Although DEET is often suggested for protection from ticks, I absolutely do not recommend it. DEET is a powerful neurotoxin that doesn’t even work that well. It only repels ticks, does not kill them and the high amount needed to even repel ticks is seriously toxic.
Permethrin, though also a neurotoxin, does kill ticks and, most importantly, does so at a very low dose. Those who know me and my decades-long commitment to organic gardening may be surprised to find me suggesting permethrin. It is literally the only exception I make for the use of synthetic chemicals on my property. I came to this decision because tick-borne diseases can be so life changing and yet very little permethrin is needed to kill ticks, thus minimizing any concerns. Further, the methods I use with permethrin do not involve spraying, which can be problematic.
Essential oils, when used properly, present little to no lasting effects for you or the environment. Read on for my recommendations on when and how to use any of these.
Support Your Immune System
Not everyone who gets bitten by a disease-carrying tick gets ill. Our immune systems are really our first line of defense. All the things that contribute to good health including adequate sleep, a healthy diet with little to no processed foods, utilizing stress reduction and health building techniques such as yoga, meditation, acupuncture and qi gong, having people to love, and feeling a sense of purpose in life go a long way to keeping you resistant to diseases of any type. If you do get bitten by a tick, you’ll find useful suggestions later in this article on how to enable your immune system to clear unwanted microbes.
Stephen Buhner, a well-known herbal expert on ticks and tick-borne diseases, recommends taking 1000 mg of the herb Astragalus daily in spring, summer and fall for those who live where ticks are endemic (http://buhnerhealinglyme.com/).
Cover yourself up when walking in the woods or gardening - light-colored long sleeves, long pants, gloves, hat & scarf. Before coming back inside, run a lint roller over your clothing and shoes. It’s an easy way to keep ticks out of the house. The next step is to immediately put clothing in a hot dryer for twenty minutes as this can kill any ticks that may still be on your clothes. A bath or hot shower can also wash away any non-attached ticks though you really can’t kill ticks by drowning.
Be sure to check your body, head to toe and especially in folds and crevices, for any attached ticks. Remove any you may find and dispose of them by dropping into alcohol or wrapping tightly in tape. Do not crush the tick as it will release whatever disease it is carrying. If you’ve been bitten, follow the suggestions later in this article under “After a Tick Bite.”
Wear Insect Shield clothing when in areas where ticks abound. Insect Shield clothing has permethrin baked in to the fabric so that it is tightly bound to the fibers and won’t come off on your skin. Used by the US Military, Insect Shield clothing is said to be close to 100% effective in killing any ticks crawling on the fabric. It also repels mosquitoes, fleas, chiggers, ants and flies at almost the same high rate. Buy online at http://www.insectshield.com
The company has an assortment of clothing and also vests for dogs. You can also send them your own clothing, picnic blankets and the like to have the permethrin baked in. Items will retain their tick-killing abilities through 70 cycles in the clothes washer. Because permethrin is toxic to fish and cats, do not use permethrin near fish and don’t allow your cat to wear Insect Shield items. Never spray permethrin as this is when it’s most likely to be toxic.
Use essential oil tick-repellant sprays, available at all health food stores, to treat exposed skin in the least toxic way. You’ll need to re-apply them every 45 minutes. Most highly recommended is Lyme Armour, made by Stephen Buhner. The blend is 99% effective on all the tick species that carry Borrelia, which is the spirochete responsible for Lyme disease. You can purchase Lyme Armor at http://www.montanafarmacy.com
Montana Farmacy also carries a bug repelling soap and a Lyme Armour salve. Be aware that, contrary to what some essential oil manufacturers will say, essential oils should almost never be put undiluted on your skin as they can cause rashes, burns and the eventual development of allergies. Tick repellant sprays will have the essential oils properly diluted to prevent this. Just read the label to be sure there ismsome sort of carrier liquid, such as water, alcohol or a vegetable oil, along with the essential oils.
If your yard is a hotbed of tick activity (and whose isn’t these days?), consider using Damminix tick tubes. Mice are the main vector for disease-bearing ticks, meaning ticks get the disease from mice. The biodegradable tubes are filled with cotton ball nesting material that is treated with levels of permethrin low enough to only kill ticks but not harm mice. They are to be put around your yard twice a year and will drastically decrease tick populations at important parts of their life cycle.
Driveways and lawns are not mouse or tick habitat so tick tubes don’t need to be distributed there. Wood and leaf piles, mulch, gardens, foundation plantings, and edges of woods are the places to put tick tubes. Since ticks don’t move very far or very fast, this will still work even if your neighbors don’t use tick tubes on their property. Agway sells them here on Long Island; you can buy them on line at http://www.ticktubes.com When distributed around your property according to directions, 100% of mice in the area can become tick killers instead of tick carriers.
Essential Oil Landscape Sprays
In the unlikely event that you have tried tick tubes, Insect Shield clothing and Dr. Buhner’s spray and are still having trouble with ticks on your property, you could consider spraying diluted essential oils on your property. While synthetic toxins persist in the environment and in our bodies, essential oils will dissipate much more quickly and so offer a safer alternative. However, they are not completely without risks as they hold the possibility of killing any pollinators in the area while the spraying is going on. For that reason, spraying of essential oils should not be the first method you try.
Some landscape companies now offer essential oil spraying. If you do choose this option, be sure that the company has obtained certification on how to do this safely and be even more sure they are not including any toxic sprays in the mix. For a lower cost, you can also purchase such sprays on-line and apply them yourself. If you do, wear a mask as you work so you don’t inhale the mist.
