Applying essential oils is the best way to prevent bites and stings because the oils repel insects without toxic side effects. Place a few drops of citronella oil and a few drops of lemon eucalyptus oil in ¼ cup water, and rub on exposed skin like lotion. Also, I plant geraniums and marigolds around my house, which keeps mosquitoes away because they don’t like the flowers’ scent.
In homeopathy, if you’ve already been bitten or stung, it’s important to determine what bit you and the symptoms the bite presents. If the bite is red, swollen, itchy, and hot to the touch, try using apis, a homeopathic remedy made from honeybee venom. If the bite is cold to the touch, which is unusual and can indicate that you’ve been bitten by a tick, flea, or spider, use another remedy called ledum. For both apis and ledum, take two or three 12c or 30c pellets twice a day under the tongue until the swelling goes down. If there isn’t a change within 24 hours, or if symptoms get worse, seek professional help. And, of course, if you experience a severe allergic reaction like anaphylactic shock after being stung, skip the remedies and seek medical help immediately.
— Gwynn Cadwallader, CCH, Hollister, Florida
Certain insects like bees and mosquitoes are attracted to scents and colors, so I tell patients to wear neutral colors and avoid perfumed beauty products. Consider not going outside during dusk and dawn, which are meal times for insects.
If a bee stings you [and you aren’t allergic], scrape off the stinger with a straight-edged object; trying to tweeze it out may squeeze more venom into your skin. Then apply a thin layer of a soothing homeopathic salve, such as arnica. For other bites and stings, I recommend a paste of 1-2 teaspoons baking soda and a few drops of water to neutralize the venom. Apply it to the affected area with your fingers. With mosquito bites, you can also apply witch hazel or apple cider vinegar; dab it on the bite with a cotton ball several times a day to cool skin. Whatever treatment you choose, when the itching subsides, wash your skin with soap and warm water.
If a tick burrows into your skin, immediately pull it straight out with fine-tip tweezers. Keep the tick for testing, and if you get a rash, fever, aches, or joint pain, seek medical attention to rule out Lyme disease.
— Kasia Hopewell, ND, Hopewell Naturopathic Family Medicine, Belmont, California
To prevent bites and stings, avoid standing water and wood or trash piles, where mosquitoes, spiders, and other critters congregate.
For treatment, I often use plantago, a North American summer weed that has ribbed leaves and shoots up a flower that looks like a tiny cattail. Chew the leaves or put them in a blender, and apply the pulp directly on the stung or bitten area to draw out the poison and soothe the skin. It also takes the sting out of poison ivy. Reapply as often as needed and after showering until swelling recedes and itching ceases. If fresh plantago isn’t available, your local natural products store may offer it dried. Or check the American Herbalists Guild to find an herbalist in your area (americanherbalistsguild.com).
If any form of plantago is unavailable, try an astringent herb, such as garden sage, lemongrass, or calendula. Use these herbs as you would plantago. You can also add a few drops of echinacea tincture to the crushed sage before you rub it on, or take 60 drops echinacea every wakeful hour for up to four days after you get bitten or stung. It helps slow the progression of the venom in the body and helps fight infections.
— Kathleen Gould, RH, SW Herb, Mesa, Arizona