I had never even heard of chiggers until my husband and I moved to Texas about a year after we were married. (We don’t live there anymore. We decided the West Coast better suited our lifestyle after a tornado hit our street, the whole year’s weather was altogether yuck, and we realized that the farmer’s markets…weren’t. No offense, but Texas just wasn't the favorite.) I was working part-time as a portrait photographer at the time and my work was focused on natural light and dreamy, outdoor settings. I spent one particular session sitting in the grass photographing a client and came home that evening wondering why my legs were so itchy. (I’m not allergic to grass.) I was thus introduced to chiggers. Nasty little things. At that time, the traditional remedy that was presented to me was to paint my skin with clear nail polish (which didn’t work). Fortunately, I don’t live in a place where I have to deal with chiggers any more, but if you do, here are some botanical remedies that may help you get through their assault on your skin and sanity.
Plantain (Plantago sp.) – Plantain is a drawing herb with a reputation for quickly soothing insect bites and stings. It helps to draw out the source of irritation and inflammation quickly bringing relief to that itchy, irritated area. The leaf can be applied directly to the skin as a poultice. Either chew up a leaf, then pack it onto the area that’s itching, or crush the leaf in your fingers until it looks thoroughly wet, then rub it into the area. Follow up with another crushed leaf, spread out over the area. It will stick like an herbal bandage. In my experience, it’ll stay there until it’s no longer needed and then naturally fall off once its job is done, but if you’re especially active at the time, you may need to apply several leaves throughout the day. Plantain leaves can also be brewed into a strong tea (try double or triple infusing for added potency) and applied via a compress. In a pinch, the tincture can be applied topically as well.
Chickweed (Stellaria media) – Chickweed is a cooling herb that is commonly infused into a carrier oil that is then made into a salve for hot, irritated, inflamed skin ailments. It’s soothing and emollient and can also be used as a poultice applied to the affected area. You can make a double or triple infused tea and apply it topically with a compress as well. Tincture made from the fresh plant can be used when you don’t have access to the fresh plant.
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) – Yarrow is another cooling herb that acts as a disinfectant and can be helpful for cleansing the area. A liniment can be made by infusing the Yarrow leaf and flower in Witch Hazel and this can be applied topically to the affected area. The hydrosol and essential oil can also be utilized in topical applications for their anti-inflammatory, skin-soothing effects. The hydrosol especially helps to soothe the skin and reduce irritation.
Nervine herbs can be taken in teas or tincture form to help your relax through the irritation.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) – The first aid kit of essential oils, Lavender is proven to be anti-inflammatory, skin-soothing, and can help to reduce the irritation and redness caused by the chiggers. It can be applied neat, sparingly, for short-term, acute use, or it can be applied diluted in a carrier.
Rose (Rosa sp.) – Rose essential oil, though pricey, goes a long way and is wonderfully rejuvenating for the skin. Adding it at a very low dilution to your topical aromatherapy blend can help reduce irritation and may even help the skin to recover more quickly.
Helichrysum (Helichrysum italicum) – The essential oil is incredible for helping the skin to recover from a wide variety of ailments and injuries. Add it to your topical aromatherapy blend in a low dilution to help soothe and support the skin.
Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) – Peppermint essential oil applied at a low dilution can help relieve the incessant itching caused by the chiggers.
Valerie Worwood recommends diluting 10 drops of Thyme ct. linalool essential oil in a teaspoon of carrier oil and applying it to the affected area throughout the day, then following up with a few applications of Lavender essential oil over the following days.
Adding a bit of raw apple cider vinegar to a full or local bath is one home remedy that many people swear by, while others prefer adding a bit of sea salt to the bath instead.
Clay packs – Clay is renowned for its drawing ability. You can hydrate it with a hydrosol or Witch Hazel and apply it to the irritated area the same way you would a clay face mask. Wrap the area with a warm towel to keep the clay moist throughout the application and rinse off when finished. Allowing the clay to dry may increase irritation instead of helping to reduce it, so make sure you keep that towel warm and wet (wring it out so it's not dripping).
What do you use to help you deal with the dreaded itch caused by chiggers? Let me know in the comments section below.