Herbalist Robin Rose Bennett

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Tick Tock, it's Tick-O'Clock!

By Robin Bennett
Posted in Blog
On May 24, 2022

Something bugging you?
Tick season has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere! If you’ve ever had a run-in with this pesky bug, you know full well the worries and anxieties that accompany their painful (and dangerous) bites. According to the latest information from the Centers for Disease Control, it is thought that a tick has to be embedded for thirty-six to forty-eight hours before it can transmit an infection such as Lyme disease, however they also says elsewhere on their site “Depending on the type of tick and germ, a tick needs to be attached to you for different amounts of time (minutes to days) to infect you.” Much is still unknown.

Even if you don’t think you were infected, it is wise to take echinacea and yarrow internally for a week or two after a bite to nourish your immunity (see my tincture regimen below). Even the bites of non-disease carrying ticks are challenging, usually causing swelling, pain, a rash, and/or itching.

The very first thing you must do when bitten by a tick is to REMOVE IT ENTIRELY.

Use sharp, pointy tweezers to make sure the entire tick is removed. If the tick didn’t come out whole, don’t leave even the tiniest piece of it in your skin. Clean the sharp tweezers or a needle with rubbing alcohol, and get it out. If you need help removing it, get help. I cannot stress enough how important it is to remove the entire thing. One good way to tell if you’ve got everything out is by rubbing your finger over the bite; if the head is still in, it will hurt when you rub your finger over it.

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I was bitten by two ticks about two weeks apart from each other about six weeks ago, and I am still on the mend. Ticks are no small deal! It was so early in the season that I hadn’t thought to put any herbal insect repellants on!

I knew the first tick passed an infection into my system, and I put echinacea tincture (you can also use yarrow tincture) into a wad of chewed-up fresh plantain leaves, and applied it to the site of the bite. This immediately helps localize the poison, draws it out, and rallies the immune system. As I said above, I’d do this anyway, but I replaced the poultices more frequently, and of course took more herbs internally.

The second bite, while painful, I sensed hadn’t passed an infection along to me, so I used cooling leaves such as violet, plantain, and chickweed to ease the rash that was forming around the bite. It became quite inflamed, so I needed cooling anti-inflammatories, see below. If you don’t know your body so well, and you feel concerned, get tested!

You can use a piece of flannel or cotton over the poultice and if appropriate, tight-fitting clothes can help hold them in place. Change the poultice frequently, continuing until all signs of redness and swelling from the tick bite are gone.

I recommend using the herbs above topically, even if you choose to use antibiotics as your internal medicine. I chose not to use antibiotics.

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Here was my current Herbal Regimen for tick bites…
and this is by no means the only possibility!

Infusions: Oats and hawthorn berries were very soothing. I put astragalus into some of these. Plantain leaves in others. I was also taking astragalus in my bone broth, which I drank frequently.

Tinctures: 3x daily I used 2 droppers full of echinacea, 10 drops of Japanese knotweed, 13 drops of honeysuckle and 1-3 drops of teasel root. I didn’t take the echinacea at night because I find it stimulating and it doesn’t help me sleep well.
One of the best herbs for healing tick-borne infections (such as Lyme’s) is Japanese Knotweed (pictured below): a powerful herb for deep immune issues. Though it’s considered to be an invasive plant here in North America, many of these pervasive/”invasive” plants are exactly what we need right now! It is high in reservatrol, stimulating to the immune system, and antioxidant.

I was also taking small doses (as needed) of motherwort and hawthorn tinctures as my heart seemed to be pounding too hard. That worked beautifully.

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The other thing I was doing is taking baths as hot as I could bear, with salt and baking soda, and watching very closely for any signs of spreading infection which would include rashes elsewhere on the body, deeper fatigue than I was already experiencing, increased musculoskeletal pain, and fever - these are common signs of infection.

If any of them were to happen, it would mean that the spirochetes were spreading, in which case I would have a decision to make about whether to choose a different herbal formulation or take antibiotics. This did in fact happen, and I added in a tincture of Cryptolepis from Woodland Essence as this extremely strong plant from Africa could help move whatever remained of this infection out of my body.
This “adventure” began on April 11 and I have been diligent in my self-care, including resting and sleeping when my body calls for it. I also work on my healing energetically, with visualization and movement. And now, six weeks later, I feel excellent and have a sense that I’ve cleared the infection, and yet, I will continue to take herbs at smaller dosages, 1-2x daily for at least one more week, and longer if necessary.

Prevention is always the best course of action, but life happens and we will always thank our past selves for being prepared. If you know you will traipsing through thick woods or tall grass (though ticks can really be found anywhere), these are the herbs I recommend wearing on a rotating basis to keep ticks (mosquitos, too) away:

Yarrow flowers (Achillea millfolium)
Grandmother Cedar (Thuja occidentale)
Lavender (Lavendula spp.)
Rose geranium, or any strongly-scented geranium leaves (Pelargonium graveolens)

I use a combination of tinctures, essential oils, and infused oils, depending on what I have handy. I also like to rub fresh rose geranium leaves on myself, and my cat, to good preventative effect.

Remember: always have a good pair of tweezers handy!

Green Blessings,

Robin Rose ~*~

Robin Bennett

Robin Bennett

Robin Rose Bennett is a writer, teacher, green witch, herbalist, and a wisewoman… one who loves the earth and gives voice to the healing wild food and medicine plants which surround us. She has been a practicing herbalism for over 30 years, based in New Jersey & NYC. Robin focuses on the spiritual and ecological lessons of plants and treatment of illness.