Natural Remedies for Insect Bites

Natural Remedies for Insect Bites

In my last post, I looked at 10 essential oils that can repel insects. Taking preventative measures can help reduce the chances of getting bitten, but it’s not always possible to avoid insect bites altogether. If you do get bitten there are many natural methods of treating the bite (or bites). In addition to being itchy and irritating, insect bites and stings can transfer bacteria or other microbes to the skin. Scratching bug bites can also transfer unwanted germs into the bite and can cause further inflammation and irritation. So it’s important to treat insect bites quickly and to reduce the itching as much as possible. The next time you have a bug bite, try one or more of the following.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera helps treat insect bites

Aloe vera is probably best known for its ability to heal sunburns. However, it is also useful for treating bug bites. Aloe vera contains over 130 active compounds and 34 amino acids that nourish the skin and support its health. It can also help reduce inflammation, itching, and swelling around the bite.

Apple Cider Vinegar

It may not smell great, but apple cider vinegar can help take the itch out of bug bites. It is less acidic than other vinegars and can help restore the pH balance to the skin around bites. For individual bites, put a few drops of ACV on a cotton ball, and dab it on. For bites all over, add two to three cups of vinegar to a warm bath, and soak. Don’t worry- you won’t smell like vinegar; the smell dissipates quickly.

Baking Soda

Plain old baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) can lower inflammation and relieve itching. To treat bites, make a paste with baking soda and water and apply to the bite.

Lavender Essential Oil

With its antimicrobial properties, lavender essential oil is ideal for insect bites. As an anti-inflammatory agent, lavender oil also helps to reduce redness, itching, and swelling.

Peppermint Essential Oil

Peppermint essential oil for insect bites

This essential oil creates a cooling sensation, which reaches the brain faster than that itchy feeling caused by insect bites. The brain can only perceive one sensation at a time, so peppermint oil can essentially block the itching, providing temporary relief.

Tamanu Oil

Found in the nut of a tropical tree, tamanu oil has a wealth of properties that make it well-suited for treating insect bites and stings. It helps relieve pain and itching associated with bites. Tamanu oil also contains anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce swelling and redness. Finally, it promotes healing of tissues and supports the formation of new, healthy skin. Tamanu oil is found in Verefina First Aid Stick and First Aid Ointment. These first aid products also contain lavender and tea tree essential oils, so they are ideal for use on insect bites.

Tea Bags

A cooled tea bag can work wonders for bites. The tannins in the tea help to reduce swelling by drawing excess fluids out of the affected area. Tannins also help pull toxins from insect bites.

Tea Tree Essential Oil

Like lavender essential oil, tea tree oil is antimicrobial, making it useful for healing infections. It is anti-inflammatory as well, so it can decrease itching, swelling, and pain. To treat insect stings with tea tree essential oil, first remove the stinger. Then apply tea tree oil diluted with a carrier oil to the affected area.

Witch Hazel

A natural astringent, witch hazel is found in many personal care products. It works especially well in combination with baking soda. When blended with baking soda, witch hazel helps pull fluids out of and reduce inflammation around insect bites. Simply blend a little bit of baking soda into a small amount of witch hazel until a paste forms; apply to affected areas.

Sources:

Gardenista. “5 Natural Ways to Ease Bug Bite Itching.” Care2. 27 July 2013. Web 23 July 2015.

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/5-natural-ways-to-ease-bug-bite-itching.html

Isaacs, Tony. “Natural Remedies and Repellents for Biting and Stinging Insects.” Natural News. 12 September 2008. Web. 24 July 2015.

http://www.naturalnews.com/024158_oil_natural_remedies.html

Kilham, Chris. “Natural Remedies for Bug Bites.” Fox News. 26 June 2012. Web. 23 July 2015.

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2012/06/26/natural-remedies-for-bug-bites/

Klein, Sarah. “Mosquito Bite Treatment: 14 Natural Ways to Ease the Itch.” Huffington Post. 20 June 2012. Web. 23 July 2015.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/20/natural-mosquito-bite-treatment_n_1610186.html

Mercola, Joseph. “Baking Soda Uses: To Remove Splinters– and to Address Many Other Health Needs.” Mercola.com. 27 August 2012. Web. 24 July 2015.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/08/27/baking-soda-natural-remedy.aspx

Mercola, Joseph. “How to Prevent and Treat Insect Bites Without Harsh Chemicals.” Mercola.com. 22 July 2013. Web. 24 July 2015.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/07/22/insect-bite-treatment.aspx

Mercola, Joseph. “Lavender Oil: A Love for Lavender Oil.” Mercola.com. Web. 23 July 2015.

http://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/lavender-oil.aspx

10 Essential Oils that Repel Insects

essential-oils-that-repel-insects

The bugs have been out for a while now. And if you’re one of those unlucky people who attracts biting insects, then finding an effective way to keep them at bay is probably a must for you. There are many insect repelling options out there, but some products- especially those made with DEET– may have a negative impact on your health. If you’d prefer to find an effective, toxin-free way of repelling insects, then essential oils may be the best answer for you. There are a number of essential oils that can keep bugs away- without the toxic side effects.

