It's that time of year again! Along with fun in the sun, one often ends up dealing with insect bites and stings from mosquitoes, bees, wasps, spiders and all things creepy crawly. Just this past weekend, I accidentally grabbed a yellowjacket while moving plant trays around in my cold frame. I never even saw the critter, as it was hiding under the lip of a plant tray, but within a fraction of a second I had pounding, stabbing pain shooting through my fingertip. I scooted over to the garden to grab some plant medicine, and went inside to lick my wounds and share the “fun” with the folks on the Common Sense Homesteading Facebook page. So many people chimed in with their own home remedies for bug bites and stings that I decided to put together a post to share them all, plus some tips of my own.
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #1 – Ice and Benedryl (diphenhydramine)
Note: Most of the time I simply use the remedies that are applied directly to the bite/sting, but taking oral diphenhydramine in addition to topical treatment may be helpful for severe reactions.
Susan B. says, “First, you have a lot of nerves and some pretty good blood pressure dedicated to your fingers. Try elevating your hand with your hand wrapped around an ice pack (just icing the finger probably won't help and may actually make it feel worse… ice pack in hand works better). I am allergic. I ALWAYS take Benedryl (diphenhydramine) if stung by anything. But even if you aren't, it will reduce the histamine reaction caused by the sting and it will help with the pain and swelling.”
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #2 – Plantain (Plantago major)
Common Plantain and narrowleaf plantain are excellent for soothing bites and stings of all sorts. Simply find a leaf, chew it up (or otherwise mash it to release the juices), and apply it to the affected area. Alternatively, you can infuse the leaves in oil and use the oil for treating larger areas, or make it into a salve for portability. I used fresh plantain leaf on my yellowjacket sting, and I've used the infused oil on my backside when it got covered in mosquito bites. I keep a small container of the salve in my purse.
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #3 – Essential Oils
Laurie G. says, “Lavender EO is the best! No pain, no itch. After owning a lavender/herb farm, yellow jacket stings happened frequently! Put one drop on bee/mosquito or any other bite or burn.” Modern Essentials: A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils also suggests the use of basil, clove, tea tree and lemon essential oils as topical treatments for insect bites and stings, and as deterrents to bug bites when diffused in a carrier oil and applied to the skin.
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #4 – Ammonia
Bobby L. says, “Plain old unscented ammonia. It's the best sting reliever in the world!” Patricia W. agrees. “Get some ammonia on it ASAP. It will negate the venom. Even Windex with ammonia will do in a pinch.”
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #5 – Sugar
Rhiannon M. shared, “My daughter was stung on her foot while we were camping. Another camper brought her a damp paper towel with a mushed up sugar cube on it and that took the sting away as soon as it was applied. After holding it on for about 10 minutes she could take it off and there was no sting. A few weeks later I was stung and tried the same thing, worked like a charm.”
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #6 – Copper Pennies
Missi Z. recommends, “Put a copper penny on it. Worked for me, and I'm allergic.”
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #7 – Baking Soda
Lisa G. says, “Make a paste of baking soda and water. It will draw out the poison and take away the pain.”
Jo S. remembers, “I got stung by one in elementary school. It was “hat day” so of course the little bugger got up under my hat. Never cried so hard in my life, it hurt like hell! I do hear that baking soda will ease the pain.”
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #8 – Activated Charcoal
Hilary S. commented, “Activated charcoal works wonders!” CharcoalRemedies.com has a whole page of testimonials from people who have successfully used charcoal to treat stings from hornets, yellowjackets and honey bees, such as this one:
“My oldest daughter got into a wasps nest and had over 35 stings on her legs, by the time I got her home (5 to 10 minute trip) her legs had swelled and welts had formed all over her legs, she couldn't walk. We slathered her down with a charcoal paste out in the sun and let it dry, and then rinsed it and slathered her down again, after the second time when we rinsed her legs off there was no swelling and no welts could be seen.”
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #9 – Meat Tenderizer
Pamela S. agreed that getting stung on your fingers was a bad idea, and getting stung other places didn't feel any better. “Another tip…while bending over weeding or pruning always keep an eye on your rear end…OUCH! If by chance you have meat tenderizer…make a paste with a little water and apply and hold on. It neutralizes the venom.”
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #10 – Onion Poultice
Gardenhappy Gardenhappyacres suggests, “Onion poultice – the pain gone the minute it touches the sting area!”
To make an onion poultice, chop your onion finely and cook with a little water until tender (not brown). Wrap warm onion in cheesecloth, medical wrap or flour sack towel and apply to affected area.
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #11 – Epsom Salts and Honey
Liz M. shares her favorite remedy for sting: “Pulverize Epsom salts and honey together to make a thick paste. Rub it on and leave it. When it wears off, repeat as needed until the swelling goes down.”
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #12 – Tobacco Dip
John S.mentions, “We always used tobacco dip to pull out the sting. ” The folks on the Georgia Outdoor News Forum concur, citing the use of tobacco juice and wet tobacco on bites and stings to take away the itch and burn.
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #13 – Aspirin
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #14 – Mud
Lin from Yellow Springs, Ohio recommends mud on Earth Clinic: “Mud has cured my family's external bee stings for over 35 years. Wherever you are, there is mud, all you need is a little water. Just make a paste and slap it on. I've used it for a one year old baby whose piercing screams stopped within seconds, for a panicked customer in a store to our dog's paw just yesterday. The mud does it all, draws out the stinger and the poison – fast. Leave on from 2-20 min. Rinse off, then wash with soap and water. Relax and have a glass of water.”
Home Remedy for Bug Bites and Stings #15 – Raw Potato
From Auntie Maime on the Common Sense Homesteading Facebook page: “Many, many moons ago, when I was a girl, we had an apple tree that we were able to share with an Amish family. While helping them pick, I was stung by a couple of yellow jackets. The young mother saw and told me to quickly get a potato, cut it, and hold it on the stings. It worked! Takes the pain out and holds down the swelling. Used it ever since if tobacco and baking soda were not handy. Used it just a month ago for a wasp sting.”
Links to purchase items in the post:
- Reusable cold packs
- Benedryl (diphenhydramine)
- Plantain Salve
- Modern Essentials: A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Essential Oils
- Sugar cube
- Activated charcoal
- Meat tenderizer
- Epsom salts
With all these options, you should be able to come up with a quick fix for bites and strings wherever you are. Which remedy do you prefer, and are there ones that I have missed? Let me know, and don't forget to Pin, Share or otherwise pass along this post. Thank you!
You may also enjoy:
- Natural Mosquito Repellents
- Natural Spider Repellents – 8 Ways to Get Rid of Spiders
- Home Remedies for Sunburn
Originally published June 2013, updated 2016.