10 natural ways to treat insect bites and stings

Natural remedies

We love the warm, balmy summer evenings, if only it weren’t for those pesky sandflies and mosquitos! And despite the best insect repellents, long trousers and socks, you’re bound to get a sting a two. Here are some natural ways to treat these stings and bites, and don’t forget to check out this natural insect repellent recipe here!

Essential oils

There are several essential oils that are very effective against insect bites and stings. Basil, mint and spearmint are all packed with menthol and camphor compounds, which create a cooling sensation and help ease the itch. Lavender is both beneficial as an insect repellent and a remedy against insect bites. Tea tree, manuka, and lemon myrtle have powerful antibacterial and antiseptic properties, and also help with the swelling. To use on bites and stings, dab one drop of essential oil directly on the bite or sting and gently massage it in. Essential oils are usually not recommended to be used undiluted, except in first aid remedies and wound healing.

Apple cider vinegar

A traditional home remedy is to dab some apple cider vinegar on bites and stings. The vinegar cools and soothes the itch. You can also make a compress with a cotton bud soaked in apple cider vinegar and hold it in place with a plaster or bandage.


Make yourself a cup of tea for the shock. And use the warm (not hot) tea bag on the bite or sting. Tea contains tannins, which are astringent and have anti-inflammatory qualities. Both black tea and green tea works.

Hot spoon

The toxin that mosquitos release into your skin contains certain proteins, which cause an allergic reaction, usually a very weak one, but itchy nonetheless. Proteins are destroyed (denatured) through heat, just like your egg goes white when you boil it. Using this knowledge, we can destroy the proteins in the toxin, by placing a spoon under the hot tap, and then placing the back of the spoon on the sting and holding it for about 30 seconds. Make sure the spoon is not too hot though, you don’t want to end up burning yourself!


Onions might not smell particularly nice, but they contain quercetin, a flavonoid, which is a powerful anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. This is particular useful to prevent infections. For the most benefit, use the juice of the onion, which you can get by cutting up a bit of onion and then squeezing it out in a little muslin cloth. You can also mash up some onion using your Magic Bullet. Keep dabbing the sting with onion juice for about half an hour or until it stops hurting.

Sea water

If you get stung at the beach, just wade back into the water. The salt is disinfecting and the cold water draws out the heat and helps prevent further inflammation.


The cooling qualities of wet clay are also useful, especially for warm and swollen stings. Mix up equal amounts of cosmetic clay (any type) and water to a paste. The clay feels cool on the skin and absorbs the heat from the inflammation, which helps reduce swelling.


An ancient remedy for bites and stings, plantain’s anti-inflammatory and anti-allergenic properties are particularly useful when you’re out for a walk, as it is a very common weed, even here in New Zealand. Chew, or rub some plantain between your fingers, so it becomes soft and mushy, and then place it on the sting. Plantain is also useful for minor cuts and grazes.

Ice cube

Less of a remedy, but more of a cooling shock to ease the pain and itch. It works because the cold constricts the blood vessels, which in turn minimises the spread of the toxin. Good remedy to use when you’re out at night, because most drinks come with ice cubes…. just saying!

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