Caroline, this one’s for you! Summertime and the living is easy, except when the flies, gnats and mosquitoes join the party. I can’t tell you how many toxic sprays and creams I covered myself with many years ago without knowing the chemical dangers. The most well-known chemical in insect repellents is DEET. Did you know that it melts plastic and fishing line? Of course it’s effective and insects are smart enough to stay away, but do we want to be putting that stuff on our skin? Not me!
Remember that most chemicals are more toxic to children than adults.
DEET is an acronym that stands for Diethyl-meta-toluamide. It is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents and was developed by the U.S. Army for jungle warfare during World War II.
Scary facts about DEET:
- linked to neurological problems in both children and adults.
- Toxic to birds and aquatic life-has been found in 75 percent of U.S. water sources
Once I learned about the dangers, I started researching and am happy to report that there are some excellent, non toxic, effective repellents out there. Please consider some of these healthier options for you and your family this summer.
Out of convenience, we tend to purchase many of our products, yet I have loved learning about home-made recipes that are inexpensive and take less than 5 minutes. Yes, you need to have some of the ingredients on hand or buy them, but still, you can’t argue with the economics of making your own. Plus you know what the ingredients are.
Essential Oils bring to the table one of the best, non-toxic options for insect repellent, yet with nice fragrances for us humans. In a favorite book, “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy” by Valerie Ann Worwood, she notes “for effective therapeutic use, it’s crucial that only pure essential oils be used.”
How to know what’s pure? When dropped on blotting paper, a pure essential oil will leave an initial mark, evaporate and then disperse, leaving no oily spot. Pure essential oils tend to be found in health and natural health stores. If you aren’t sure of the quality be sure to ask one of their knowledgeable staff. I really like Valerie’s book because it is incredibly comprehensive. She explains how to use the book for babies, children and adults, recipes for recommended quantities for medicinal and health purposes as well as beauty aids.
Essential oils are very potent and concentrated and thus shouldn’t be used directly on the skin, as they can be very irritating. They are not intended to be used internally. Oils are best when diluted with some type of organic, cold pressed, carrier oil. There are many types, especially in the nut and seed category. My favorites are almond, grapeseed, and jojoba because they are lighter in fragrance and are less greasy. They fall in the $6-10 range for a 4 ounce bottle.
*For this article, I am only recommending essential oils as repellents to be used on adults and not children. I have read that children with nut allergies can have reactions to see carriers, as well as the oils if not introduced slowly. In my Take Away chart below, I am happy and feel good about recommending certain insect repellents for children. In general, children under 3 should not have sunscreen or repellents of any type put on their little bodies. Should you want to explore this further there are some great guidelines on this link: www.thehippyhomemaker.com/essential-oil-safety-babies-children
To maintain the effectiveness of essential oils, be sure to store them in dark, dry places away from heat. Their shelf life is usually two years.
A quick guideline to diluting essential oils in a vegetable base oil:
Min/max drops of essential oil in relation to the amount of base (carrier) oil. A recommended dilution for an adult dosage is 10 – 12 drops of essential oil per ounce of carrier oil.(www.learningabouteos.com)
0-1 drop to 1/5 teaspoon
2-5 drops to 1 teaspoon
4-10 drops to 2 teaspoons
6-15 drops to 1 Tablespoon
8-20 drops to 4 teaspoons
10-25 drops to 5 teaspoons
12-30 drops to 2 Tablespoons
The essential oils (all must be diluted) that are effective as repellents to mosquitoes, flies, ticks, ants, chiggers and fleas are: (The Art of Healing Touch)
• Lemongrass oil (mosquitoes, fleas, flies)
• Eucalyptus oil (mosquitoes, ticks and lice)
• Citronella oil (mosquitoes and biting flies)
• Lavender oil (fleas)
• Young Living Purification Blend (citronella, lemongrass, rosemary, melaleuca, tea tree)
• Young Living Thieves Blend (lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, cinnamon bark, clove) great for ticks and fleas
*I’m big fan of Young Living essential oils. Theirs are 100 percent pure, therapeutic-grade essential oils, headquartered in Utah. See the chart below for their website.
Home Made Recipes for Insect Repellent using essential oils
Insect Deterrent Synergistic Blend from The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy.
Wellness Mama Essential Oil Bug Spray from Wellness Mamma.
Homemade Bug Repellent Oil from Primally Inspired
Other Tips to Minimize Insect Bites:
• Wear light clothing, longer sleeve when possible–insects prefer darker colors
• Keep your sweat and perfumes to a minimum
• Stay inside around dawn and dusk
• Keep water from sitting in pots, pet bowls, gutters, bird baths?
• Add one Vitamin B1 tablet a day from April-October, then 100mg of B1 to a B100 Complex daily during the mosquito season
• Consume more garlic during bug season (garlic capsules are helpful)
• Cut back on bananas as the oils attracts female mosquitoes (Dr. Mercola)
• Install a bat house on your property
• Plant marigolds on your patio or where you tend to hang out (bugs hate the smell)
Bug, flea and tick repellent for dogs:
*Dogs can only tolerate the smallest amount of essential oils but I’ve read that by applying one drop of rose geranium to their collars each week is enough to repel ticks!
I’m also hearing great things about garlic chewables that provide a 24 hour shield. They also provide antioxidants, are a safe and non toxic alternative, promote friendly bacteria in the digestive tract and stimulates the immune system.
Check this great product out at: www.springtimeinc.com
Another great product: Pet Herbal Armor: www.eartheasy.com
10 Simple Remedies for Insect Bites:
(Small amounts of essential oils can be applied with a cotton ball directly to the skin to relieve pain and itching)
- Tea Tree oil-heals cuts, burns, infections and other skin afflictions
- Lavender oil-antimicrobial and calming scent
- Neem oil-effective with insect bites
- Cucumbers-reduce swelling
- Basil-contains camphor and thymol, which relieve itching (Crush fresh herb and apply to bite)
- Lemon and lime-both have anti-itch, antibacterial and antimicrobial actions (Apply indoors only since sunlight may cause blistering)
- Cool tea bags-the tannins in the tea acts as astringents and reduce swelling
- Apple cider vinegar bath-very effective for bites all over the body. Warm water with 2-3 cups of ACV helps with itching
- Baking soda and witch hazel-use as a past and apply directly to bite-both work synergistically to make for a more potent mix to reduce swelling
- Baking Soda-Dissolve in a tepid bath and soak for 30 minutes to relieve itching
For those of you who don’t have time to make your own repellents with these blends, here are some of the repellents I have found over the past few years:
Christy’s DEET-free Non Toxic Insect Repellent Recommendations:
With the current number and growing range of non DEET, non toxic insect repellents out there, let us all enjoy a summer season where the biting insects go elsewhere for their sumptuous feeding.
Be well and “bite-free” this summer!
Mountain Rose Herbs
The Art of Healing Touch
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