Natural Insect Repellents: Stay Safe with Natural and Herbal Bug Repellents

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Extra sunlight and beautiful weather entice us to spend more time outdoors in summer. Unfortunately, humans aren’t the only ones out and about during the summer months. If you’ve ever thrown an outdoor barbecue party, spent a weekend at the lake or simply taken a walk around the block, you know that mosquitoes, flies, ticks and other pesky insects thrive during these hot and humid months.

Most conventional bug repellents contain DEET, an effective but harsh and potentially toxic chemical. Studies on DEET have found that it has negative short-term side effects such as skin irritation, nausea, headaches, dizziness and difficulty concentrating. Long-term studies have found that DEET also leads to brain cell death and behavioral changes.

This summer use a bug repellent that’s healthy for you and the earth. Take your cues from Mother Nature, who has provided an array of natural and herbal insect repellents that are effective, nontoxic and even aromatic.

woman reading on the grass
Spending time outside this summer? Protect yourself from mosquitoes, ticks and other pesky insects with natural bug repellents. Photo By Kristin Wall/Courtesy Flickr. 

Citronella: Centuries of use have proved citronella an effective natural bug repellent. Citronella’s distinctive scent wards off bugs and can even make it more difficult for an insect to locate a host. Thanks to is effectiveness (and pleasant aroma), a number of natural bug repellent products, from candles to sprays, contain citronella. You can make your own citronella-based insect repellent by adding a few drops of citronella essential oil to a vegetable oil base and spreading the mixture on your skin.

Lemon eucalyptus: If you’re looking for a natural insect repellent that can stand up to DEET, lemon eucalyptus is your best bet. Studies have shown that products containing lemon eucalyptus oil provide as much protection against mosquitoes as do products that contain low levels of DEET. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even recommends lemon eucalyptus oil as one of the best choices for protection against mosquitoes carrying the West Nile virus

Lemongrass: The leaves of this plant are often used in cooking, but essential oil derived from lemongrass can also ward off bugs. The aroma of lemongrass may be pleasant to humans, but mosquitoes and ticks hate the scent, making it an effective herbal insect repellent.

Cedarwood: Cedar sachets can protect your clothes from moth damage, but essential oil from this tree can also ward off fleas, flies and mosquitoes.

Patchouli: Essential oils from this plant are widely used in the perfume industry and are known to have aphrodisiac qualities, but patchouli is also useful for repelling mosquitoes, moths, silverfish and bookworms.