Condition Spotlight: Insect Bites

Choose from an array of natural, self-care options to soothe garden-variety stings and bites.
By Brooke Holmgren

During the summer months— and as temperatures moderate into fall—spending time outside is not only healthy, but downright enjoyable. In most cases, however, you will find yourself sharing space with some of nature’s most abundant creatures: insects.

Insect bites are common, but bites from gnats, wasps, ants, and honeybees can upset your enjoyment of a beautiful day. Here are some ideas to help you deal with bites quickly and, of course, naturally. (Keep in mind that tick bites and some mosquitos require you to watch for signs of Lyme’s disease. Find out more about identifying Lyme’s disease at naturalsolutionsmag.com.)

Reactions to insect bites and stings vary in severity from initial pain, moderate swelling, and redness to a complete collapse of the heart. It takes more than 100 bee stings to accumulate enough venom for a fatal dose in adult humans. However, for those who are particularly sensitive to stings, even one can be lethal.

Symptoms of an insect bite can be similar to a snakebite or other poisons. If severe reactions such as flushing, swelling around the neck or tongue, dizziness, difficulty breathing, or loss of consciousness occur, immediate medical care is necessary. Get the victim to an emergency room.

Oftentimes, people with sting and bite allergies carry epinephrine (epi pen) or an antihistamine. If the individual is still conscious, ask if one of these is nearby. Administer before seeking medical attention.

For less severe reactions, the pain may be treated with nutritional therapy and self-care. Immediate responses include taking 5 g of vitamin C and 1 g of vitamin B5 as soon as possible, and 1 g vitamin C and 500 mg B5 every hour thereafter until pain and swelling subside. Applying vitamin E oil (break open a capsule) directly to stings helps to subdue symptoms through softening and antioxidant properties. Be sure that the stinger has been cleared from the wound; the dull side of a knife is good for this.

Other self-care options include aromatherapy, ayurveda, herbs, homeopathy, and topical treatments.

Basil, cinnamon, garlic, lavender, lemon, onion, sage, savory, and thyme have all demonstrated antitoxic and antivenomous properties. Simply inhaling the scent of these herbs helps to alleviate pain. Lavender can ease the itching associated with bites.

Ayurveda, a traditional medicine with roots in India, calls for a drink of cilantro juice and an application of sandalwood paste to the sting.

Several different treatments stem from homeopathic practice. Aconite, lachesis, Apis mellifica (apis), hypericum, and Urtica urens should be applied immediately after the sting has taken place. For general insect bites, use ledum, hypericum, and calendula. For a wasp sting, use apis and calendula.

Keep in mind that homeopathy’s philosophy that “like cures like,” means that many of these remedies are poisons. Use them only in homeopathic doses, and as tradition suggests, only in the minimum amount required to demonstrate desired results.

Some other topical and practical treatments include: placing a cold compress on any swollen areas; applying a paste of bicarbonate (baking soda) and water; applying a tincture (preserved in alcohol) of calendula (marigold) flowers or buds; applying fresh, crushed calendula flowers; and applying an ice pack to the sting prevents poison from spreading throughout the body.

In the United States alone, there are three to four times more deaths from bee stings than from snake venom. Use good judgment; if the situation requires medical attention, seek it.