7 Natural Remedies for Bug Bites

Summer is the season of burgers, bonfires, beach trips…and bug bites! While we try to avoid getting bit as best we can, it most certainly helps to have some itch remedies on hand for when it does happen.

Cortisone cream and calamine lotion are most people’s go-to skin soothers, but there are so many other options out there—and if you’re looking to go a natural route, many of them are likely already in your kitchen cabinet.

So, where to begin when you get bit? Sarah Cimperman, a doctor of naturopathic medicine based in New York City, says that any discomfort from an insect bite can first be treated with a cold compress to reduce pain and swelling. “Wrap a wet towel around ice cubes and apply to the affected area,” she says.

From there, the itchy have many choices. Here are some natural remedies for bug bites you can try!

7 Natural Remedies for Bug Bites

Manuka Honey

Manuka honey is a special kind of honey that hails from Australia and New Zealand. Manuka honey is monofloral, meaning that it’s only made from bees that pollinate a single plant, in this case a manuka bush or tree. Manuka honey contains a phytochemical component called methylglyoxal, which has antibacterial properties (1). Essentially, manuka honey has the ability to kill bacteria when applied (2). Cimperman adds that manuka honey has anti-inflammatory properties as well. She suggests applying the honey directly to the affected area and covering it for several hours.

Onions

“Onions reduce inflammation because they contain the anti-inflammatory bioflavonoid quercetin and enzymes that break down prostaglandins, the chemicals released by the body to signal pain,” Cimperman says. “Cut a raw onion in half and place the freshly cut side on the affected area.”

Colloidal Oatmeal

Colloidal oatmeal has been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties (3), which makes it good at relieving itching. It is also known for its skin hydrating properties, thanks to its ability to bind water and create a protective barrier (4). If you have whole, uncooked oats in your pantry, you can make your own colloidal oatmeal by grinding the oats into a fine powder. Colloidal oatmeal is best used in a bath, though be careful that the water isn’t too hot, as that can dry out your skin and make itching worse (5).

Organic Lavender Oil

Cimperman says that pure organic lavender essential oil can be used both as an antiseptic and an anti-inflammatory agent (6) to relieve pain and itching. “It can be applied to skin directly without a carrier oil, but do not apply to broken skin,” she adds.

Baking Soda Paste

“A paste of baking soda and water is alkaline and can neutralize acid in insect venom,” Cimperman notes. Severely itchy people can even try mixing baking soda with a few drops of the lavender oil to derive the benefits of both.

Mud

While not in your kitchen cabinet, mud can soothe inflammation and help draw out insect venom if you’re out in the wilderness camping or hiking without access to alternatives, Cimperman says.

Plantain

Cimperman also mentions that a plant colloquially known as plantain (botanically as Plantago major) can help with itchiness and bites—if you can correctly identify it. “You can make a poultice by chewing or mashing the leaves into a pulp and applying them directly to the bite or sting until the pain subsides,” she describes. “The leaves will help draw inflammatory secretions and insect venom from the skin and promote healing. Plantain also has antimicrobial and pain-relieving properties.”

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