Homeopathy is well-known for its effectiveness in complicated and chronic conditions, but an often-overlooked application for homeopathic remedies is first aid. Summertime has its own unique first-aid challenges, including bee stings, insect bites, digestive problems, sunburn and even heatstroke. Keeping a few well-chosen homeopathic remedies on hand will ensure you are prepared for whatever summer may bring.
BITES AND STINGS
Outdoor activities and summertime go hand in hand, but spending time outdoors is also associated with bug bites and especially bee stings. Typically, treatment of stings focuses on controlling potential allergic reactions.1 Of course, those with specific allergies to bites or stings should (if advised) carry an epinephrine auto-injector whenever they are likely to be exposed to insects,2 but for the rest of us, we can certainly benefit from a carefully selected homeopathic remedy to reduce pain from bites or stings.
Bee and wasp sting reactions are a result of injected venom, while insect bite reactions are usually due to allergens in the saliva of the insect.2 Homeopathic remedies address painful symptoms such as swelling and redness regardless of their cause while also speeding healing. The most well-known remedy for bee stings is Apis mellifica. Apis is indicated for pain involving burning, stinging and soreness, and when the sting is very sensitive to touch. There is marked redness and swelling. The person affected is usually excited, restless and very talkative while feeling worse with heat and better with cool air.
If Apis doesn’t seem to fit the situation, a second remedy to consider is Ledum palustre. Ledum is used for stings as well as all types of insect bites, including mosquito bites. While a bite indicating Apis will be red and warm, a bite requiring Ledum will feel cooler or even cold to the touch, and the person affected may be drowsy or quiet. Any motion tends to make things worse.
A third remedy to have on hand for bites is Staphysagria, which is appropriate when the person who has been bitten or stung feels indignant and persecuted. Much stinging and burning as well as terrible itching will be associated with a Staphysagria bite.
I once observed how effective the Apis remedy can be at a Fourth of July pool party. An attendee named Susan wandered too close to some trees where a wasp nest was situated. Stung on her leg, Susan let out a loud scream and ran for the house, talking nonstop about how much it hurt and how it was going to swell up and be painful for days. Luckily, I had a container of Apis pillules in my purse, which I quickly grabbed, offering her a dose. She took the Apis without really thinking about it, being far more interested in locating the baking soda for her throbbing sting. However, before I could even get across the room to return the Apis to my bag, Susan abruptly stopped complaining and looked up with a surprised expression on her face. She exclaimed, “It doesn’t hurt anymore,” and then happily rejoined the party. This quick resolution of her pain from the wasp sting had never happened before; prior stings had always hurt her for days.
Walking outdoors offers us an opportunity to exercise and get lots of fresh air—and encounter lots of poison ivy! While some people are hardly bothered by this toxic plant, others can be debilitated by just the slightest contact. Poison ivy dermatitis resulting from contact with poison ivy, oak or sumac is a common form of allergic contact dermatitis that affects millions of people in the United States every year and results in an estimated forty-three thousand emergency department visits annually.3 Fast treatment is key to a speedy recovery. In addition to a thorough washing of any affected parts as well as laundering all clothes that may have been in contact with the plant, the appropriate homeopathic remedy can significantly ease suffering.
Initial symptoms of poison ivy dermatitis are discomfort and marked itching, as well as the formation of blisters. Depending on the location of these eruptions, affected individuals may also suffer from limitations in activities of daily living such as sitting or walking, or even find their symptoms interfering with mental concentration.3
The top two homeopathic remedies used for poison ivy are Anacardium orientale and Rhus toxicodendron, with Rhus tox being the better known and more easily obtained of the two. Rhus tox works very well for skin eruptions experienced as intense itching and prickling— almost a crawling feeling—especially of the face and hands. There is restlessness and much stinging and pain, which is better with warm baths. Anacardium orientale also has painful red eruptions and blisters and intense, voluptuous itching. The blisters often occur more toward the left side of the neck and torso.
If neither remedy is effective, another one to try is Sulphur, which is most appropriate when the skin is hot, red, itchy and worse for any sort of heat. Later stages of the condition may benefit from the remedy Graphites, which is helpful when the skin has crusted and is oozing. Graphites eruptions are predominantly in folds of the skin such as inside the elbows and knees.
Acute gastrointestinal illnesses are extremely common throughout the world, second only to acute upper respiratory tract illnesses.4 Summertime means warm weather, outdoor eating and less access to refrigeration—often a recipe for food spoilage. Rates of gastroenteritis increase during hot summer months. Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting and exhaustion.4
Luckily, having a few key remedies on hand can assist you in getting through the worst of the problem. Arsenicum album is a key remedy to rely on for many types of foodborne illnesses. The person needing Arsenicum is anxious, weak and may have burning pains or burning diarrhea. They do not want to be left alone. Predominantly chilly, they are thirsty for sips of water and nearly all symptoms are worse at night, especially after midnight.
When the symptom picture is mainly diarrhea—especially watery, profuse, offensive and exhausting diarrhea with cramps that are better after stools—Podophyllum is a more appropriate remedy choice. A third option for digestive issues is the remedy Veratrum album, indicated when there is icy coldness throughout the body and odorless diarrhea, with exhaustion, fever and vomiting, including projectile vomiting or vomiting and diarrhea at the same time.