Catnip

Research done at Iowa State University found that catnip essential oil is roughly 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET (source).

Cedarwood

Cedarwood essential oil is obtained from the steam distillation of pieces of cedar. It is useful for repelling flies, mosquitoes, and other pests (source).

Citronella

Citronella essential oil is an old standby as a natural insect repellent. Derived from a plant related to geraniums, this oil works by masking the scents that generally attract insects, thereby making it difficult for them to find their targets (source). It has been used as an insect repellant since 1948.

Clove

The compound eugenol is responsible for many of clove essential oil’s health benefits. Although undiluted clove essential oil can provide two to four hours of protection against mosquitoes (source), the pure oil can cause irritation on the skin. If you want to use undiluted clove oil to deter mosquitoes, put it on your clothing , rather than directly on your skin. Just be sure to check on an unnoticeable spot to make sure it doesn’t stain or discolor the fabric. Putting clove oil in a diffuser can also help keep mosquitoes away.

Cloves can also deter moths and ants. Place a mesh bag with crushed cloves in areas where these critters are a problem.

Eucalyptus

Eucalyptus is a popular ingredient in natural bug repellants because it can help repel mosquitoes. This oil, diluted at 15%, can deter mosquitoes for up to three hours; when combined with vanillin, it is effective for about five hours (source). A 2010 study found that eucalyptus essential oil is also effective at deterring the sandfly (source).

Lavender

Lavender essential oil is a popular oil with a wide range of uses. While it gives off a sweet, floral scent to humans, many insects are repelled by linalool, a naturally-occurring alcohol found in lavender (source). Lavender is particularly repellant to mosquitoes, fleas, houseflies, and moths but is safe for both humans and pets. Its effectiveness is increased when combined with other essential oils, such as citronella.

Lemongrass

A relative of citronella, lemongrass has a stronger, spicier scent that many biting bugs will avoid. It is especially effective against horse flies and mosquitoes.

Patchouli

Patchouli essential oil can provide up to two hours of protection against insects (source). Many people can tolerate higher concentrations of patchouli, but even a dilution of 10% can be effective.

Peppermint

Peppermint essential oil may be refreshing and energizing for people, but mosquitoes don’t like it. This oil has been found to provide complete protection against mosquitoes for about 2.5 hours (source).

Tea Tree

Tea tree essential oil has a strong scent that keeps ants, horse flies, and other insects away.

DIY Insect Repellent

You can make your own all-natural insect repellent using essential oils:

Ingredients

* 50-60 drops essential oils (choose from any of the ones listed above)

* 4 oz. distilled water

* 4 oz. witch hazel

* 8 oz. spray bottle (glass is preferable, as essential oils can break down plastic)

Directions

Place all of the ingredients in the spray bottle, and shake gently to mix. Shake before each use, and spray on exposed skin before going outside.

Sources:

“Crafting a Natural Bug Repellent with Essential Oils.” Herbal Academy of New England. 18 June 2014. Web. 8 July 2015.

http://herbalacademyofne.com/2014/06/crafting-a-natural-bug-repellent-with-essential-oils/

Ettinger, Jill. “Smell Fantastically Natural and Repel Insects: 6 Essential Oils for Summer.” Ecosalon. 2 July 2013. Web. 7 July 2015.

http://ecosalon.com/repel-insects-6-essential-oils-for-summer/

Langton, Nicole. “Essential Oils That Repel Insects.” LiveStrong. 21 October 2013. Web. 8 July 2015.

http://www.livestrong.com/article/117530-essential-oils-repel-insects/

Masters, Madeline. “What Kind of Bugs Does Lavender Essential Oil Repel?” SFGate. Web. 10 July 2015.

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/kind-bugs-lavender-essential-oil-repel-83930.html

Mercola, Joseph. “Tea Tree Oil: Three Cheers for Tea Tree Oil.” Mercola.com. Web. 30 June 2015.

http://articles.mercola.com/herbal-oils/tea-tree-oil.aspx

“Oil of Citronella General Fact Sheet.” National Pesticide Information Center. Web. 8 July 2015.

http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/citronellagen.html#howwork

Schoffro Cook, Michelle. “8 Natural Mosquito Repellents.” Care2. 30 May 2013. Web. 9 July 2015.

http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-natural-mosquito-repellents.html

Trongtokit Y., Rongsriyam Y., Komalamisra N., Apiwathnasorn C. “Comparative Repellency of 38 Essential Oils Against Mosquito Bites.” PubMed. 19 April 2005. Web. 20 July 2015.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16041723

Turner, Paige. “Cloves as a Repellent.” SFGate. Web. 21 July 2015.

http://homeguides.sfgate.com/cloves-repellent-83624.html

Yang P., Ma Y. “Repellent effect of plant essential oils against Aedes albopictus.” PubMed. 30 December 2005. Web 20 July 2015.

