the burren

WiseWoman Traditions

August, 2013

Ease Those Bug Bites with Easy Herbs



Summertime means insect bites and stings. Ouch! Take a leaf from Susun S. Weed’s storehouse of natural remedies: Soothe, heal, and prevent bites with safe herbal remedies that grow right where you live, north or south, east or west, city or country. The best natural remedies for insect bites are right underfoot.


Plantain, also called ribwort, pig’s ear, and the band-aid plant, is a common weed of lawns, driveways, parks, and playgrounds. Identify it by the five parallel veins running the length of each leaf. (Most leaves have a central vein with smaller ones branching out from it.) You may find broad leaf plantain (Plantago majus), with wide leaves and a tall seed head, or narrow leaf plantain (Plantago lanceolata), with long thin leaves and a small flower head that looks like a flying saucer. Many Plantago species have seeds and leaves that can be used as food or medicine. A South American variety (Plantago psyllium) is used to make Metamucil.(TM)


How to use plantain? Make a fresh leaf poultice. Pick a leaf, chew it well and put it on the bite. “Like magic” the pain, heat, and swelling — even allergic reactions — disappear, fast! (Yes, you can dry plantain leaves and carry them in your first aid kit. Chew like you would fresh leaves.)


Poultices ease pain, reduce swelling, and help heal. No wonder they’re the number one natural choice for treating insect bites, bee and wasp stings.


Mud is the oldest and simplest poultice. Powdered white clay, which should be mixed with a little water or herb tea, can be applied directly to the sting as soon as possible. Clay can be kept on hand at all times and is less likely to contain fungal spores than the real thing. Finely ground grains such as rice or oatmeal, or bland starchy substances like mallow root, grated potato, or arrowroot powder also used as soothing poultices to ease itching and pain from insect bites.


Fresh-herb poultices are a little more complicated, but not by much. Just find a healing leaf, pluck it, chew it, and apply it directly to the sting/bite. If you wish, use a large leaf or an adhesive bandage to hold the poultice in place. Plantain, comfrey (Symphytum uplandica x), yellow dock (Rumex species), wild geranium (Geranium maculatum), wild mallow (Malva neglecta), chickweed (Stellaria media),and yarrow are only a few of the possibilities.


In the woods, you can take a leaf from a tree, chew it and apply that to the bite. Any tree will do in an emergency, but if you have a choice, the best leaves are those from witch hazel, willow, oak, or maple. Play it safe: Learn to recognize witch hazel (Hamamelis virginia) and willow (Salix species) leaves before you chew on them. Maple (Acer) or oak (Quercus) leaves are easier to recognize and safer to chew — unless you live where poison oak grows. If uncertain, avoid all shrubs and any trees with slick or shiny leaves. If the leaf you are chewing tastes extremely bitter or burns your mouth, spit it out at once.


To repel ticks, mosquitoes, and black flies, try a diluted tincture of yarrow (Alchellia millefolium) flowers directly on all exposed skin. A recent US Army study showed yarrow tincture to be more effective than DEET as an insect repellent.


If you’ve spent the day in an area where lyme disease is common, take a shower right away and scrub yourself with a bodybrush. Have a friend check you out for ticks. Also, it takes the tick some time to make up its mind where to bite, so most are unattached and will wash off.


“If the worst happens and I do get a bite, I help my immune system by taking a daily dose of 2-6 dropperfuls of Echinacea tincture. I avoid Goldenseal as I believe it could have adverse effects. If I have symptoms, I use a dropperful of St. Joan’s wort (Hypericum) tincture three times a day to help inactivate the lyme’s organism.”

Sacred Sites

July, 2009

The Burren, Co Clare, Ireland

The word Burren derives its name from Boireann, which means ‘rocky land’ in Gaelic. This region of naturally interlocking limestone slabs was formed 320 million years ago and it contains a wealth of rare flowers growing in a unique botanical environment in which Mediterranean and alpine plants rare to Ireland growing side by side.


Glaciation and wind and rain erosion have formed limestone pavements with deep crevices known as ‘grykes’.  The porous rock is easily penetrated by rainwater, which has gouged out an extensive cave system beneath the rocky plateau.

The geology and archaeology of The Burren make it place of great mystery and beauty, its combination of many unusual features, make it unique in Europe. Extending over more than a hundred square miles, the limestone area contains round towers, dolmens, churches and high crosses. The visitor should set aside a few days to explore this area for you’ll want to see the many tombs, monasteries and holy wells that also exist in this region.

Poulnabrone Dolman

Within the Burren are many Dolmens, one of the better known is the Poulnabrone Dolmen. In Irish it means “hole of the sorrows” and the word Dolmen means “stone table.”

Considered a Portal Tomb, some sources date the Dolmen from 2500BC to 3800BC. Remains were found in the chamber when it was excavated in 1968 and they are thought to be that of 16 – 22 adults, the majority of them were thought to be in there 30’s with only one over the age of 40, the remains of the rest were 6 young adults and 1 newborn baby.

Radiocarbon dating suggests that the burials took place 3800 and 3200 BC.  As we understand it, the Neolithic community would have been fairly large and since there were easier ways to deal with the remains of the dead, it is thought that than these remains must have been people of importance within the community and that this must have been a special place of ceremony.

It was further proved that the bones were naturally de-fleshed elsewhere (by exposure, burial or picked at by animals, namely crows) and only then moved within the chamber at Poulnabrone.


At last, the Poulnabrone Dolmen is found!

In the past my attempts to find the Dolmen had been unsuccessful, so I consulted a few Irishmen as to the whereabouts of this Dolmen. Oddly enough, they had never actually seen the Dolmen, but had heard about it. After much discussion and a few Guinness I was able to secure the directions to The Dolmen, (it was written on a coaster from the pub, scrawled in faded blue ink from a worn out pen). As we headed out the next morning to find the Dolmen, my navigator asked me if I remembered to bring the directions, and the dialog went something like this.

“Do you have the directions?”


“Well where are they?”

“I have them.”

“Can I see them?”

I withdrew the ratty Guinness stained coaster from my pocket and handed it to her. Her icy stare made me wither in my seat.  It was a very quiet ride to the Dolmen.


Withering stare from our navigator as she realized the directions to the Dolmen may be a bit sketchy.

I’m told that in the past you were able to walk across the limestone surface and walk right up to the Dolmen, Unfortunately, there is a rope fence around it now that prevents anyone from getting too close to it.  There is a path that you must follow and there is even a “guardian” on duty for security, a shame, but I’m afraid it’s necessary.  Tour buses frequently visit the Dolmen and it is best to wait them out as they have a regular schedule to maintain and the groups don’t linger long.
Comments from our travelers:

“The Burren on the Western coast of Ireland is a windswept rocky area with few trees. I think Stark beauty is an accurate description. Even today the area is sparsely populated and mostly undeveloped. It is hard for me to grasp why the ancients would spend so much time and energy to erect the dolmen. Perhaps the land provided enough for decent survival so these people could spend time addressing their beliefs about death and transporting to the next life. Perhaps they believed their bounty was directly tied to their reverence for the dead.”


“The Burren has a wild beauty carved by nature that takes your breath away”.

It was an amazing experience to be able to see an ancient structure, still standing unscathed after thousands of years. Against the beautiful backdrop of the Burren, it is an absolutely magical spot.


The Burren National Park Burren, Co Clare is Located in the Burren Region on the R480 not far from the Cliffs of Moher.