I had been pretty lucky with bug bites this year–that is, until last week. At some point I stumbled through a bed of chiggers (aka red bugs) and those little demons made a meal out of me. I have never been torn up this bad. My feet, ankles, calves, thighs, and unmentionables welted up in itchy evidence of my unlucky encounter. For those fortunate to have never experienced this torture, a chigger bite is every bit as itchy as poison ivy or a mosquito bite, but the itch can last up to two weeks and it intensifies greatly if you are undisciplined enough to scratch it. Knowing how to treat chigger bites is crucial.
If you run afoul of chiggers, you will try anything to rid yourself of this scourge. Standard anti-itch creams and lotions like calamine don’t do much to help. I have heard of people using nail polish on the bites, applying other odd household chemicals, and even going so far as to burn them with a cigarette.
There are only two things that I have come across that have helped me maintain sanity during this prickly time of duress. The first is a store-bought product called Chiggerex. This salve is basically a numbing agent with 10 percent benzocaine as the active ingredient. There are other healing items in the mix, but the big relief comes when the benzocaine goes to work disrupting sensation where applied. But you have to keep using this product–it’s not a cure.
My other (and favored) treatment is a homemade one: comfrey leave salve. I started using this treatment on chigger bites earlier in the season, and it drastically shortened the healing time. It didn’t help the itch much in the short term, but the bites only lasted half their normal span, so overall there was a lot less scratching. I originally made this jar of salve for burns, and you can concoct your own from just two ingredients.
First, positively identify comfrey (Symphytum officinale), which is a perennial that grows to about three feet tall in moist grasslands and farm lands. Comfrey has lanceolate leaves that are fuzzy and resemble mullein; but unlike mullein, comfrey has bell-shaped purple or whitish flowers. Use a field guide if in doubt. Dry the leaves in a dehydrator if you need the salve soon, or just dry them indoors for a few weeks if you are making salve for the season. Melt one cup of Crisco or lard in a crock pot (try to get it around 150 degrees). Then add in one cup of crushed, dried comfrey leaves and let it soak for 3 hours at 150 degrees. Next, strain the solid leaf bits out by pouring the mixture through a strainer, and store the green-colored salve in the fridge up to one year.
Try this remedy on bites, burns, cuts, and scrapes, but keep in mind that herbal cures are highly variable, so your results may vary.
Tell us about your chigger bite remedies in the comments.