Activated Charcoal for Bug Bites and Other Itchy Situations
I figure by now, many of you have picked up some activated charcoal to whiten your teeth with (which, by the way, has gotten rave reviews … check the comments).
So, with your excess supply of the powdery black magic, I wanted to give you all another great way to use it. Bug bites and other itchy situations – namely things like poison ivy!
Since you’ve already learned about activated charcoal’s goodness over here, let’s just move immediately into talking about how to access its power to pull the toxins from bug bites and stings out and away from your skin. The first way is the messier/more difficult, but more effective way. The second way is easy-peasy and great for kids.
No diddle-dawdle today!
Activated Charcoal + Salve = Activated Charcoal Salve!
Do you remember Not Your Mother’s Neosporin Salve, the salve we made many moons ago using beeswax, oils, herbs/flowers (especially calendula and chamomile!), and honey?
Well, you’re going to want that right now, or something like it. You could even just pick up a simple salve or balm from a company like Badger (they make the best balms/salves) and add your activated charcoal to it, too.
But, of course, making your own is ALWAYS and forever so much more fun and satisfying.
This particular salve is best for really intense bug bites or stings or something more annoying, like poison ivy. The calendula and chamomile (which is hopefully in your salve) will do wonders at relieving the itch and discomfort, while the activated charcoal lifts out much of the guilty toxins.
Here’s how you do it:
This is not an unmessy solution. You should know that immediately. This is something I would use on kids as a last resort, or if they’re extremely calm children, or very heavily sedated and pretty much immobile.
Once you mix activated charcoal and oils/beeswax, you’re in for some blackness anywhere it touches. That includes the carpet. And it will NOT be easy to get out. In fact, getting something like that out would be in the difficulty level of shoving a bowling ball up your nose.
You can apply this directly to your skin and cover that area with a bandage for extra-toxin-pulling action (don’t forget to cover it, so you don’t get it on furniture, walls, or clothing). But you’ll also want to scrub it off well once you remove your bandage, so make sure the area can handle a good rubbing.
The alternative, and less messy option, is to do this. We’ll talk through the steps once you’ve seen the pictures.
Step 1: Drop a blob of activated charcoal salve on a piece of cut cloth. I used an old flannel cloth, but this would be great use of an old T-shirt or any other rags you have lying around. Cut it big enough to cover the affected area twice over. The amount of activated charcoal salve I have pictured is actually a little more than what you’d want to put on your cloth. Really, all you need to do is make sure there’s a thick enough layer to cover the area you’re looking to cover.
Step 2: Lay a piece of paper towel over the activated charcoal salve, smaller than the size of your cloth but bigger than the salve drop, and then press it down lightly. This adds a layer between the salve and your skin. The salve will seep through enough to do the work you need it to do, but it won’t seep through so much that you end up with Very Messy Salve all over your skin.
If you do end up with Very Messy Salve on your skin, all you have to do is wash it off with a bit of soap, water, and an old washcloth. It’s not a big deal, unless this salve gets on your floor or on clothes you particularly cherish.
Step 3: Place the piece of cloth on the affected area, centering the salve blob/paper towel over the important part. At this point, you can move to step 4, or you can skip step 4 and do this instead:
- Cover the cloth with one more piece of cloth on top
- Then wrap the whole thing with plastic wrap, so it adheres to your skin
Or, move on to step 4.
Step 4: (This only works for issues on arms or legs) Cut the toe out of an old sock. Pull the sock up until it’s almost halfway covering the salve bandage, then pull the other side of the sock up and over, until the entire thing is covered with sock. Doing it this way helps to avoid the bandage shifting as you pull the sock up over it.
Leave this on for 2-4 hours and then wash off. You can reapply with fresh activated charcoal salve as needed.
Another “gooey” activated charcoal idea: Activated charcoal “poultice.” In this technique, you actually boil a “gel” of flaxseeds and then add activated charcoal to that, instead. It’s really not much different than using the salve, but with the salve, you get more herbal goodness to help with your issues.
The important part of all of this is that you want to keep the activated charcoal “wet,” or else its adsorbing powers are rendered almost nil. In other words, if it’s not wet, it’s not doing its job.
Activated Charcoal for Bug Bites – The EASY Way!
This way is best for less intense bug bites, and it’s much better for children, all around. It’s easy to wash off and doesn’t hold the potential of being pitch black, ground in oil in your carpet or clothing.
Bug Bite Tip: As you’re getting ready to prepare this home remedy, slice into a piece of garlic. With that piece of garlic, either rub your bug bite area with the garlic juice, or have your kid do it as they wait for their special, black magic bandage. Garlic is GREAT for treating bug bites (in fact, you may find that after you apply it, you don’t even want to bother with anything else!)
Here’s the easy way to harness activated charcoal’s bug-bite-be-gone skills, quickly and efficiently.
Step 1: Stir together, very carefully, 1/2 tsp-ish activated charcoal with 1 Tbsp water. Very carefully, because activated charcoal likes to *poof* up when you stir it in, so go slowly.
Step 2: Dip a piece of paper towel you’ve folded twice (so it’s four-ply) into the activated charcoal water.
Step 3: Very carefully lay the strip of activated charcoal paper towel on the padded area of a bandage, and apply the bandage to the affected area. Leave on for 2-4 hours, or until it’s dry. You can change this out as often as you need to.
Bonus Idea With Thyme Tea!
Remember how thyme is a very effective anti-inflammatory and analgesic? Well, why not make a very strong thyme tea with dried thyme and use it instead of the water?
The itch’ll be relieved, as well as a bit of the swelling associated with the bug bite!
NOTE: If you’re concerned at ALL about the severity of the bite or other irritation, or if it’s a spider bite, seek medical attention from your trusted naturopath or other healthcare provider before you try things like this at home!
Buying Activated Charcoal and Other Bug Bite Ideas
Good news, everyone! I found a very reliable supplier of activated charcoal in bulk. So, if you don’t want to buy the capsules from Vitacost or a local natural foods store, here’s a good option:
Starwest Botanicals. As of this writing, 4 oz is $8.17, which is a great price, especially if you’re looking to use activated charcoal often in the next few years (4 oz is quite a bit). (PS. That’s an affiliate link, so use it to support Crunchy Betty!)
And if you want to AVOID bug bites all together, here’s my recipe for Shoo! Spray Homemade Insect Repellent. Yes. It’s awesome.
And if you’re interested in more home remedies for bug bites (including my other favorite, placing a piece of banana peel on them), check out Frugally Sustainable’s great list of home remedies for bug bites, AND her awesome recipe for homemade calamine lotion.
I love these posts.
Had to share ’em.
Do you have a beloved home remedy for bug bites or poison ivy? Share ’em, so we can all learn more in our quest to be healthy, crunchy, and bug-bite free.