Mosquitoes love me. I do my best to repel mosquitoes, but no matter what I do, they seem to have a taste for my blood. After a morning weeding in the garden or a lovely evening dining al fresco on my porch, I find myself rummaging through my pantry and medicine cabinet for natural remedies for mosquito bites soon after.
Mosquito bites itch and swell as your immune system responds to the introduction of mosquito saliva — a foreign substance — to your delicate bodily ecosystem. Your cells release histamine, a compound that signals to infection-fighting white blood cells that there is work to do. The blood flow causes redness and swelling around the bite, and triggers the nerves in the area to itch.
The world wide web is filled with natural remedies for mosquito bites that purport to soothe itching and swelling. Some even boast antibacterial properties that help your bites heal. Desperate for relief, I tested nine natural remedies for mosquito bites. Here’s what I thought.
Raw honey contains antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties (which normally are burned off through the pasteurization of processed honey) that make it a popular pick for many natural home remedies, particularly for soothing itchy bites. When I tried it out, a single drop provided almost instant relief for my sorry skin. I noticed a significant reduction in swelling and redness after I wiped the honey away after about 10 minutes. The bite did not itch at all after, and it healed nicely, which made this my favorite natural remedy for mosquito bites out of the bunch. Bonus: the stickiness deters you from itching, which sometimes I feel like is half the battle when it comes to preventing infection and scarring from bug bites.
According to Scientific American, ice lessens swelling and numbs the nerves that trigger itching and pain. I wrapped an ice cube in a washcloth to protect my skin and applied it to my bite for about 10 minutes. I had to reapply my makeshift ice pack a few times before the itching subsided, but the cold reduced the swelling right away. Applying ice to the bite is also immediately soothing, even if the itching may return. Ice is likely the cheapest natural remedy for mosquito bites and, in my opinion, one of the best.
Besides having handy peels, lemons boast natural anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anesthetic properties that supposedly soothe, heal and lessen the chance of infection from bug bites. Reader’s Digest suggests cutting a lemon in half and rubbing the citrusy flesh over mosquito bites for instant relief.
Reader be warned, though: applying citrus juices to the skin when it is exposed to sunlight can result in blistering, and if you have already scratched your bite enough to break the skin, the lemon will sting worse than the bite itches.
I thought I caught my bite early enough that I would be able to avoid such stinging, but let’s just say I definitely felt those disinfecting properties of the acidic citrus. After the stinging subsided (and, let me tell you, it lingered), the itching was completely gone. After the initial irritation from the acid wore off, the bite also healed rather remarkably, with little trace of swelling or redness around the original puncture. I am not sure I would risk the pain again with the other natural remedies available, but lemon certainly works.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is a common natural remedy because of its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. I mostly use mine for coleslaw, so I was open to finding another use for this pantry staple.
Following the advice of Mosquito Squad, I soaked a cotton ball in apple cider vinegar and dabbed it onto the bites. I was surprised how much the vinegar stung — though vinegar is generally slightly more acidic than lemon juice, apple cider vinegar is slightly more alkaline than most vinegar, so I thought it would be less biting. The pain faded faster than with the lemon, but there was a lingering burning sensation (and the bite was on my face, no less). I still felt itchy after the discomfort wore off, though that eventually subsided as well. Between the burning and the added wait for relief, I likely would not use this natural remedy for mosquito bites again.
Baking soda often seems like the magic pixie dust of home cleaning and natural remedies. The mild alkaline compounds not only break down dirt and grease, but they also help to neutralize the skin’s pH balance and help it fight infection. WedMD recommends applying a paste of baking soda and water to itchy bites to soothe redness, itching and stinging. When I tried it, I noticed the immediate soothing properties, and the bite seemed all but gone after I wiped the paste off of my body. However, the itching came back a few hours later with a vengeance. After a few more applications, the bite eventually went away. I would rank baking soda among the middlingly effective natural remedies for mosquito bites.
Cold tea bag
Like ice, a tea bag soaked in cold water will supposedly reduce blood flow to the surface of your skin to take down swelling and ease itchiness. Many teas also contain compounds called tannins, which helps reduce swelling.
Following the advice of Men’s Health, I dunked a tea bag in cold water until the bag was soaked through, squeezed to remove excess liquid and applied it to the affected area for 10 to 15 minutes. At first, the application site tingled and soothed some of the itching. Overall, though, the tea bag did not reduce the redness and swelling as well as other remedies.
I found this remedy fairly ineffective, but I am open to trying it again. Next time, though, I would follow the recommendation from Everyday Health and steep the tea bag in hot water and cooling it in the refrigerator instead (which would also help upcycle used tea bags).
The minerals in salt have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Salt supposedly helps draw fluids — such as mosquito saliva — out of open wounds as well. I mixed salt in water and applied the paste on the affected area. The solution helped reduce inflammation, but I still felt itchy and kept reapplying. After the itching finally subsided, the affected area felt dry, stiff and uncomfortable. Perhaps my salt to water ratio was not high enough, but in my experience, the salt paste was one of the less effective natural remedies for mosquito bites.
Some natural medicine bloggers recommend applying minced or sliced garlic to mosquito bites. As a garlic-loving Italian who adds about four cloves to every meal, I was happy to give it a shot.
I minced a clove of garlic and applied it to my bite. Immediately, I felt a burning sensation. I wiped the mashed garlic off my bite after a few minutes, but the smelly residue took awhile to wear off, and the garlic left a crescent-shaped mark on my skin that did not disappear for days. Healthline recommends mixing garlic with a neutral substance such as coconut oil to reduce the burning, but I would opt for a less painful natural remedy.
Witch hazel is a natural astringent you can buy over the counter in pharmacies and grocery stores that can be used for any number of skin irritations, from minor cuts and scrapes to hemorrhoids. Witch hazel purportedly reduces inflammation, soothes the burning and irritation the bite causes, and can speed up healing.
Following the recommendation of Healthline, I applied a small amount of witch hazel to a cotton ball, gently dabbed it on the bite and allowed it to dry. The witch hazel did not have any adverse stinging or burning effects on my skin. In fact, it felt soothing and cooling to apply. However, as soon as the solution dried, my bite was even itchier than it was before. I reapplied several times before the itching finally subsided, but the bite was fairly red and inflamed. Of the natural remedies for mosquito bites I tried, witch hazel was definitely the least effective.
In my professional opinion, raw honey and ice are the best natural remedies for mosquito bites you can find around your kitchen. In a pinch, lemon and apple cider vinegar will also work if you are willing to endure a little pain, and baking soda or a cold tea bag will help soothe the discomfort temporarily. Avoid salt, witch hazel and garlic — they will all leave you itchy, and garlic may even burn.
Do you have a favorite natural mosquito bite remedy that I did not try? Comment below.