Nov 112007

I’ve gone over this a little bit in previous posts on injuries and surviving in the Southwest, but it bears repeating in it’s own post.

Ants – We’ve got big red ants with great big hill castles. These critters are fierce and full of formic acid. I’ve seen many an ant attack swell up to amazing proportions, sometimes even bruising or radiating pain into joints, the lymph system or turning into an instant mind-crushing headache. Especially when children are involved, it’s important to treat right away because it is possible for an allergic reaction to occur. Usually the only treatment needed is a single drop of Larrea oil. This usually results in nearly instant resolution of pain, and a quick reduction in swelling and reaction. If there’s a more systemic reaction happening, I have the person chew a few Yarrow leaves, which usually takes care of it. If not, I give them a small chunk of Osha root or a few drops of the tincture.

Mosquitoes – Prevention is the best medicine, and I’ve found that rubbing myself with Monarda, Yarrow and Catnip leaves tends to discourage the little suckers (yes, a very bad pun) quite well. Some people prefer a stronger essential oil mix with similar herbs. You can also make a spray with Yarrow tea or diluted tincture. On the other hand, wearing yummy smelling flower fragrances like Honeysuckle and Rose will make them flock to you. I usually treat bites with some mix of infused oils, especially Lavender, White Sage, Mugwort and Larrea. A Plantain spit poultice also works very well. And my own personal preference is diluted or neat tinctures of Rose and Mugwort, goodbye itch.

Scorpions – Our scorpions are not deadly, unless you have a rare reaction. Generally, their sting causes a great deal of initial pain followed by numbness, itching and irritation. If you get stung multiple times (Wolf once got stung about six times on his legs, all at the same time) you’re more likely to have an immune reaction. For the actual sting, Larrea infused oil is ideal, re-apply every fifteen minutes to half an hour until symptoms lessen appreciably. If you are in the SW, get stung and by some horrible mishap don’t have any Larrea, then a spit poultice of Yarrow, Mugwort and Plantain is probably the next best thing. For any kind of allergic reaction to the scorpion I suggest Osha, Yarrow or even some Peach.

Cone-Nosed Kissing Beetle – You really really want to avoid these. After the initial bite (which you probably won’t feel) you’ll be afflicted by a ferocious itch for at least twenty-four hours. It’s that annoying can’t sleep, eat or think kind of itching too. If you do get bit and realize what’s gotten you you can treat it with (come on, guess!) Larrea oil and cut the itching intensity at least in half and reduce the duration to a few hours, sometimes bypassing it all together.

Spiders – If you leave them alone, they’ll usually leave you alone. Here in the Canyon we have Black Widows, Brown Recluses, Tarantulas and lots of other fun eight leggeds. They’re mostly very laid back and unseen but it is possible to get bitten. The Tarantulas are what you’re least likely to get bitten by, seeing as they stay in their little dens most of the time, so don’t worry too much about them. Spider bites have an annoying tendency to get hot, swollen and hard very quickly. They can also infect rapidly so I like to use a drawing poultice first thing on all spider bites. Plantain is my very first choice, chewed up, placed on the bite site, covered and then changed every 15 minutes in the beginning. This works best if the bite is found and treated right away. A few fresh Yarrow leaves or a couple drops of Larrea infused oil added in can also be quite helpful. The Plantain is the magic here though, and I’ve tried all the other treatments without the Plantain with far less satisfactory results. Osha and Yarrow can be used internally if the swelling starts to get out of control. If the bite proceeds to necrotize or does not respond to treatment, you should probably go to a doctor.

Hornets and Bees – These respond very well to lots of herbs. Plantain spit poultice is quick and effective. Rose tincture, Lavender oil, Larrea oil…. If there’s a potential allergic reaction then lots of Yarrow should be chewed (by the person who was stung) and then used as a poultice too, being sure to swallow the juice. Osha is the next step up. After that, probably benadryl is a good idea. Anaphylactic shock is no fun.

