4 DIY herbal remedies that take the sting out of pesky insect bites

August 7, 2017 by  
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We share the planet with many different species, and some of them bite or sting us on occasion. Mosquitoes , horse flies, fire ants, bedbugs, spiders, fleas, bees, and wasps can cause nasty reactions with their saliva or venom, but we don’t need to run to the drugstore to alleviate any potential reactions. Instead, we can enlist our plant allies and a few household ingredients to relieve the torment. Read on for a few DIY recipes that soothe insect bites without the nasty chemicals. When gathering wild plants for your herbal remedies, be sure to collect them from areas that haven’t been sprayed with pesticides and aren’t too close to active roadways. If you grow these plants yourself, try to avoid chemical fertilizers and just use compost to nourish them as they grow. 1. Plantain Poultice Plantain ( Plantago major ) is an invaluable plant for just about every type of insect bite or sting , and it grows so prolifically that you can undoubtedly find it somewhere near you. If you’re walking outside and you get bitten, look around to see if there’s some plantain growing nearby: just crush up or chew one of its leaves, and rub it all over the affected area for relief of both pain and itchiness. Alternately, if you have these extra ingredients at hand, you can make a poultice instead: What you’ll need and how to make it: 4-6 plantain leaves 1 teaspoon bentonite clay powder 1/2 teaspoon activated charcoal powder Fresh aloe vera gel Step 1: Chop the plantain leaves very finely. I mash mine in a mortar and pestle as well, but you can also put them through a food processor. Here’s a tip: if you have one of those Magic Bullet-style mini smoothie makers, they’re pretty much ideal for chopping up fresh herbs. Step 2: Cut a 3-inch piece off your handy aloe vera plant, and squish the gel out of it. Mix that, the bentonite powder, and the activated charcoal powder with the chopped plantain to create a thick paste. Step 3: Slather this paste on bite and surrounding area. It should alleviate the pain, as well as overall irritation, and both the bentonite and charcoal will draw the insect venom out of the bite. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? Pretty much all of them. For spider bites specifically, add some crushed fresh yarrow leaves to the poultice, as this will help to draw out the venom. 2. Creosote-Infused Oil Leaves from the creosote bush ( Larrea tridentata ), also known as chaparral, can be used to create an infused oil for all kinds of insect bites, though it’s particularly well suited to fire ant bites and scorpion stings. What you’ll need and how to make it: Dried leaves from the creosote bush High-quality olive oil Clean, sterilized jar and lid I generally use the folk method for creating infused oil, so that’s what I’ll be describing below. If you’d be more comfortable using official ratios, then it’s 1 oz of dried leaves to 10 oz oil. Step 1: Fill your jar 1/2 full of dried leaves, then pour in olive oil to fill the jar almost to the top. Step 2: Use a chopstick to stir it well, then cap it with the lid. Place in a sunny spot and shake daily for 2-3 weeks. Step 3: Strain well through cheesecloth and a sieve into another clean jar. Decant into colored glass dropper bottles, and label with the name and date. Store these in a cool, dark place. When and if you get stung or bitten, apply a drop or two to the area. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? Spider, kissing beetle, and mosquito bites, bee and scorpion stings, and those weird caterpillars that have hairs that’ll lodge in your skin and make you scream in pain. *Note: It’s best to avoid creosote if you’re pregnant or nursing. 3. Plantain Vinegar When you combine plantain with apple cider vinegar, you end up with an acidic tincture that neutralizes wasp sting venom surprisingly well. Note that this works for wasp stings, not bees: wasp venom is alkaline, which is why the acid in vinegar neutralizes it. What you’ll need and how to make it: Handful of plantain leaves Apple cider vinegar (you can also use white vinegar in a pinch) Clean, sterilized jar and lid Step 1: Gather some plantain leaves and rinse them well under running water. Step 2: Pat them dry, then chop them up and loosely fill a small, clean jelly jar 2/3 full of the chopped leaves. Step 3: Fill the jar all the way to the top with apple cider vinegar, and stir the contents gently with a chopstick or spoon handle to release any air bubbles. Close it up with a clean lid and store in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks, agitating the jar gently every day to draw out the plantain’s medicinal properties. Step 4: Once that time has passed, strain the liquid through a few layers of cheesecloth into a clean jar, or into amber dropper bottles. If you get stung by a wasp, use a cotton ball to apply this tincture to the affected area immediately, followed by ice to reduce any swelling. Alternate with the ice and vinegar for about 15 minutes, and keep applying the vinegar as needed to relieve pain and itchiness as it heals. If you get stung before this has a chance to cure, just apply plain apple cider vinegar. It won’t do as much for alleviating the pain and inflammation, but it’ll counteract the venom so you can heal more quickly. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? Fire ant bites and wasp stings, as well as flea and bed bug bites. Related: DIY insect repellent lotions and sprays 4. Jewelweed or Calendula Salve Now, if you happen to have jewelweed growing in your area, you’re in luck. Also known as Touch-Me-Not, because if so so much as touch its seeds, they’ll go squirting off several feet away, Impatiens capensis is incredible for alleviating all kinds of skin irritations. In addition to neutralizing poison ivy reactions, the gel inside its stem will also soothe insect bites instantly. You can’t tincture this plant because it reacts badly with alcohol, but you can make a salve with a few simple ingredients. *Note: If you can’t get hold of jewelweed in your area, you can use calendula flowers instead. What you’ll need and how to make it: 3 cups fresh jewelweed stems and leaves (or calendula flowers), coarsely chopped 1 cup high-quality olive oil 3/4 cup beeswax or carnauba wax pastilles Tea tree, peppermint, and lavender essential oils Step 1: Chop the jewelweed coarsely and place in a small saucepot. Step 2: Cover it completely with your olive oil, and bring to a simmer. Keep simmering for about an hour, until the plant has softened and the oil has changed color. Remove from the heat and let it sit overnight. Step 3: Strain the oil into another, clean saucepot through several layers of cheesecloth or muslin lain inside a strainer. Use a metal spoon to squish all the oil out of it. Step 4: Warm this oil on low heat, add the wax pastilles, and stir gently. I use a small baking whisk for this, but you can also use a metal spoon. Step 5: Remove from the heat, then add 8 drops each of tea tree, peppermint, and lavender essential oils. Step 6: Pour the mixture into a small jar or tin, let set for 20-30 minutes, then refrigerate. This salve will stay good for up to a year if kept in the fridge. While calendula doesn’t have jewelweed’s itch-neutralizing properties, it’s a good all-purpose herb for alleviating skin irritation and inflammation. Which types of insect bites and stings will this help? All of them. Related: How to make your own herbal tinctures at home Remember that prevention really is the best medicine, and it’s good to take steps to avoid being bitten or stung. Spraying exposed skin with a diluted yarrow tincture is just as effective as DEET. (Follow the link above for a DIY tincture tutorial), and wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when you’re gardening or hiking in the woods can help to keep all kinds of bugs from biting you. It’s important to educate yourself about these plants before using any herbal remedies to make sure they don’t contraindicate with any medications you may be on, or trigger any allergies you may have. For example, people who are allergic to chamomile may also be allergic to other flowers in the Asteraceae family, such as the calendula listed above, or arnica. If you have any nervousness about using these remedies, talk to your healthcare provider or a local herbalist for advice, and then try a small test on your skin to see if you’ll react badly to the salve or poultice. Images via Unsplash and Wikimedia Creative Commons, and by the author

