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Healing the Itch
Natural Remedies

Healing the Itch
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In many parts of the world, summer means outdoor activities and biting insects. Thirsty little bloodsuckers include mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, lice, bedbugs, and fleas. Mosquitoes belong to the Culicidae family and are found on every continent except Antarctica. Black flies, horse flies, and deer flies range from five millimeters in length to 25 millimeters. They deliver painful bites. Body lice, head lice, and crab lice latch on for a lifetime, dining on their host’s blood. Of lice varieties, only the body louse transmits disease. Bedbugs lurk in mattress seams, electrical outlets, cracks in flooring, shoes, upholstered furniture, carpets and can survive for months without feeding. When they do find a host, they gorge themselves. Fleas move from animals to humans with equal enthusiasm and carry disease, most notably bubonic plague. Chiggers, deer and dog ticks, mange mites, and other biting bugs burrow under the skin to suck their hosts’ blood. Ticks transmit Lyme disease and Rock Mountain spotted fever.

Before hygiene improved to today’s standards with ready availability of soap, indoor plumbing with hot and cold running water, and household cleaners, cleanliness proved an enormous chore. The mobcaps and other headgear commonly worn in ages past not only kept lank, greasy hair out of the way, but also prevented vermin from dropping into whatever one leaned over. Other itches arise from dry skin, toxic plants (e.g., poison ivy), and summertime chafing. 

Itching was a fact of daily life.  Like any nagging, unpleasant sensation, humans attempted to relieve it and concocted various remedies. Some of those itch relief remedies work and can be made in your own home.

Witch hazel confers effective itch relief without the sting of rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. Baking soda (a.k.a. sodium bicarbonate) mixed with water to make a paste also relieves the itch of insect bites. The menthol in mint also works topically when a clean cloth soaked in mint tea is applied to the patch of itchy skin. Beeswax mixed with honey, olive oil, and vitamin E oil work well to ease the discomfort of eczema or psoriasis.
Topical remedies that soothe the itch include soaking in a bath made of colloidal oatmeal or adding two or three cups of apple cider vinegar to the tub. Milk and honey soothe itchy skin, too. Essential oils from lavender, agrimony, basil, bay leaf, calendula, chamomile, clove, geranium, jewelweed, neem, nettle, peppermint, rosemary, and thyme calm itchy, irritated skin. Be aware: essential oils are powerful, so follow directions for use. 

For more information and topical itch remedies you can concoct at home, check out these books available from the World Public Library:

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