Monthly Newsletter – June 2011

June Newsletter

Volume 2, Number 6

Insect Bites: Prevention and Treatment

This time of year is a time of awakenings.  The animals come out to play.  The plants are starting to bloom.  The insects are buzzing about looking for food and in some cases that means us!  Preventing bug bites is key.

Prevention:

Mosquitoes:

  • Remove standing pools of water from your property – this helps to reduce mosquito populations.
  • Cover exposed skin with light-weight long sleeve shirts and pants.  Ensure they are white or light in colour.  Mosquitoes are attracted to dark colours.
  • DO NOT wear perfume and fragrant hair products, moisturizers and deodorants.  These smells make you an easy target (and a yummy meal).
    • Try using shampoos, soaps and deodorants with tea tree, lavender, lemon, eucalyptus and/or rosemary essential oils.
    • When choosing an insect repellent choose products that are natural and DEET free.
      • DEET is a toxic chemical substance that should only be used when absolutely necessary (e.g. traveling in a known malaria zone)
      • Supplement with B vitamins – they change the smell of your blood making you less appealing.
      • Increase your consumption of garlic and spicy foods and reduce your consumption of sugar and sweets (this includes large amounts of tropical fruit).

Wasps/Bees:

  • Avoid wearing bright colours as wasps and bees are attracted to flowers with vibrant colours.
    • If you are allergic avoid hanging out in areas with lots of flowering plants.
    • DO NOT wear perfume and fragrant hair products, moisturizers and deodorants – wasps and bees are attracted to strong fragrances.
    • Do not leave food out!
      • In early spring/summer wasps are attracted to high protein foods.
      • In late summer and early fall their preference changes to sweet foods.
      • Do not swat or squish wasps.  They release a pheromone (chemical) that will attract other wasps to the scene.
      • Rinse off or shower if you are sweaty.
        • Some bees are attracted to the salt in human sweat!

Avoid the Sting:

  • Remain still! Cover your face (a common area to get stung) and stay still until they fly away.
  • As mentioned above do not swat or squish a wasp – you will only make them angry or attract more of their friends.
  • If you get swarmed by several bees/wasps your best bet is to RUN for cover or jump into a body of water.

Do your best to avoid killing bees.  Our bee populations are reducing at an alarming rate and without bees to pollinate plants we can’t eat!

Treatments:

Mosquito Bites:

  • Apply lavender or tea tree essential oil to the affected area.
  • Witch hazel or apple cider vinegar will help alleviate the itch.
  • Rubbing garlic on the bite will disinfect and reduce itching.
  • Use ice to reduce swelling.
  • Homeopathic remedy: Apis Mellifica or Ledum

Bees/Wasp Stings:

  • Remove the stinger. DO NOT pull or squeeze the stinger (this includes using tweezers) as you may release more venom.
    • If you are outside look for some Plantain (Plantago major or Plantago lanceolata) leaves.  Chew up the leaves and apply to the sting.  Plantain will naturally pull out the stinger and reduce pain.
    • If you don’t have access to Plantain, use your fingernail or the back side of a knife and gently scrape the stinger out.  Apply enough pressure to remove the stinger but not scratch or break the skin.
    • After the stinger is removed clean the wound to avoid infection.
    • Use ice to reduce swelling and restrict the flow of venom.
    • Lemon juice or apple cider vinegar will help relieve itching.
      • Mix in baking soda to form a paste as the alkalinity will reduce the acidity of the venom.
      • Homeopathic remedy: Apis Mellifica

Focus On: Plantain

Written by: Correne Omland, TH

To most people Plantain is just a little weed that grows all over their lawn.  What you don’t know, is that little weed might be one of the most useful (and safest) plants in your yard.  The two most common species that grow on people’s lawns are Common Plantain (Plantago major) and Narrowleaf Plantain (Plantago lanceolata).  Although they look quite different, the medicinal properties are very similar.

Medicinal Properties:

Plantain is an excellent epithelial (skin and mucus membrane) healer.  Used in a salve, as a poultice or compress, Plantago will help heal and cleanse cuts, bites, stings, infected wounds, burns, boils etc.  Plantain can also be used as a hemostatic, which means it will help to stop bleeding.  If you’re in a pinch, just chew up some of the leaves and place it over the wound.

Just as it can be used topically for wounds, the same healing properties help with internal issues as well.  Because of its vulnerary (healing), antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, Plantago is perfect for conditions such as gingivitis, ulcers (in the mouth and stomach), tooth infections and any inflammation of the digestive tract.  To help with these conditions simply make a tea with either fresh or dried Plantain leaves.

Plantain is also a febrifuge, making it an excellent and safe herb to use in feverish conditions.  Due to its fairly mild taste and safe properties, it is perfectly safe for children.  However, if fevers enter a dangerous range, seek help from your health provider.

Finally Plantago is an excellent diuretic and lymphatic herb.  It can be used for any urinary inflammation conditions, including urinary tract infections (because it also has antibacterial properties).  You can use it as a tea or an herbal bath for UTI’s.  Plantago supports the lymphatic system, which is vital for a healthy immune system.  This makes Plantain the perfect addition to any immune formulation (tincture or tea).

Identifying Plantain:

Plantago major is most commonly found on lawns, waste areas and roadsides.  The leaves are long-stalked, egg-shaped, prominently ribbed and large (unless you mow your lawn a lot).  At the centre of the plant you will see a long and slender flowering spike.

Plantago lanceolata can commonly be found on lawns and fields.  The leaves are stalk-less or short stalked, long and narrow with 3-5 ribs.  The flowering spike is short and dense.

Additional Information:

As mentioned above, Plantain works very well as a poultice.  For more information on poultices, how they make them and which herbs work well as a poultice please check out this blog entry: http://spiraeaherbs.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/the-poultice/

Recipe: Natural Insect Repellent

With this excellent combination of essential oils you can keep you and your loved ones free from bites this year naturally.  The following recipe can be made in liquid or oil form depending on your preference.  This is what you will need:

  • 100ml spray bottle (plastic or glass)
  • 100ml of witch hazel OR
  • 100ml of carrier oil (almond, jojoba, apricot kernel, olive oil etc.)

Choose 4-5 essential oils from the following list and add 10 drops of EACH oil to your witch hazel or carrier oil.

  • Cedar or cedarwood
  • Cinnamon
  • Citronella
  • Eucalyptus
  • Lavender
  • Peppermint
  • Rosemary
  • Tea Tree

Shake your bug repellent well before use.  Spray over all exposed areas and rub in using your hands.  Do not spray the repellent directly on your face.  Instead spray it into your hands and apply to your face.

Did You Know?

Did you know that the use of plants as medicines predates written human history?

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