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4 DIY herbal remedies that take the sting out of pesky insect bites

Hydra-Light lantern doesn’t need a batteryjust saltwater

August 7, 2017 by  
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Hail, Hydra…Light? You too might be singing this portable lighting product’s praises if you find yourself off the grid without a battery to your name. Designed with campers, boaters, and outdoor revelers in mind, Hydra-Light’s range of flashlights, lanterns, and energy cells harness salt and water as its power source. Several models even come with a USB port, so you can juice up your cellphone or smart device at the same time. Each Hydra-Light features an energy cell that comprises a carbon-based membrane and a replaceable metal-alloy cylinder known as a PowerRod. When an electrolyte like saltwater—or just regular table salt and water—is added to the mix, the two elements react to generate a current. Related: Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy This reaction continues until the PowerRod is exhausted to a sliver, leaving only “harmless mineral sediment” behind, per the Australia-based manufacturer. “When the rod has become very thin, it is removed and a new one is inserted—which takes just seconds—making the cell like new and ready to continue generating power,” Hydra-Light said. “All that’s needed during the lifetime of each PowerRod is a periodic rinsing out of the mineral sediment and refilling with fresh saltwater. Unlike conventional batteries, the power output remains constant and does not decline over the lifetime of the rods.” Hydra-Light claims that a single PowerRod provides more than 250 hours of continuous power, which is equal to the output of about 85 standard AA batteries but at a “fraction of the cost.” (Each Hydra-Light product includes a preinstalled PowerRod.) It’s still salad days for the company yet, but the technology is nothing if not promising. For the 1.3 billion people around the world who live without electricity, Hydra-Light could prove life-changing. For the rest of us, it’s several more sets of single-use batteries we don’t have to toss out. Americans purchase—and presumably dispose of—more than 3 billion dry cell batteries every year to power our various gadgets and gizmos, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency . Hail, Hydra-Light indeed. + Hydra-Light [Via Digital Trends ]

