It’s the old conundrum: be annoyed by pesky insects like flies and mosquitoes all summer long, or spray down with toxic, foul-smelling chemicals filled with things no one wants seeping into the skin. Luckily, there’s an alternative. Certain herbs and oils are naturally repellent to insects, and have, in some cases, been found to be just as effective as any chemical repellent on the market. The herbs do the same thing the chemicals do: they mask the human scent, throwing off the bugs’ sense of smell so that it doesn’t know there’s food nearby. Additionally, there are certain smells that particular bugs just despise, and can be used over time to dissuade that insect from even coming around in the first place.
Here’s a potent insect-repelling cocktail to try at the next outdoor gathering or just for personal protection on a summer outing:
Eucalyptus: Good for far more than just mosquitoes, the eucalyptus will also repel flies and can be used as an effective treatment in killing dust mites. In fact, it’s so good at what it does that there a number of eucalyptus-based insect repellents available commercially. To apply it in oil form, apply a few drops topically to major pulse points, such as the elbows and behind the ears and knees. A little goes a long way, and over-application can be dangerous with any essential oil, so remember there’s no need to slather yourself with it.
Peppermint: While peppermint has a pleasant smell to most humans, insects aren’t nearly as fond of it. Peppermint oil can be applied by itself, or mixed with lemon eucalyptus oil to extend its duration of effectiveness and its potency. The oil can be sprayed on clothes or belongings to repel mosquitoes and fleas, or it can be applied topically to the skin. It is not harmful, but peppermint can be a skin irritant in some individuals, or in case of over-application.
Pennyroyal: First, be aware that pennyroyal is a toxic herb and can be used to make poison. As such, it should not be ingested or applied topically in high doses, and should be utilized at all by pregnant women or women who are attempting to become pregnant. However, application of pennyroyal oil, if diluted and used properly, isn’t cause for danger. It is best used a spray with ten drops of pennyroyal to two cups of water. The herb is quite pungent, so use of eucalyptus oil or lemongrass in the mixture may be desired to even out the smell. It can then be safely sprayed on the skin or on plants or pets.
Rosemary: Another member of the mint family, rosemary oil can also be applied topically to the skin, though it should be washed off after use. Prolonged skin exposure to rosemary oil can cause irritation. The oil is best when mixed with the lemon eucalyptus oil, as this prevents the need to reapply it frequently. To up the potency of rosemary oil, catnip oil may be mixed with it and used. This mixture has been found to be safe for children and pets and is almost as effective as DEET in research.
Citronella: Citronella oil is one of the best known mosquito repellents, and for good reason. Mosquitoes actively despise the oil’s scent and will avoid it. It can be applied topically without risk, or used in commercial products like candles or wristbands.
For best effectiveness, all of these oils should be combined and used together. If properly mixed with lemon eucalyptus oil, the natural repellent should last 5-6 hours. Otherwise, oils may need to be reapplied closer to every two.
For area control of insects, growing patches of the herbs mentioned or hanging up dried bushels will help deter insects from lingering around the yards and porches. In addition, growing the herbs provides a ready source of creating oils for those interested in self-sustaining these insect remedies.