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16599157

Yigzaw, Erika. “Green Cleaning: 10 Essential Oils That Naturally Repel Insects.” American College of Healthcare Sciences. 26 June 2014. Web. 7 July 2015.

http://info.achs.edu/blog/green-cleaning-10-essential-oils-that-naturally-repel-insects

“15 Cedarwood Uses for Wisdom and Beauty.” Dr. Axe. Web. 9 July 2015.

http://draxe.com/cedarwood-essential-oil/

“25 Uses for Peppermint Oil.” Dr. Axe. Web. 21 July 2015.

http://draxe.com/peppermint-oil-uses-benefits/

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DIY Sanitizing Wipes

DIY Sanitizing WipesHave you ever used those disposable sanitizing wipes? They’re so handy and convenient…and, unfortunately, so wasteful, too. Not to mention frequently loaded with chemical ingredients. Wipes made by more eco-conscious companies have fewer chemicals in them, but they’re still intended to be thrown away after one use.

I’ll admit that I occasionally buy and use these wipes. As I just said, they’re convenient. But it occurred to me a while ago that there may be a better alternative. Before our kids were potty-trained, I made Reusable Diaper Wipes. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner, but I realized that I could make my own sanitizing wipes for cleaning, too. You just need to cut up an old shirt or towel and use some Castile soap and essential oils to make a sanitizing solution for the wipes. Many essential oils have been shown to have antimicrobial properties, so they are ideal natural cleaners.


DIY Sanitizing Wipes

Supplies

Directions

  1. Add 30 drops (total) of essential oils to one cup of Castile soap. Stir gently to mix.
  2. Place the cut-up t-shirt or towel pieces in the container, and pour the soap mixture over them. Make sure all pieces are thoroughly moistened.
  3. Use on counters, walls, door knobs, or other hard surfaces that need a quick cleaning.
  4. Wash the wipes in hot water, dampen with the soap solution, and reuse.

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DIY All-Natural Air Freshener

In my post on DIY Natural Cleaners, I talk about natural air filters, such as house plants. In addition to keeping the air in our house clean naturally, I also like to make my own air fresheners with essential oils. Air fresheners made with artificial fragrances generally contain a number of synthetic chemicals. These chemicals can cause breathing problems in some individuals. Aerosol air fresheners also release tiny droplets into the air that are easily inhaled. Some air fresheners contain phthalates, which, in addition to scenting various products, may also disrupt hormones. Air fresheners made with essential oils, on the other hand, give the air a pleasant scent without any of these unwanted side effects.

Source:

Healthy Child, Healthy World by Christopher Gavigan

DIY All-Natural Air Freshener

Ingredients:

* Spray bottle
* Water
* Lavender, tea tree, lemon, or grapefruit essential oil

Directions:

Put the water and 10 to 20 drops of essential oil in the spray bottle, and shake gently to mix. Use anywhere the air needs freshening. Try any combination of these oils. Shake gently before each use.

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How to Make Reusable Diaper Wipes

 Reusable Diaper Wipes
I confess to having been a cloth diaper drop-out. When our first baby was born, we used cloth diapers and wipes. I was thrilled that we weren’t throwing 10 or more diapers away each day. But after a while doing laundry at least every other day really started to get to me. We also live in a dry climate, and I didn’t feel good about the amount of water that we were using. Maybe that was an excuse, but, after a while, I decided to stop using cloth diapers. So we switched over to chlorine-free disposables.
Although we stopped using cloth diapers, we continued to use the cloth wipes. I had made my own by cutting up several old t-shirts. We used cloth wipes with our second child too. It seems like a small thing to use reusable wipes, and it is. But even little things can make a difference over time. There are hundreds (probably thousands) of them not sitting in a landfill right now because of that choice. I realize that there would be a lot less diapers in the landfill now, too, had we stuck with cloth. But we also used a lot less water over those years, so there is a trade off. Another thing that I liked about the cloth wipes is that I knew exactly what is in the solution that I used to dampen them. If you’d like to try it, it is easy to make reusable wipes. Here’s what to do.

