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Botanical Treatments for Insect Bites

by Kiva Rose

Globemallow
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 or Peach tincture. 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 it doesn’t, 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 favorite 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 good 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 and Peach tincture externally is ideal, re-apply every fifteen minutes to half an hour until symptoms lessen appreciably plus a few drops of Peach tincture internally. If you are in the SW, get stung and by some horrible mishap don't have any Larrea or Peach, 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 some more Peach.

Cone-Nosed Kissing Beetle - One of the more annoying of the canyon bugs is a variety of assassin bug commonly called the cone-nosed kissing beetle. These little blood-sucking creatures are silent, and it doesn't hurt when they bite you, at least not at first. Usually by the time you notice the bite, the bug has bitten you several times and then wandered off to find more victims.

In about ten minutes though, you'll know you were bitten by the insane, mind consuming itc accompanied by a sense of numbness and pain that starts to spread from the bite site outwards, often affecting a large majority of the body. Not only that, it can last for days (usually about 48 hours). Allergic reactions are possible but rare, even in people sensitive to other bug bites or stings. Not so much fun. I'd discovered some time ago that using Larrea topically greatly reduced the duration of symptoms from 48 hours to more like 4 hours, much better.

But then one day I couldn't find my Larrea after Wolf got bit. I was pulling my little wooden chest of tinctures apart in panic as the pain and itching rapidly spread from his toe to his calf. Finally, I gave up on finding the Larrea and grabbed the Peach (Prunus persica) twig/flower tincture. I knew it worked on many hyperimmune situations as well as in lots of bug bites but didn't know how it would work in this situation. After smearing the tincture all over the bite site and giving a 1/3 of a dropper internally I waited to see if anything would happen or if the venom would continue on its merry way.

In about ten minutes I asked him how it was doing. He looked up from his work, peered down at his foot and looked rather incredulous. It had evidently receded back down just into the toes. In fifteen more minutes, it was gone except a lingering sense of numbness that cleared up in about three hours. I thought maybe it was a fluke, but I've repeated the results a many times over now. One application and quick resolution. Very impressive.

As an aside on those bad little bugs, the most dangerous part of them is not the bite but the fact that they sometimes carry a parasite that can result in Chagas disease, an potentially deadly form of Sleeping Sickness in the Americas. To help avoid contracting the parasite, be sure to wash your hands after touching them (and keep your hands away from your mouth, eyes and other mucus membranes in the meantimes) and try to catch the bug at once so it doesn't have a chance to excrete on or near the wound it's just inflicted upon you (you know how parasites love feces). And now that I've freaked you out good and proper, I'll tell you I had rattlesnake for supper last night too.

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 and Alder leaf are 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. Peach tincture applied externally and taken internally is also a great boon, you can even soak the spit poultice with it. A few fresh Yarrow leaves or a couple drops of Larrea infused oil added in can also be quite helpful. 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. Peach 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.

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