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Kitchen Witch Cafe

Natural Herbal Insect Repellent

Biting insects can put a damper on your summer fun, not to mention potentially transmit diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile Virus. DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) an ingredient in many bug sprays has many people questioning the safety of many insect repellants. A known damager of brain & nervous system function DEET is used, in concentrations of up to an astounding 100 percent.

Children are particularly at risk for subtle neurological changes because their skin more readily absorbs chemicals in the environment, and chemicals exert more potent effects on their developing nervous systems. In children, the most frequently reported symptoms of DEET toxicity reported to poison control centers were lethargy, headaches, tremors, involuntary movements, seizures, and convulsions.

In addition, Duke University Medical Center pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia spent 30 years researching the effects of pesticides. He discovered that prolonged exposure to DEET can impair cell function in parts of your brain -- demonstrated in the lab by death and behavioral changes in rats with frequent or prolonged DEET use. Other potential side effects DEET exposure include:

Memory loss HeadacheMuscle weakness and fatigue

Shortness of breathMuscle and joint painTremors

Another potentially harmful chemical found in many bug sprays is permethrin. This chemical is a member of the synthetic pyrethroid family, all of which are neurotoxins.

The EPA has even deemed this chemical carcinogenic, capable of causing lung tumors, liver tumors, immune system problems, and chromosomal abnormalities. Permethrin is also damaging to the environment, and it is particularly toxic to bees and aquatic life. It should also be noted that permethrin is highly toxic to cats.

Chemical bug sprays are not your only option for insect repellent, fortunately there are numerous natural solutions. The use of herbs to deter insect pests has been exploited for thousands of years by man, most simply by hanging bruised plants in houses, a practice that is still in wideuse throughout the developing countries. Plants have also been used for centuries in the form of crude fumigants where plants were burnt to drive away mosquitoes and later as oil formulations applied to the skin or clothes.

EUCALYPTUS OIL - a potent natural repellent extracted from the leaves of lemon eucalyptus trees. It was discovered in the 1960s during mass screenings of plants used in Chinese traditional medicine. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil, comprising 85% citronellal, is used by cosmetic industries due to its fresh smell.

MINT, PINE, & CEDAR - Essential oils distilled from members of the Lamiaceae (mint family that includes most culinary herbs), Poaceae (aromatic grasses) and Pinaceae (pine and cedar family) are commonly used as insect repellents throughout the globe. Many members of these families are used in rural communities through burning or hanging them within homes. In Europe and North America there is a strong history of use of the oils dating back to Ancient times.

GARLIC - Regularly consuming garlic may also help protect against mosquito bites, as may the following natural insect repellants:

CINNAMON LEAF OIL - Cinnamon leaf oil (one study found it was more effective at killing mosquitoes than DEET9)

VANILLA - Clear liquid vanilla extract mixed with olive oil

CITRONELLA - A well-known natural mosquito repellent. The oils from the plant are used to make lotions, sprays, and candles.A University of Guelph study assessed the effectiveness of 3% citronella candles and 5% citronella incense in protecting subjects from bites. They found that subjects who were positioned near the citronella candles had 42.3% less bites and those near the citronella incense had 24.2% fewer bites. Based on these results, citronella candles shouldn't be used as a stand-alone repellent, all though they may help in combination with topical repellents. Wash with citronella soap, and then put 100% pure citronella essential oil on your skin.

THYME - In one study, carvacrol and alpha-terpinene, two compounds derived from the essential oil of thyme, were found to have significantly greater repellency than a commercial DEET repellent. The researchers suggest that a spray made with 2% alpha terpinene is a promising natural mosquito repellent. However, don't try to make a thyme oil repellent at home- it is too irritating and strong-smelling to be used at effective concentrations above 25%.

CATNIP OIL - According to one study, this oil is 10 times more effective than DEET10.

Other natural herbal solutions to repel insects include NEEM oil, Turmeric essential oil, Artemisia, Geranium, Ylang Ylang, Litsea cubeba, Rosemary & Basil.

Check out Wildcraft Apothecary's Organic Bug Repellant for Tick & Mosquitoes and our special pet friendly Flea formula under Household & add another natural alternative to your families chemical free healthy living lifestyle.


1. Dr. Mercola, J. "This Natural Bug Repellant Works Better Than Deet" Retrieved 9/1/15, from

2.Cathy Wong ND. "Natural Mosquito Repellents" Retrieved 9/1/15, from

3. Marta Ferreira Maia & Sarah J Moore "Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing" Retrived 9/1/15, from

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