Reusable Diaper Wipes

What You Need

* old t-shirts or receiving blankets

* glass jar

* distilled water

* liquid Castile soap

* vitamin E oil (optional)

* lavender or tea tree oil

* container to store your wipes in

What To Do

1. First, cut up a couple of (clean) old t-shirts or receiving blankets into squares. About 4″ by 4″ is good.
2. Next, make the solution to wet them. I always made mine in a 32 oz. glass jar. I filled it with distilled water almost to the top and then added 2 or 3 oz. of liquid Castile soap. (I used Verefina lavender hand soap or Verefina unscented hand soap.) Sometimes I added about 5 drops of vitamin E oil to make it more moisturizing. Finally, I added 1 or 2 drops of lavender or tea tree essential oils (see notes below about essential oils). Both of these oils help prevent diaper rash.
3. Shake the solution gently to mix, and pour enough of it over your wipes to just dampen them. Keep the wipes in a sealed container. The remaining solution can be stored in the refrigerator.
I generally used my reusable wipes with wet diapers and threw them in with the hot water laundry.
Caution: Tea tree oil should be avoided on babies under six months. When using it on older babies, use only 1 drop to begin with, and make sure your baby doesn’t show any signs of a reaction to it.
Note: If you use lavender soap, there’s no need to add more lavender essential oil.

How to Use Tea Tree Essential Oil

Tea Tree Essential Oil

I discovered Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia) about 7 years ago. It has a strong scent, but, when used on the skin, it absorbs quickly. (Essential oils in general absorb quickly into the skin because they have a very small molecular size.) Tea tree oil is extracted from the leaves of the tea tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia), a plant native to Australia. As with all essential oils, tea tree oil should be diluted before being applied to the skin. For more specific information about how to dilute essential oils, please see this post on How to Use Lavender Essential Oil. Tea tree oil is able to kill some viruses, bacteria, and fungi, which means it can be used for health, personal care, and household applications.

Health and Personal Benefits

* Dandruff and dry scalp– Add a drop to your shampoo to help heal dry, itchy scalp and dandruff; it also works well in DIY Dry Shampoo.

* Acne– The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that:

Applied to the skin, tea tree oil may help reduce bacteria, reducing inflammation and improving symptoms. One study compared the effectiveness of tea tree oil gel with benzoyl peroxide lotion in 119 people with mild-to-moderate acne. People in both groups improved, and the people using tea tree oil reported fewer side effects (including stinging, itching, burning, and dryness) than those using benzoyl peroxide.

To treat acne, dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil such as almond or jojoba (Jojoba oil is the plant oil that most closely resembles the oils produced by our skin.). Use a cotton ball to dab it on blemishes. Lavender essential oil can be used for this purpose, too.

* Insect bites– As with acne, dilute tea tree oil with a carrier oil such as almond or jojoba, then use a cotton ball to dab it on the affected area.

* Bronchitis– Running a diffuser with tea tree oil at night may help to thin mucus and ease coughs due to bronchitis. Other essential oils that may help include cedarwood, bergamot, eucalyptus, myrrh, sweet fennel, jasmine, lavender, or marjoram (source).

* Athlete’s Foot– A double-blind study found that 25 and 50% tea tree oil solutions, applied twice a day for four weeks, cured 55 and 64%, respectively, of athlete’s foot infections (source). A few people had to drop out of the study due to dermatitis triggered by the tea tree oil, but most participants experienced no serious side effects. To use tea tree oil for athlete’s foot, start with the lowest dilution that is effective, and gradually increase it as needed.

Household Uses

* Natural cleaner– Use tea tree essential oil to make the All Purpose Cleaner in this post on DIY Natural Cleaners.

* Mold– Put several drops on a toothbrush and use it to scrub mold in showers and bathrooms. Avoid contact with the skin and eyes if you use it undiluted for this purpose.

* Freshens laundry– Add a couple of drops in the washing machine during the rinse cycle.

* Air freshener– To make an all-natural air freshener, add 10 to 20 drops (total) of tea tree and lavender essential oils to 8 ounces of water in a spray bottle. Spray wherever needed.

Caution: As with all essential oils, tea tree oil is highly concentrated and should be used with care. Tea tree oil should never be ingested. 

Sources:

“Acne.” University of Maryland Medical Center. 23 April 2014. Web. 29 January 2015.

http://umm.edu/system-hospital-sites/shore-health/health/medical/altmed/condition/acne

“Athlete’s Foot.” NYU Langone Medical Center. Web. 29 January 2015.

http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21524

“Bronchitis.” University of Maryland Medical Center. 23 April 2014. Web. 29 January 2015.

http://umm.edu/system-hospital-sites/shore-health/health/medical/altmed/condition/bronchitis

Do you use tea tree oil? What do you use it for?