Itch is a sensation that causes the desire or reflex to scratch. Itch has resisted many attempts to classify it as any one type of sensory experience. Modern science has shown that itch has many similarities to pain, and while both are unpleasant sensory experiences, their behavioral response patterns are different. Pain creates a withdrawal reflex, while itch leads to a scratch reflex.
Whether it’s from a bug bite, a sting, some poison ivy, or even eczema, itching can be one of the most uncomfortable feelings in the world. There’s a whole list of products available at the drug store that are marketed as “anti-itch” treatments or cures, but you’d be hard-pressed to find anything that’s natural and doesn’t contain a long list of other undesirable ingredients. Remember, your skin is the largest organ on your body, and whatever you put on it gets absorbed right in!
Here’s a list of some easy, homemade remedies to calm down the itch:
- Baking Soda – Make a compress by adding 1/3 cup of baking soda to a gallon of water, then soak a wash cloth in the solution, and apply to the itch. Alternately, you can make a paste of 1/2 cup baking soda, 1/8 cup water, and a teaspoon of salt, and apply it directly to the skin. Note: This should not be used on broken skin. For a widespread itch, add 1 cup baking soda to your bathwater and soak for 30-60 minutes.
- Banana Peel – The inside of a banana peel can be used to treat many skin conditions, itches included. Simply cut off a piece of ripe banana peel a few inches long, and rub it on the itchy skin for a couple minutes, several times a day. This works best for bug bites and stings.
- Oatmeal – Add 1 or 2 cups of finely ground oatmeal to your warm bath water and soak in the tub for about 10 minutes. The fats in oatmeal act as lubricants and create a gelatinous residue on your skin helping to lock in moisture and combat dryness. Make sure the oats are finely ground to a powder, otherwise they will be too heavy and just sink to the bottom of the tub.
- Epsom Salts – Mix a big handful of epsom salts into your warm bath water and soak in it for as long as you like. Epsom salts have antibacterial qualities and promote healing.
- Vinegar – Add 1 cup of white vinegar to your bath water and soak for as long as you like. Vinegar is a natural disinfectant and its acidity helps cool the skin and combat the itch. You can also make a really easy anti-itch rub using just raw apple cider vinegar and water – recipe can be found here.
- Aloe Vera – Used mainly for burns, aloe vera is also a very good anti-itch treatment since the same its anti-inflammatory properties also work on itchy skin! Either snap off a leaf, slice it down the middle, and rub the gel on your skin, or you can purchase a natural aloe vera gel (like this one) and apply it liberally to the skin several times a day.
- Bath Oil – An easy homemade bath oil can be made by mixing 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil into a tall glass of milk. Apply all over the body and let it sit for 10 minutes, then have a bath in lukewarm water and dry your skin off gently.
- Lemon – A natural anesthetic and anti-inflammatory, lemon juice has been used as an anti-itch treatment for hundreds of years. Apply the juice directly to the itch and let it air dry.
- Herbal Compress – Basil, mint, and thyme have anesthetic and anti-inflammatory properties to help numb the itch and reduce inflammation. Make a tea with either of these herbs by adding 1/2 to 1 ounce of dried leaves into a pint of boiling water. Cover and let it cool, and then strain it, dip a wash cloth into the tea and apply as a compress to affected areas.
- Herbal Salve – You can make (or purchase) your own homemade anti-itch salve from all natural ingredients! A great recipe is here.
If your itching persists, gets worse, or spreads to other areas, then seek professional medical advice.