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Healthy Living: Natural Insect Repellents

Natural Insect RepellentsIt’s that time of year again – the time when the insects outnumber the humans by a landslide.

There are varying schools of thought on what to do to repel these pests. DEET, a chemical, is the only substance the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advocates as a deterrent to mosquitoes, which carry the deadly West Nile Virus.


I’m all for not contracting a deadly disease, and I will use a repellent with DEET if I’ll be outside in peak hours. But for everyday use, I’m going to try a more natural approach this year.

You can make your own natural insect repellent pretty easily, and you can customize them for different insects. If you are making large amounts of insect repellent, a good rule of thumb is to mix the repellent so it’s 5 to 10 percent essential oil, so mix 1 part essential oil with 10 to 20 parts carrier oil or alcohol.

For a smaller batch use:

  • 10 to 25 drops (total) of essential oils
  • 2 tablespoons of a carrier oil or alcohol

The essential oils that work well against biting insects (mosquitoes, flies, ticks, fleas) are:

  • Cinnamon oil (mosquitoes)
  • Lemon eucalyptus or regular eucalyptus oil (mosquitoes, ticks, and lice)
  • Citronella oil (mosquitoes and biting flies)
  • Castor oil (mosquitoes)
  • Orange oil (fleas)
  • Rose geranium (ticks and lice)

Safe carrier oils and alcohols include:

  • Olive oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Any other cooking oil
  • Witch hazel
  • Vodka

Mix the essential oil with the carrier oil or alcohol. Rub or spray the natural insect repellent onto skin or clothing, using care to avoid the sensitive eye area. You’ll need to re-apply the natural product after about an hour or after swimming or exercise. Unused natural insect repellent may be stored in a dark bottle, away from heat or sunlight. If you wish, you may combine the oil with aloe vera gel to change the consistency of the product.

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