Finally, an herbal insect repellent that really works!
After years of researching and testing, I discovered ingredients that combine perfectly to help keep you bug free. This herbal insect repellent is very effective, safe and easy to make yourself. There are only four ingredients that you simply mix together.
Much of the research was confirmed in a paper from the Malaria Journal cited at the bottom of this article. However, it was personal testing out in the field that confirmed how truly effective this recipe is.
It started in the upper Amazon where I traveled with a group of friends. Not only did this herbal insect repellent keep the mosquitoes away, it kept the chiggers at bay too. My travel companions were quickly covered in painful, itchy chigger bites while I experienced none what-so-ever! This recipe has proved itself in the deep woods of northern Minnesota as well.
There a few factors in what attracts pesky insects such as body heat, perspiration and increased air exhalation, but it’s primarily the human aroma that has the greatest bearing on attracting insects. That is where natural and herbal remedies excel. Essential oils especially throw off the scent or better yet, repel pests entirely.
While essential oils have long shown to repel insects, they are unfortunately very volatile and evaporate quickly. Some are effective at repelling bugs for only 20 minutes. The advantage of this repellent recipe is that it includes two ingredients that stabilize and extend the effectiveness of the essential oil, therefore repelling insects up to 6-8 hours.
A number of different essential oils have been used to repel insects including eucalyptus, clove, basil, peppermint, thyme, cedar, wormwood, turmeric and lemongrass. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil was selected for this recipe.
Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil
Lemon eucalyptus essential oil is extracted from the leaves of lemon eucalyptus trees and is not to be confused with either eucalyptus essential oil or lemon essential oil. It rates as one on the most effective essential oils since it contains 85% citronellal, a compound known to ward off insects. It has a nice aroma and is often used as a fragrance by the cosmetic industry.
Commercial insect repellent manufacturers are starting to use a refined lemon eucalyptus oil which is similarly named oil of lemon eucalyptus. This refinement process converts much of the citronellal into PMD which has been shown to be as effective as DEET.
Lemon eucalyptus is not for children under the age of three or pregnant women. In these cases apply to clothing rather than the skin.
Neem oil is pressed from the seeds of neem trees and has a long history of use. It’s very safe and often found in skin and hair products as well as toothpaste. The oil is moisturizing, containing vitamin E and essential fatty acids, so is beneficial beyond repelling insects. Be sure to purchase an organic, 100 percent pure, cold-pressed neem oil.
Neem is highly effective against certain species of mosquitoes and moderately effective against others. It is effective at repelling ticks. The oil solidifies at room temperature and melts above 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Some say the aroma is unpleasant. Others say it smells like honey. I think it smells more like chocolate. Regardless, the other ingredients in this recipe will create a great aroma. Combined, the final product smells like vanilla cookies.
Coconut oil has a lovely aroma and is often used as a skin moisturizer. Coconut oil melts a bit easier than neem oil at 76 degrees Fahrenheit.
When essential oils are combined with coconut oil, their length of protection against insects increases a greatly. The coconut oil helps to stabilize the volatile compounds of the essential oils.
Vanillin is a synthetic preparation from the vanilla plant. It’s often used in the food and perfume industries.
It’s another fixative with research showing great improvements in effectiveness and duration of plant-based ingredients. Mixing the essential oil with 5% vanillin increases the protection time by reducing the release rate of the volatile oil.
- ½ cup (120ml) coconut oil
- 1 ¼ tsp (6 ml) neem oil
- 1 ¼ tsp (6 ml) vanillin
- 36 drops lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) essential oil
- Gently and briefly warm the coconut oil in a pan on the stove top on the lowest heat possible until it just begins to soften and melt.
- Quickly remove from the heat and add the neem oil, vanillin and lemon eucalyptus essential oil, mixing well.
- Transfer right away to a jar with a tight fitting lid. It will solidify as it cools.
- Be sure to label your jar.
As with all essential oils, be sure to test the repellent on a small patch of skin to make that you do not have any unusual reaction.
Note: For those of you living in or visiting areas infested with serious insect born diseases, you may want to consider using a product containing DEET. DEET is the most common and effective bug repellant, but it comes with some serious consequences such as eye irritation and even neurological damage with strong enough doses. It also can damage anything that comes into contact with it such as clothing, sunglasses and jewelry. For those of you in average backyards and environments, the herbal insect repellent in this article will be sufficient.
If you have any questions or comments about this post, be sure to leave them down below.
To learn more about using herbal medicine and remedies, check out these online herbalism courses.
Maia, M.F., & Moore, S.J. (2011). Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing, Malaria Journal, doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-10-S1-S11