation and pain.
  • One drop of lavender essential oil at the site of the bee sting can have a potent pain relieving and anti-inflammatory effect. For wasp stings, try 1-3 drops of lavender essential oil, and 1-3 drops of tea tree oil for extra anti-inflammatory effects and pain relief.
  • Basil: basil has been shown to be an insect repellent, a pain reliever and anti-inflammatory for bee stings, and a great reliever of spider bites. For spider bites, 2-3 drops of basil oil on a band-aid works best. For bee stings, you can crush fresh basil and place it directly on the site of the sting after cleaning. Then plan on eating Italian food for dinner. (I dare you not to crave pesto after using this remedy.)
  • Keep plantain leaves on hand. If a bee strikes, after removing the stinger, chew up the leaf, or bruise it with your hand and then apply it directly to the site of the sting. It helps draw out the venom and ease the pain.

For Bites All Over:

  • Is your child covered in bites, or stand in an anthill? (I did, once, and the fire ants were merciless…) Put them in a bath of apple cider vinegar or baking soda — about 1/2 C for each 6 inches of water.
  • Support your child internally by giving him Vitamin C, digestive enzymes with protease, and plantain or echinacea tincture to stop the swelling.

Fact or Fiction: A few years ago, I was stung by a Texas scorpion. Coming from California, where apparently the scorpions are of a more dangerous variety, I called a medical hotline immediately. The nurse on call, after ascertaining that I was not suffering any severe allergic reaction, suggested that I place a penny on the site of the sting. While in my case I can’t be sure that it was the penny, the ice packs, or just time that cured my pain, I have since heard stories both refuting and supporting the “penny cure.” Just remember to clean the penny first.

When to seek medical help with a bug bite or sting:  

The area of the sting or bite swells up, such as the entire wrist arm or leg where it occurred; there is any difficulty breathing, dizziness, nausea, or other signs of severe allergy; the pain and inflammation does not subside, even after hours of treatment. Bee stings can cause especially severe reactions. When in doubt, have it checked out.

Everyday Remedies for Eczema: natural ways to stop the itch and discomfort

eczema handOf all the subjects I’ve tackled on Mommy’s ER, I’ve been reluctant to blog about eczema, in spite of the fact that eczema sufferers, especially young ones, have always made up a large portion of my practice. It saddens me that it is so debilitating, for everyone in the family, and many times the solutions are multi-pronged, and very personal, making it a big subject to tackle.

Still, there are some natural remedies for eczema that most sufferers agree eases the itching, scaling and oozing, so I start there with most children and grownups who enter my clinic. I’ll share these with you now, in hopes that if you or your child has eczema, that it brings relief, and hope.

1) Use a food/activity log. Start logging your food and activities each day. At the end of the day, rank your eczema on a scale of 1-10 (1 being nonexistent, 10 being the worst, itchiest, reddest, it has ever been). food I start here with every client, even mamas of breastfeeding clients, because here is where personal patterns emerge. For one young client, dairy products increased the inflammation significantly. For another little boy, days he went swimming in a chlorinated pool made it worse. Finally for a third, the days he spent rolling around on the floor with grandma and grandpa’s dogs had an effect. Allergens – environmental especially, but sometimes food as well, can play a role in the severity of eczema. The log can help parents and children to start making connections that allow for informed choices. In the food arena, watch especially for correlations with highly allergenic foods such as citrus, chocolate, dairy, eggs and wheat.

2) Vitamin C may be good for nearly everything, but in particular, its natural anti-inflammatory and antihistamine effects make it beneficial for eczema. In children over 2 years old, try 250mg at least twice a day. (In children under two, start with 50-100mg and work up if digestion is not impacted). (Note: be careful to not give vitamin C in the form of citrus, unless you are certain your child has no sensitivities).

3) Get a good probiotic. Probiotics have been proven to be clinically effective at preventing eczema in infants and children who may be predisposed genetically. Probiotics have also been shown to reduce symptoms of eczema in infants and children with sensitivities to food allergens. Lactobacillus GG, Lactobacillus Rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium Lactis are all varieties that have appeared effective in the studies. A good broad-spectrum brand especially formulated for children should help. You can even try dropping an open capsule or two in your child’s bathwater (especially with young children). This is not, however, a good solution for children with auto-immune disorders or pancreatitis, except under the guidance of a qualified practitioner.

4) Burdock root, either ground into a paste and applied topically, or taken as a tincture or tea, is known among western and eastern herbalists for it’s blood-purifying capabilities. burdock-root-shavings A natural antiseptic, it can help to both detoxify and heal the skin. In children under 10 years old, I recommend it topically. In children over 10, take it internally as well, 1-2 times a day as directed for at least a month. Herbalists often combine burdock with red clover and nettle (nettle can cause a stomach upset in some children, if this happens, you can either add ginger, or remove it entirely from your child’s eczema ‘tea’.) Burdock root can also be cut thinly and steamed or sauteed with carrots, at any age, once your child is eating solid foods. The beta-carotene in the carrots is also great for skin conditions.

5) If your child has dry eczema, try a natural lotion with calendula, or make your own with olive oil or hypoallergenic lotion and calendula essential oil (up to 7 drops per cup of oil or lotion). Rescue Remedy in ointment form can also be applied directly to patches of dry eczema. Herbal creams made with licorice have also been shown to have a positive effect on eczema.

6) Bathe your child — in warm, not hot water, and with alternatives to soap. Lots of people report diluted bleach baths reduce eczema. To me, the toxic detriments of bleach would make this a very last resort. Instead, try mineral sea salt baths. These salts are full of beneficial minerals, moisturize, and act antiseptically to cleanse the sensitive wounds and fragile skin at eczema sites. This is even safe for infants. You can also try oatmeal baths — 1 cup of oatmeal wrapped in cheesecloth can be placed in bathwater, and even placed on eczema patches as a compress for quick relief.

7) Rooibos tea is a caffeine-free tea that is chalk full of antioxidants, flavonoids and phenolic acids, all beneficial. In particular, rooibos contains aspalathin, an antioxidant that, to my knowledge is unique to rooibos. Anecdotal reports of success have come by placing 2-3 rooibos tea bags in the bath to reduce eczema symptoms. Or take it internally as a tea.

8) Check in with a qualified Chinese herbalist. I know — this is my first love — but it also can be incredibly effective. Two studies out of Great Britain showed a Chinese formula known as Luo’s Mixture to be effective even in cases of severe, resistant eczema. It is suspected that herbs suppress inflammatory responses and mildly suppress inappropriate immune response. The beauty of Chinese herbs is that they are customizable for your child’s particular condition. The bad news is — they can taste pretty unpleasant. It’s worth persisting, my son will now take them easily — more easily in fact than any over-the-counter remedy we’ve ever resorted to giving him.

9) Finally, and this is especially difficult and especially important in small children — do whatever you can to help your little one avoid scratching. Keep their nails short, and, in infants, it is even worth it to invest in pajamas with hand covers (to keep baby from scratching at night). As relieving as it is in the moment, scratching can cause skin cells to produce more quickly, and patches of eczema to widen. Encourage compresses instead – such as oatmeal in cheesecloth, rooibos tea bags, or just a wet washcloth – to provide immediate relief.

All of these are results from which clients and friends have reported success (and my clients eczema has tended to be quite severe). I am very open to other possibilities and your own success stories in this arena. And please, if you choose to journal, share what you find! Lets keep this a forum where we can share our successes with this condition. My hope is that we can find a way to take eczema from difficult and debilitating to, at worst, a minor inconvenience.