Summer is a great time – outdoor meetings, barbecues and daylong hikes with friends and family. Fresh summer air, blue sky, bright sun and obviously… mosquitoes! If you live somewhere where mosquitoes are common, you probably already keep mosquito repellent handy. But many of the conventional mosquito repellents contain the active ingredients DEET or picaridin, which can be allergenic and harsh to skin. Repellents that contain these additives are also not the best choice for children. Fortunately, natural, plant-based mosquito repellents work just fine and may be a reasonable alternative to the conventional ones! Here are 5 natural mosquito repellents you can use to keep mosquitoes away while limiting your exposure to dangerous chemicals.
Cat’s favourite, catnip is actually also very effective as a bug repellent. In 2001, researchers presenting to the American Chemical Society reported that nepetalactone (the essential oil that gives catnip its distinctive scent) is about ten times more effective than DEET when it comes to repelling mosquitoes. If you want to repel mosquitoes, rub catnip leaves directly onto your skin. You can also brew a catnip tea, wait for it to cool down and spray it on yourself before leaving the house. If you have a garden or terrace, the best remedy is to simply plant catnip leaves around it.
All the oils from the mint family, such as peppermint and spearmint are effective bug repellents. They prevent both bites and the transmission of bug larva into the skin. One study from 2011 found that in a human bait study, peppermint oil prevented bites for the first 150 minutes that a human volunteer was exposed to mosquitoes. After that period, the oil still prevented all but one or two bites in the next 30 minutes. You can apply essential mint oils directly to the skin, but do a skin test first to make sure that you are not experiencing any allergies. Alternatively, you can dilute mint oil in water and spray it on your skin and hair.
Tea Tree oil has strong antiseptic, antibacterial and antiparasitic properties. It can help prevent the spread and growth of ticks and fleas, as well as repelling biting insects like mosquitoes and flies. Tea Tree oil is strong and might be irritating to skin, so before applying it to your skin dilute it with some other carrier oil, such as jojoba.
Lemon eucalyptus plant oil has been also found to be very effective against mosquitos, flies and ticks. You can use this naturally extracted oil by rubbing it directly on the skin or make a spray by diluting it with sterile water. Note, however, that oil of lemon eucalyptus should not be used on children younger than three.
Even though lemon balm has a strong lemon smell rather than a mentholated one, it is still related to the herbs from the mint family, which makes it an effective bug repellent. Crush some lemon balm leaves and rub them onto your skin, especially to your warm spots like neck, wrists, and ankles. You can also plant lemon balm in your yard to keep bugs away from outdoor spaces.
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