If there are bee hives in the neighborhood, you’ll want to inform the beekeeper so that the bees can be kept inside the hive when you’re spraying and for a few hours afterwards. Also, if there are fish ponds or natural streams on or near the property, it is important to avoid having the spray, or any drift from it, get into the water. Finally, to be effective, this method must be repeated several times a year.
AFTER A TICK BITE
When removing attached ticks, be careful not to use any heat or chemicals as either of these could cause the tick to release spirochetes into your body. Wear rubber gloves and twist the tick at the base of its head, making sure not to puncture it. Twist clock-wise and it will easily pull out in about two or three turns with all of its parts intact. You can also use a tweezer, being careful not to squish the head, and pulling straight out until the entire head has been removed.
Herbal Treatment for Bites
After removing the tick, use a wonderful herbal product called After-Tick Bite, made by herbalist Nancy Scarzello. You’ll apply cotton balls soaked in After-Tick Bite to the bite area and bandaid them on, leaving in place for an hour. This is done three times a day and also overnight for three days. At the same time, you’ll take a dose of the tincture three times a day for thirty days. Nancy has included herbs known to fight tickborne diseases and herbs to build your immune system.
You can order it from: Nancy Scarzello, 101 Hall Rd., Ticonderoga, NY 12883 for $30 a bottle, plus $5 for shipping and handling. Please be aware that internal dosages for children would be different, based on their age and weight, and you should consult a knowledgeable health care practitioner for guidance. If you are taking any other medications, you’ll want to know if there are any interactions between the herbs and the pharmaceuticals.
If you don’t have After-Tick Bite on hand, Boston herbalist Tommy Priester says an immediate application of essential oil of Oregano or Thyme can work well. I rarely recommend direction application of essential oils to the skin as it is possible to develop allergies, rashes or burns. However, in this case, if I didn’t have After Tick-Bite available, I wouldn’t hesitate to use it on anyone who does not have a known allergy to either of these essential oils.
Apply the essential oil undiluted and directly to the bite area, making sure you get it right into the hole. You may need to scratch the bite to get it to bleed. This opens the bite area up so that the essential oil can get quickly into the blood stream. Be sure to wash your hands after doing this.
As the essential oil flows into the blood, it will kill any and all infective agents with which it comes in contact. This treatment may cause redness and intense irritation, though Tommy feels this is a small price to pay to kill off microbes as they are just entering the skin and before they can do damage. In sensitive places such as the scrotum, labia, anus, etc., directly applying the oil is even more likely to cause burns and possibly blisters. Therefore, for these parts of the body, dilute the essential oils, using two drops of olive oil to each drop of essential oil.
If you’re out in the woods on a regular basis, I advise you have some or all of these items in a kit to take with you. The sooner you start killing infectious microbes after a bite, the better chance you have of staying healthy.
MEDICAL TREATMENT FOR TICK BITES
You should also replace beneficial gut bacteria by adding fermented foods tonyour diet, including sauerkraut, pickles and other vegetables which are fermented, yogurt with live cultures, miso, kombucha and kefir. Be sure to read labels when purchasing sauerkraut or pickles. If vinegar has been used in making them, then they are not fermented and won’t have any probiotics. You’ll also want to eat prebiotics which feed the probiotics. These include asparagus, Jerusalem artichokes, bananas, oatmeal, red wine, honey, maple syrup, and legumes.
WHEN TICK-BORNE DISEASES CAUSE CHRONIC PROBLEMS
A long-term course of antibiotics, sometimes for many months, is one approach taken. Because antibiotics can depress the immune system, creating their own set of problems, you’ll want to deeply research and carefully consider this option so as to make the best possible decision for yourself. A great amount of information, as well as links to Lyme literate doctors, can be found at http://www.ilads.org , the website for the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. There is a Long Island Lyme Association which meets monthly. Their website is http://www.lymenet.org/
There are a number of people who have done in-depth research into wholistically supporting the body to overcome the effects of chronic Lyme and other tick-borne diseases.
- Stephen Harrod Buhner is well known for his work in this area. His book “Healing Lyme: Natural Healing & Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis & Its Co-Infections” is worth reading. Visit his website http://buhnerhealinglyme.com where there is a a wealth of information on the subject, including his protocols for chronic tick-borne diseases. You may wish to consult with an herbalist who is deeply trained in the Buhner method. This can be done in person or via Skype. Tommy Priester in Boston can be reached at email@example.com and at 339-223-0647.
- Kate Gilday in Cold Brook, NY is at firstname.lastname@example.org Her website is http://www.woodlandessence.com
- Dr. Richard Horowitz, in Hyde Park, NY, employs a number of approaches including conventional Western methods, such as antibiotics, as well as the Buhner and other herbal and supplement protocols. His website is https://www.bayarealyme.org/our-research/our-scientists/richard-horowitz-md/
- On Long Island, skilled chiropractor and nutritionist, Dr. Christine Gizoni uses herbs, supplements and chiropractic to assist in clearing tick-borne diseases. Her number is 631 589-7814.
- In my acupuncture office, I provide treatments to help clear tick caused infections and to support recovery from these illnesses. I can be reached at 631 218-2652.
If you have any questions about what you’ve read in this article, please feel free to contact me. I also invite you to send me your e-mail address if you would like to receive any future articles I may write.
Information and links given in this article are for education and informational purposes only and are not meant to be a substitute for consultation with, and advice from, your professional health-care provider.