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PHOTO: Jan Berry
Warm weather heralds the return of fun, outdoor activities, such as camping, fishing, hiking and gardening. Unfortunately, ticks, mosquitoes, gnats and other creepy-crawlies that like nibbling on humans enjoy this time of year, too!
My homemade anti-itch sticks are perfect for treating the discomfort of pesky bug bites. Their easy-to-apply form makes it convenient for letting older kids self-treat. The ingredients are all natural and can also be used on scrapes, scratches and other minor boo-boos, as well.
The base of the recipe is calendula-infused oil, but if you don’t have any flowers available, plantain or violet leaves offer similar soothing properties and can be substituted. Peppermint essential oil is added for its cooling benefit, while lavender contributes anti-inflammatory properties. If you’d like, you can also add a drop of tea tree oil to fight infection-causing microbes.
Infusing the Oil
To make the infused oil, add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup dried calendula flowers to a pint jar. Pour a high quality oil, such as olive or sunflower oil, over the plant matter until you almost reach the top, leaving a little room for expansion. Cover the jar and tuck it away in a dark cupboard for about four weeks, shaking occasionally.
If you want to make this sooner, fill the jar with dried flowers and oil as above, but don’t cover the jar. Place it in a small saucepan filled with a couple of inches of water. Set the saucepan over a medium-low burner and gently heat the water for about 1 to 2 hours to speed up the infusion process. Keep a close eye on the pan, making sure the water stays under a simmer and doesn’t completely evaporate. Remove the jar from the hot water and let cool to room temperature before proceeding.
Strain the infused oil from the flowers and use in the recipe below. Any remaining oil can be stored in a clean glass jar, in a cool, dark place for nine months to a year.
- 3 T. calendula infused oil
- 1 T. beeswax
- 5 drops peppermint essential oil
- 3 drops lavender essential oil
- 1 drop tea tree essential oil (optional)
- 6 lip balm tubes
Step 1: Mix and Heat
Combine the oil and beeswax in a small, heat-proof container. A recycled tin can makes for easy cleanup or you can use a small mason jar.
Set the container of wax and oil down into a small saucepan filled with 1 to 2 inches water, forming a makeshift double boiler. Place the pan over a medium-low burner until the beeswax is melted.
Step 2: Add Essential Oils
Remove from heat and add essential oils.
Step 3: Fill the Tubes
Carefully fill six lip balm tubes (which are readily available online, including in this 12-pack) with the hot mixture and allow to cool before capping.
Step 4: Print the Labels
Print the labels (they’re in a PNG file at the end of this article) on sticker paper, available in office supply stores. Cut them out and affix one to each lip balm tube. Regular sticker paper will eventually smudge and smear, so if you plan to give these as gifts, you might want to invest in waterproof paper, available here.
Tips for Itchy Stix:
- If you find the salve too soft for your needs, try remelting and adding a little more beeswax to firm the texture up.
- If you don’t have a source of lip balm containers, you can pour the hot mixture into a small tin or jar instead to dab on bug bites as needed.
- If you’re allergic to one of the essential oils in this recipe or dislike its scent, you can omit it. Other options include using all peppermint oil or all lavender oil or leaving the essential oils out completely. Calendula oil by itself is still a helpful skin treatment.
- If you’re pregnant, nursing or have chronic health issues, check with a health care professional before using a product containing essential oils.
- Itchy Stix are not for use by infants or very small children who might try to eat the product.
The Label File
Here are the labels. They’re all included in a single image file. To download the file, place your cursor over any of the labels, then either right-click or press Control+click and choose “Save Image As.”