Insects are creatures of Nature and, therefore, have every right to exist. However, as fellow inhabitants on this earth, we humans have a right not to be bitten! Here are some natural ways to repel those pesky bugs without harming them or us:
Citronella (Cymbopogon citratus) oil is an age-old repellent that deters houseflies, ticks and mosquitoes; it’s so effective that many candles contain citronella specifically to ward off bugs. As with most essential oils, add several drops to a vegetable oil base, then rub directly on the skin.
One person’s food is another person’s bug repellent. We use basil (Ocimum basilcum), thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and lemongrass (Cymbopogon) as seasonings, but elsewhere in the world they are commonly employed as bug repellents. Crushed lemon thyme has 62 percent as much repellent effectiveness as DEET, and some studies indicate that traditional thyme repels mosquitos even longer than DEET.
Lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) oil or rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) oil appears to be just as effective as DEET at making mosquitoes do a double take. They’re also your tickets to trouncing sandflies, ticks, midges, and stable flies.
Dab pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) diluted in any vegetable-oil base directly onto skin to ward off ants, chiggers, fleas, flies, gnats, mosquitoes and ticks.
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) oil, often used in fragrances because of its earthy, woody aroma, not only deters mosquitoes, but research shows this essential oil is also effective against infection from 22 bacterial and 12 fungal strains. Neem (Azadirachta indica) is another great option for warding off numerous insects, especially mosquitoes.
Mint, especially peppermint (Mentha piperita) is anathema to ants. You can spray a mixture of one cup of water to two teaspoons of essential peppermint oil wherever you see them in the house. Dab a little diluted peppermint oil on yourself -; and your picnic basket -;to keep the party crashers at bay….and out of your tuna fish sandwich!
The essential oils in pine tend to send fleas packing, while cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica) oil makes common houseflies flee the premises.
One study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) involved common celery (Apium graveolens L.). The natural oils in celery stalks were shown to be effective against most insect pests in both laboratory and field conditions with no adverse effects on the skin during the six months of the study or in the three months following.
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If the bugs happen to get through despite your herbal defenses or before you have a chance to apply any of the above, here are a few natural remedies to lessen the stinging pain and irksome itch:
Apple Cider Vinegar: Soak a small cloth in some apple cider vinegar diluted with a little water; douse the stung area when the pain or scratching arises. A great remedy!
Aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis) gel, calendula (Calendul officinalis) cream, gel, or lotion and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) essential oil are all good natural salves for healing “bitten” skin.
Finally, if none of the above are handy, good old fashioned mud or ice can do the job!
Aromatherapy (Crossing Press, 2009) by Kathi Keville and Mindy Green
“Mosquito Repellency of the Seeds of Celery (Apium graveolens L.)” by B. Tuetun, Ann Trop Med Parasitol, 6/04
“National Standard Research Collaboration Review of Calendula” by Shari Henson, HerbClip,11/1/07