As a mother to a pre-schooler, a pregnant woman and a Naturopathic Doctor when I venture out of Toronto into the great outdoors (or even out into our backyard!) I am very mindful of avoiding pesky insects – and also avoiding poisonous insect repellents!
The most common ingredient used in commercial insect repellents is DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide) – a solvent that is not recommended for use in children under 12 years of age or in pregnant women.
Many plants have developed their own means of repelling undesirable insects and attracting desirable ones. We can harness this evolutionary design for our own uses and make highly effective (and safe!) natural insect repellents from the essential oils of plants.
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*Pennyroyal is toxic and should NOT be used on the skin of children, infants or pregnant women
Making Your Own Natural Insect Repellent
As you can see in the chart above, different insects are repelled by different chemicals, so you can make a highly effective repellent by combining a few different insect-repelling essential oils.
10-25 drops (total) of essential oils
2 tablespoons of carrier oil or alcohol (good options include: olive oil, grapeseed oil, vodka)
Great White North Mix (Effective against mosquitoes, black flies and ticks)
Equal parts of:
- Cinnamon oil
- Lemon eucalyptus
Patio Power Mix (Effective against ants, mosquitoes, flies and wasps)
Equal parts of:
Mix the essential oils with the carrier oil or alcohol in a small spray bottle. Spray the natural insect repellent onto skin, clothing, patio chair cushions, etc. You’ll want to re-apply the repellent every 2 hours or after swimming or sweating.
Other Natural Insect Repellents
Citronella candles – offers moderate protection against mosquitoes. A University of Guelph study found that sitting near a citronella candle resulted in 42.3% fewer bites. May not be enough on their own, but can contribute to overall insect control.
Undiluted essential oils – select a few undiluted oils from the list above and add to candles for decoration and insect repelling. Dr. Crystal Draper also recommends applying undiluted vanilla oil to the pulse points (wrists, neck, ankles) to repel mosquitoes with a pleasant smell.
Avoid floral scents – avoid using hair and body care products (including sunscreen) that have a floral scent. Insects (especially mosquitoes and wasps) are attracted to these scents. Consider mixing some of the essential oil mix above into your shampoo when camping or cottaging.
If you get bit, try applying tea tree oil directly to the bite. Tea tree is antiseptic, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and usually non-irritating. Pure lavender oil can also be used.
The advice provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is meant to augment and not replace consultation with a licensed health care provider. Consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor or other primary care provider is recommended for anyone suffering from a health problem.
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