Herbal Insect Repellants
by Laurie Lynch, N.D.

 I just got my first mosquito bite this year, so it's time to mix up a batch of herbal mosquito repellant. This article will explain why you need mosquito protection, and the best and safest methods. 

Dangers of mosquitoes
Mosquito bites can cause severe skin irritation through an allergic reaction to the mosquito's saliva - this is what causes the red bump and itching. Mosquito caused diseases include protozoan parasite diseases, i.e., malaria, and viruses such as dengue, encephalitis, yellow fever, and West Nile virus.

Malaria, caused by mosquito-borne parasites, affects about 40% of the world's population, mostly in the tropical and sub-tropical areas, but was eradicated in the temperate area. Malaria symptoms include fever and chills, and weakness. Serious complications could develop such as low blood sugar levels, fluid in the lungs, bleeding, circulatory collapse, shock; and cerebral malaria, which could be fatal.

Dengue has a low mortality, but has very uncomfortable symptoms.

Yellow fever, occurs only in tropical areas.

Viral encephalitis, such as EEE, SLE, LAC, and WEE, are relatively uncommon in the US. Eight cases have been reported nationwide with 4 resulting in deaths as of 2004, and in 2006, Georgia reported 1 case of Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) infection, and 1 case of La Crosse (LAC) infection. Symptoms could range from a mild flu-like illness (4-10 days after a bite) with fever, headache, and sore throat to infections of the central nervous system, seizures, brain damage, paralysis, coma, and sometimes death.  

West Nile virus is carried by birds and spread by mosquitoes. In most people the virus causes only mild flu-like symptoms, if it causes any symptoms at all. But in some people, the virus can infect the brain and nervous system.  Most at risk are children, the elderly and people who already have health problems.  West Nile virus is not that prevalent in the US, for example, in 2006, Georgia reported 9 cases, 1 fatal, and New York reported 8 deaths from encephalitis over the past couple years.

Dangers of mosquito sprays:  According to an Open Letter by Concerned Physicians and Scientists, the danger to human health caused by spraying pesticides is far greater than the danger of acquiring viral encephalitis from mosquitoes.  And "impairment of the immune system by... chemical pesticides may actually increase the risk of West Nile virus encephalitis".  Children, the elderly, and those with allergies or other immune disorders are especially susceptibility to pesticides. Mosquito sprays can cause weakened immune function, allergies, chemical sensitivities, cancers, endocrine gland damage such as adrenal, pancreas, liver, and thyroid disorders, autoimmune disorders such as lupus; birth defects, defective sexual development; hormone imbalances, erectile dysfunction, loss of libido, male reproductive damage; developmental and behavioral problems, irritability, anxiety, depression, aggressiveness, memory and learning problems, neurological problems; brain damage, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

"Attempts to control the mosquitoes with pesticides have proved ineffective", says BBC World Service. Long-term spraying may actually increase the number of mosquitoes by destroying predators that feed on them, by increasing resistance to sprays, and by increasing mosquito susceptibility to the virus.

Dangers of mosquito repellants:  Common side-effects to DEET-based repellants include rash, swelling, itching and eye-irritation, allergic reactions such anaphylaxis (possibly fatal), seizures, slowed heart action, nausea, vomiting, lethargy, brain and nervous system disorders, and toxic encephalopathy. Neurotoxicity is the most common. 

Safe effective alternative solutions:

Citronella candles, burned in picnic areas, helps keep mosquitoes away.

Sage or rosemary, thrown on barbeque coals, helps repel mosquitoes.

Marigolds and/or lemon grass planted around your yard give off a fragrance that repels bugs and flying insects. You can buy Thai lemon grass at garden centers and supermarkets, and it grows about 15" across and about 2ft tall.

Herbal mosquito spray:

  •   Garlic spray - Mix one part garlic juice with 5 parts water in a small spray bottle. Spray on areas of mosquito infestation, or dip strips of cotton cloth in garlic mixture and hang around patios, to keep mosquitoes away.

  •   Catnip, neem, or lemon grass as a strong tea can be sprayed on areas of mosquito infestation.

    Herbal mosquito repellants:

  •   Lemon Grass contains the natural citronella.  Pour boiling water over 1 heaping tablespoon bulk lemon grass, steep 20 minutes, spray or rub on exposed skin. Or rub the long, grassy leaves on the skin, or use a stalk of fresh lemon grass, peel off the outer leaves. Bend the stem between your fingers, and between your palms to make a fibrous juicy mass, and rub over all exposed skin. The protection lasts about 4-5 hours.

  •   Lemon peels and peppermint made into a strong tea and soaked over night in a covered pan is very effective. Strain and spray or rub on skin before going outside in the evening.

  •   Neem oil or strong neem tea is used in India, as a mosquito repellent. Neem is also effective against malaria itself.

  •   Peppermint oil fights mosquito-borne diseases. The oil not only repels adult mosquitoes but also kills the larvae.

  •   Catnip tea repels mosquitoes more effectively than DEET, the compound used in most commercial insect repellents. Pour boiling water over 1 heaping tablespoon bulk catnip, steep 20 minutes, spray or rub on exposed skin. If you find yourself surrounded by overly friendly cats, and need cat repellant, try spraying them with water.

 A wellness consultation with Laurie Lynch, ND will help you eliminate allergies that cause the itchy mosquito reaction. And if you do get a mosquito born disease, there are safe herbs and nutritional supplements that will quickly kill the viruses and eliminate the disease.