Caterpillars – You know the spiky looking kind with tortuous, itchy hairs that lodge in your skin when you touch them? Rhiannon’s always getting into these and Larrea oil is the best treatment I know of, it takes the itch down from screaming and yelling level to a small whimper.

Robin Rose Bennett also showed me this summer that fresh Grape Leaves made into a warm poultice can also work very nicely on a variety of insect caused swellings and pains.

I’ve heard jim talk about using Peach for lots of bites and stings, and while I’ve tried this a little bit, I’m looking forward to exploring it more. We had several somewhat serious bites and stings this Summer and I was worried enough to stick to what I know, and thankfully, all the cases resolved just fine. Wolf did have a spider bite lump the size of Texas at one point, but it did resolve, quite nicely, with Larrea and Osha.

A note: My apologies to anyone who’s written to my gmail address and hasn’t gotten an answer yet. That account is malfunctioning at the moment and I’m not always able to access it or write from it.

  5 Responses to “Botanical Treatments for Insect Bites and Stings”

  1. Yeah, peach tincture helps a lot for bites/stings with strong histamine reactions. Nice for hives, as well. Some people, especially children (and notably, this herbalists little boy) hang onto bite fro a long time, and while plantain will remove the itch or sting, the redness and swelling lingers and takes some time to resolve.

    I’ve made a mix of plantain, peach and yarrow tinctures. These, applied topically, draw, reduce the histamine reaction and help disperse static blood around the area of the bite, as well as prevent infection of the person affected is a “scratcher” or scab picker. Frequent applications are best.

    Poisonous bites should get a lot of echinacea right of the bat, in material and frequent doses. If a lingering infection sets in from a bit or scratch, baptisia would be an important herb to consider.

  2. Yes, I often hear about the Echinacea treatments, and it definitely makes sense. Since I don’t have Echinacea anywhere near me, I use it very rarely. I keep a little bit on hand in case someone gets bit by a snake or there’s some kind of sepsis other herbs aren’t touching. I also have some Balsamroot which can act similarly. One of these days I’ll get the Cutleaf Coneflower to take hold here and use that instead. In the meantime I keep meaning to try the tops of the local Prairie Coneflower (Ratibida columnifera) which were used in a very similar way to Echinacea.

    But so far, even with very venomous bites I’ve never had to resort to any coneflower. The other herbs are quite good at resolving hisatmine reactions, infection and so on.

  3. Your writing has been so enriching Kiva Rose. I have been enjoying your blog today while I have time to be submerged in herbal information and your experiences lately.

  4. Hi. I used the plantain for a spider bite and it immediately took the pain out it. It is 2 weeks later and it is almost drained but a small amount is left. Also, wood nettle was used also to keep the necrosis from happening. AS FOR THE BEES, I have been stung and simply walked to my marigolds(yellow but any color) put the flower on the sting and smush it in… takes the sting and the pain away instantly. It was as if I’d not been stung(bumble bees)…ALSO BEE BALM flowers work but they don’t bloom as often as marigolds….swear it worked 3 times last year.

  5. Kiva, Thank you so much for this post!! I have people waiting for me to make them your infused oil mixture/recipe for mosquito bites (I ran out)! Everyone that has tried it (especially me: moderately allergic to mosquito bites and they love me more than anyone of course) has said that it works in 10-30 minutes and lasts 12-24 hours, every single time. My 75 year old mom has had a hormonal back itch (always in the exact same location) since she hit menopause. I tried this on her back itch (while she was saying “nothing has ever stopped this itch in 30 years”)…and 30 minutes after application I asked her if it itched and she got all excited and said she needed some ASAP. So, apparently this works for other itches…not just bites. Very cool!!! I can’t thank you enough!! Kids and adults love it alike!! I really wish that peach/yarrow/plantain tincture reduced swelling of my bites but unfortunately it has not to date. I’ll keep trying it. Blessings!!

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