SUNBURN AND SUNSTROKE
Too much of a good thing can be problematic, especially when it comes to summer sun. The best and simplest approach is always prevention. Nevertheless, sunburn is a common occurrence and can result in a most uncomfortable situation. Most medical diagnoses of sunburn do not result in a sunburn-specific treatment,5 and leave people with the discomfort and pain. Homeopathy can quickly and effectively address the symptoms of sunburn.
Urtica urens, a remedy made from the stinging nettle plant, is an excellent remedy for minor burns. It is very effective when the person has a stinging, burning or itching feeling anywhere on the body. Urtica is also available in a tincture form that can be added to cooled water and sponged on the skin for additional soothing. A second choice is once again the Apis remedy, which reappears here as an effective aide in treating the burning and redness of sunburn. In this case, the skin is typically very hot and dry, possibly with edema, a stinging rash and a marked lack of thirst. Cantharis is a third excellent option and indicated in cases with more severe burns, especially with blisters present. The pain is much better for cold applications. These three remedies will help remove the pain and burning, while application of a first-aid cream or lotion made with Calendula officinalis can help speed healing of the affected skin.
Unfortunately, overexposure to summer heat can result in more than just sunburn. Heat exhaustion, a relatively mild form of heat-related illness, is defined as having a core body temperature of less than one hundred four degrees, but the person is no longer able to go about daily activities. Symptoms include flushed skin, muscle cramps, headache, dizziness, nausea, exhaustion and fainting.6 Children are particularly prone to heat-related illness.
Heatstroke, a more severe form of heat-related illness that can develop slowly over a few days, is characterized by a core body temperature exceeding one hundred four degrees. It is often seen in the elderly. It may also appear suddenly due to overexertion—seen predominantly in younger active people. In addition to the milder symptoms already mentioned, there may be a racing heartbeat, confusion, agitation, irritability, slurred speech and even seizures. Treatment should begin with moving the affected person to a shaded, cooler environment, giving fluids and encouraging rest. Fans and ice packs or cooling towels are key.6 While homeopathy can assist in recovery of milder forms of heat-related illnesses, heatstroke is a true emergency; if it is suspected, homeopathic remedies can be administered every fifteen to twenty minutes on the way to emergency care but never in place of emergency care.
Heat-related illness that results in dilated pupils, burning hot but extremely dry skin and a throbbing head indicates the remedy Belladonna. This person also often has a red face, may be irritable and feels much worse lying down. A person who would benefit from the remedy Glonium often also has a fullness and throbbing in the head. The head actually feels too large or heavy and painful. The throbbing feeling can be felt throughout the body, and notably in the heart area, and they feel much better in open or fresh air. A third remedy that may be helpful is Natrum carbonicum, especially in cases with severe headaches, marked weakness and a pale face with bluish rings around the eyes.
A WONDERFUL TOOL
In minor first-aid situations, homeopathy is often used alone to assist healing, and as we have seen, it can also be an excellent complementary treatment alongside other measures. Having a special set of homeopathic remedies on hand for use in emergency situations is a wonderful tool and can be of much benefit in dealing with summertime complaints.
TOP TEN REMEDIES FOR SUMMER MALADIES
ANACARDIUM ORIENTALE: Poison ivy with incredibly itchy rashes with yellow blisters; the skin is much worse after scratching.
APIS MELLIFICA: Bee stings with itching, burning and stinging or pricking, almost like hot needles; much redness, puffiness and restlessness.
ARSENICUM ALBUM: Stomach pains with burning and diarrhea that are worse at night, especially after midnight; person is thirsty for sips of cold water.
BELLADONNA: Burning heat with throbbing pain, especially headaches after prolonged and unsafe exposure to the sun; red dry skin and dilated pupils. Seek emergency care for suspected heatstroke.
CALENDULA OFFICINALIS: Available in lotion form to promote soothing and healing of minor skin irritations, including burns and insect bites.
CANTHARIS: Important remedy for burns with inflammation and smarting, intense pains, especially if blisters are present.
LEDUM PALUSTRE: Effective with insect stings and most insect bites where the skin is puffy but cool to the touch; the injury does not feel better with warmth.
PODOPHYLLUM: Summer diarrhea with a weak empty feeling and gurgling in the abdomen; profuse but painless stools.
RHUS TOXICODENDRON: Poison ivy (or poison oak or sumac) remedy for red rashes with itching, burning and swelling, potentially involving numbness and stiffness. The person is unable to rest in any position.
URTICA URENS: Remedy for minor burns and hives; stinging, itching and burning of the skin, which may have raised red welts.
- Pucca MB, Cerni FA, Oliveira IS et al. Bee updated: current knowledge on bee venom and bee envenoming therapy. Front Immunol. 2019;10:2090.
- Singh S, Mann BK. Insect bite reactions. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2013;79(2):151-164.
- Butt M, Flamm A, Marks JG et al. Poison ivy dermatitis treatment patterns and utilization: a retrospective claims-based analysis. West J Emerg Med. 2022;23(4):481-488.
- Guerrant RL, Hughes JM, Lima NL et al. Diarrhea in developed and developing countries: magnitude, special settings, and etiologies. Rev Infect Dis. 1990;12 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):S41-S50.
- Nowakowska MK, Li Y, Garner DC et al. Clinical settings and demographic characteristics of patients with sunburn. JAMA Dermatol. 2021;157(9):1122-1125.
- Becker JA, Stewart LK. Heat-related illness. Am Fam Physician. 2011;83(11):1325-1330.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Summer 2023🖨️ Print post