Since I do not get allergic reactions any more, it's hard for me to know when I've been bitten by mosquitoes, so I'm asking if you would like to try these mosquito remedies and contact me to rate their effectiveness.

Laurie Lynch is a Wellness Consultant, Naturopathic Doctor, Master Herbalist, Nutrition expert at the Living Well Health & Education Center, (910) 426-5159.                          

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Copyright Laurie Lynch, N.D., 2008                                                      


Herbal Pesticides
by Laurie Lynch, ND

Are summer bugs really bugging you?  Bugs are everywhere, in the air, carpet, counter or cupboard, often unseen. When I work in the yard, the bugs are so bad, they get in my eyes so I can't see. That's usually when I quit, but since I've been using various herbal insect repellants, they don't swarm all over me any more.  .Plant-based insect repellents are nontoxic and safe, while most chemical-based insect repellents have been found by the EPA to be toxic, even when applied as directed. The commercial insect repellents cause more harm to us, our kids, our pets, and our environment, than any little bug.  My clients have been asking about safe herbal insect repellants, so here are some natural, non-toxic ways to control household insect pests:

For assorted bugs in general - The first line of defense is to remove the attractants: keep counters free of crumbs and sticky spots. Cover the sugar and put the honey jar in a plastic bag. Cut off water sources such as drips or dishes left soaking overnight. Vacuum thoroughly and often.  A number of nontoxic herbs or spices can be used to repel insects.

* Powdered red chill pepper, peppermint, bay leaves, cloves, citrus oil, lavender, rosemary, peppercorns, and cedar oil can repel various types of insects.

* Basil: In large quantities, planted in sun and wind, releases a natural scent that repels bugs. Also, rubbing leaves or natural oil extract on the skin acts as an insect repellent.

* Thai Lemon Grass (naturally contains Citronella oil) repels mosquitoes, black flies, fleas and ticks. The EPA reports that in studies using laboratory animals, Oil of Citronella shows little or no toxicity, and that despite its extensive use since 1948, Oil of Citronella has had no reports of adverse effects

* Citrus peels, with mint and/or sage, made into a tea and sprayed or rubbed on exposed skin work well..

Got ants in your plants?                                                                                                                                     
* R
ed chill or cayenne pepper, paprika, dried peppermint, cinnamon, or whole cloves can be sprinkled around plants or where ants are entering the house, and work as ant deterrents.

* Borax can be sprinkled where the ants are entering.

* Rue, a perennial bush that has a strong bitter scent that bugs avoid is helpful when planted around the house.

* Tansy, planted around the house, helps keep ants away, and kills internal parasites.

* Mint tea bags left near areas where the ants seem most active helps keep them away.                                                                         

* A night light, left on in the area of most ant activity can disrupt and discourage their foraging patterns.

* Garlic slices tucked between the cracks in the deck can repell ants from the deck, and pressed into the soil around plants can protect plants.

* Boric acid sprinkled on top (not inside) of kitchen cabinets, (roaches like high places) will be taken to their nests, killing all of them. (Boric acid is toxic by mouth - keep away from children and pets).            

* Catnip is a natural repellent to cockroaches. The active ingredient is nepetalactone, which is non-toxic to humans and pets. Small sachets of catnip can be left in areas of cockroach activity. Catnip tea can be used as a spray to apply around baseboards and behind counters. This natural repellent should only be used in homes without cats!                           

* Bay leaves, left in the affected area act as deterrents.                                                                                   

* Hedgeapple, the fruit of the Osage orange tree, is a natural roach repellent. Leave one hedgeapple per room for effective deterrence up to two months.


* Mint
is a good fly repellant.
Small sachets of crushed mint can be placed around the home to discourage flies.

* Bay leaves, cloves and eucalyptus wrapped in small cheesecloth squares can be hung by open windows or doors.

* Sweet basil and clover can be placed near pet food or any open food in the house.                                             

* Eucalyptus oil, a few drops on a scrap of absorbant cloth, left in areas where flies are a problem, can repell flies.  

* Tansy planted around the house helps keep flies away.


* Rosemary tea
can be used as a rinse on dogs and cats to repel fleas.

* Peppermint (ingesting fresh leaves) helps repel fleas and ticks.                                                                

* Thai Lemon Grass                                                                                                                                          

* Citrus is a natural flea deterrent. Cut up whole lemon, mix in food processor and place in a jar; pour in a cup of boiling water. Cover and let this mixture soak overnight, and sponge on your dog after a bath, to kill fleas instantly.  (NOTE: Do not use this on cats. Citrus is toxic to cats in large amounts.                                                                                                                                                            

* Minced garlic, alfalfa powder, and brewer's yeast can be added to your pets' food.  This kills harmful bacteria, viruses, worms, and provides vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that build immune function. Fleas don't usually attack healthy animals.                                                                                                            

* Cedar chips, made into a tea can be used as a rinse or spray to repell many insects including fleas.

* Fennel planted around the house helps repel fleas.


* Lavender
(dried in sachets) has the same effect as mothballs on pests in stored clothes.                              

* Basil, bay leaf, cedar, cloves, eucalyptus, mints (except peppermint), rosemary, rue, tansy, and thyme all help to repel moths.

I'm asking if you would like to try these natural insect repellants and contact me to rate their effectiveness.

Laurie Lynch is a Wellness Consultant, Naturopathic Doctor, Master Herbalist, Nutrition expert at the Living Well Health & Education Center, (910) 426-5159.                                                                                

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      Copyright Laurie Lynch, N.D., 2008-2011