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Hydra-Light lantern doesn’t need a batteryjust saltwater

Gorgeous solar-powered greenhouse home in Sweden hits the market

August 7, 2017 by  
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If you’re looking for a gorgeous home surrounded by an idyllic landscape, this greenhouse hybrid is currently on the market for a cool $864k. Located in Gothenburg, Sweden, the A-frame residence has three bedrooms and a large, daylit greenhouse tacked on to one side. Equipped with various energy-efficient features and solar panels , the space is the epitome of green luxury living. The home itself has a beautiful interior design with white walls and polished concrete floors that create an open and airy living space. The latter, kitchen, three bedrooms and bathrooms are spread over the first two floors. However, the star of the home is located on the top floor – a massive attic space clad entirely in glass panels with exposed wooden beams, where residents enjoy stunning views of the surrounding landscape. Related: Giant greenhouse in Rotterdam doubles as a light-filled family home The new tenants won’t have far to go to the garden thanks to the massive greenhouse attached to the home. Surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass panels and exposed wooden beams, the greenhouse was designed to provide a perfect climate for growing a variety of fruits and veggies year-round. The affixed greenhouse is more than just a fun gardening space, however. The home’s living area benefits substantially from having the insulation provided by the light-filled space, which helps keep it warm during frigid Swedish winters. It also reduces energy usage and costs throughout the year. + Eklund Stockholm New York Via Dwell Images via Eklund Stockholm New York

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Gorgeous solar-powered greenhouse home in Sweden hits the market

DIY: All-Natural Creams and Salves for Cold-Battered Hands

October 25, 2013 by  
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I know that most people aren’t quite ready to say the “w” word just yet, but that season of sleet and snow will be upon many of us in a few short weeks, and it’s better to be prepared in advance, right? Just as we try to ensure that our faces , lips , and eyes are protected from harsh weather, it’s important to pay attention to our hands as well: dry, cracked, aching paws aren’t fun to deal with, especially if you spend your day typing or doing any fine-detail work. Here are a few DIY creams and salves that you can create at home: Read the rest of DIY: All-Natural Creams and Salves for Cold-Battered Hands Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: arnica , beeswax , calendula , carnauba wax , cayenne , cinnamon , coconut oil , cream , DIY , essential oils , hand cream , hand salve , olive oil , salve , skin cream , vegan , wintergreen        

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DIY: All-Natural Creams and Salves for Cold-Battered Hands

Renzo Piano’s Dragonfly-Inspired Turbine Can Harvest Energy from the Slowest Winds

October 25, 2013 by  
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As we shift away from fossil fuels, many utilities have focused on building the biggest and most powerful wind turbines possible to meet growing energy needs. Architect Renzo Piano has taken a different approach, however, focusing his efforts on a compact, yet super-efficient wind turbine that anyone can erect in their backyard. Called the “ Dragonfly Invisible Wind Turbine ” the two-blade design mimics the delicate dragonfly’s ability to float on the slightest of breezes. Based on the physics of dragonfly flight, Piano’s mini-turbine can harvest energy from winds that blow as slow as four miles an hour. Read the rest of Renzo Piano’s Dragonfly-Inspired Turbine Can Harvest Energy from the Slowest Winds Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: “energy efficiency” , “wind power” , biomimicry , Design , Dragonflies , ENEL Green Power , italy , renewable energy , renzo piano , wind turbines        

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Renzo Piano’s Dragonfly-Inspired Turbine Can Harvest Energy from the Slowest Winds

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