Make an insect repellant you actually want to use.
I live in the country and a lot of bugs have been biting me recently. I have a natural insect repellant, but I only use it if I know I am going into the backwoods. I don’t like how it smells so I don’t use it most days and find myself swatting mosquitoes and worrying about ticks.
Most natural insect repellants use citronella or lemon eucalyptus as their main ingredients, but these scents don’t appeal to me. Fortunately, there are a number of other essential oils that can help repel insects. They might not be quite as strong as citronella, but I figured that if I actually used my new bug spray because I liked it, I would still be ahead.
I looked at the list of essential oils commonly used to repel insects (basil, citronella, geranium, grapefruit, lavender, lemongrass, lemon eucalyptus, and peppermint) and picked out the ones that I would want to smell all day. I particularly love the smell of grapefruit essential oil and it contains a compound that ticks and mosquitoes hate.
Mix into 4 ounces of water in a spray mister.
Shake well before each time you use it. Reapply frequently.
You can modify this recipe based on what essential oils you like. I chose mostly energizing and uplifting essential oils for my blend, but you can go another direction too as far as the additional benefits of the essential oils. Also consider adding aloe or witch hazel to replace some of the water.
Have fun, smell good, and tell the insects to buzz off.
Yes, you can use herbs and essential oils to help kill bacteria and fight off wintertime infections. Many companies make blends of essential oils known as thieves oil or its numerous other names . These are probably not the original formula the thieves used during the plague as that probably included garlic. I am would much rather smell like eucalyptus, rosemary, cinnamon, lemon, cloves, or any of the other antimicrobial essential oils.
So how did this name thieves oil come about? In Europe during the plague known as the Black Death, a group of thieves made an herbal vinegar concoction to douse themselves in and successfully robbed houses and bodies without coming down with the plague. This vinegar concoction was thought to contain garlic and rosemary and a variety of other herbs that no one seems to agree upon. It possibly had thyme, sage and lavender, but there are so many herbs with antimicrobial properties that could have been used depending on what was available to them for each batch.
To protect yourself and your family from wintertime germs, there are a lot of options to choices from. If you like to make stuff at home, there are great recipes out there for Four Thieves Vinegar, which can be used as a surface disinfectant or taken internally as an immune booster. You can also make your own thieves oil blend from common essential oils. And you can support one of our local businesses by checking out Essential Arts Well Being oil. It is in a base of grapeseed oil so it ready to be rubbed into the soles of the feet or used as a chest rub for colds and coughs. This just scratches the surface of all of the amazing way herbs and essential oils can be used to help us be healthy in the winter. So remember you can stay well and smell great doing it (if you leave the garlic out).
I am so grateful for the rain we have been getting this year. The countryside is incredibly lush and my garden is thriving, but naturally so are the bugs. Living out in the country, I see ticks on a daily basis—partially because my cats like to roam and are thoughtful enough bring them home to me. I have chickens and guineas that do their best to cut down on the bug population, but my cats clearly wonder far beyond the predatory range of my chickens. The mosquitoes, too, are enjoying the moisture. Both of these pests can make us itch and scratch, but worse they can spread diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and West Nile Virus. The most common recommendation to avoid these bloodsuckers is to use an insect repellant containing DEET, but I would personally rather avoid this questionable chemical.
Alternative insect repellants often contain essential oils like citronella, basil, grapefruit, lemongrass, lemon eucalyptus, and peppermint. When initially applied essential oils are just as effective as DEET, but these volatile oils evaporate fairly quickly, so they don’t repel insects for more than an hour or two. Some people don’t mind reapplying these formulas frequently since they have a pleasant odor and can be diluted with water to be a refreshing mister during hot day. However, if you’d prefer not to continually reapply throughout the day, another option is to buy a formula that is oil based and designed to last longer. An example of such a product, Buzz Away Extreme, was shown to still repel 90% of mosquitoes after 3 hours, making it at least as effective as a conventional insect repellant containing 15% DEET. Natural insect repellants containing citronella have also been shown to be as effective as DEET at repelling chiggers and ticks, as well. Similarly, geranium and lemongrass essential oil have also been shown to be effective at repelling chiggers.
Though despite taking these precautions, I do sometimes still get bitten. For tips on how to deal with insect bites, you can read my blog from this time last year.
Laurell Matthews, ND is a naturopathic doctor with a passion for helping people understand how to be healthier using dietary and lifestyle changes along with other natural medicine modalities like botanical medicine.