Getting the Sting Out of Life


Getting bitten or stung by insects is never a pleasant matter. I’ve lost count of the number of times this has happened to me and my kids. Since we are often attacked far from home or a store, I’ve had to experiment with remedies out of necessity. With only the plants around me and deductive reasoning, I’ve found a few simple remedies to be useful in relieving the pain, swelling, and tears.

In Hawaiʻi, centipede stings are one of the most painful. Cut open a ripe papaya and rub the inner fruit over the sting for 20-30 minutes. The enzymes in the fruit help to break down the venom. If you don’t have papaya handy, pour white or apple cider vinegar into a bowl and soak the affected area (e.g., your hand, foot or elbow) for 20-30 minutes instead. When you’re finished, apply coconut oil to help soothe the area. If you have fresh basil growing in your yard, rub that on the sting following the vinegar. Basil essential oil also works.

Spider bites can happen quickly and unexpectedly. Spiders drop down from trees, walls, or ceilings, bite their prey and scurry away. The best cure I’ve found is overripe noni fruit. Using your finger, dig into the fruit, scoop out some of the pulp, and apply a thick layer over the sting. Once the pain and swelling subside, wipe away the excess fruit, keeping a thin layer over the area. It takes only about 20 minutes to work. Noni works well on bee stings too.

Ant bites are unlike other insect stings. They start off as a minor irritation that you might just scratch or brush away. The degree of itchiness and the size of the bites grow slowly over time, sometimes hours later. Rubbing kukui nut sap on the bites brings relief. Another easy remedy is to scrape the back of a ti leaf with your fingernail, then rub the bites with the area of the ti leaf that was just scraped. My daughter got an ant bite at a birthday party. I spotted some ti leaf in the yard and applied it as described. Within five minutes she was back playing and having a good time.

The first insect bite remedy that I discovered as a kid was for mosquito bites. I experimented with different plants in my auntie’s backyard and learned that citrus – either lemon or lime – helped to not only relieve mosquito bites but helped to deter them from biting in the first place. Rub lemon or lime juice on the bite and get relief within minutes. For fighting off mosquitoes, I would rub citrus juice on a portion of my forearms and legs, which allowed me to spend hours outdoors without getting attacked.

Lucky that we live in a place surrounded by a variety of healing plants and herbs!