Have you been looking for an alternative to DEET bug sprays? I use the conventional sprays on occasion, but they give me a headache, and remind me way too much of the agricultural pesticides you’re supposed to cover up before using. Are there other options?
I have seen natural repellents at about any store that sells herbs- in my area, that includes Dave's Herbs, Herbs for Health, Whole Foods Market (the store that used to be "Wild Oats"), Sunflower Markets, Smith's Marketplace. It seems like several of their repellents have Neem oil as their base. Neem oil is an extract of the seeds and fruit of a semitropical evergreen, Azadirachta indica. It's shown to be quite effective against insects, both for people to use, as well as for growing crops, but there are some cautions to be aware of. On testing with rats, it caused abortion of fetuses when ingested within a few days of conception. So don't use neem oil if you're pregnant or trying to conceive. See here for one source of more information.l
The Chrysanthemum family of plants contain pyrethrum or pyrethrin, which is a natural repellent. (Permethrin is the synthetic version of this.) It's also been used for hundreds of years. You can crush the plant and rub it on you, or dry it, powder it, and mix it with water. (DON"T DRINK IT!!!). Some of the plants in this family include the white daisies with yellow centers, mums, and Gerbera daisies.
You can use essential oils as repellents- dilute with a carrier oil first- a little goes a long way!. Ones that turned up in my search include lavender oil, lemon balm, catnip, tea tree oil (also called melaleuca), neem oil (again), basil, garlic, geranium, tansy, thyme. A carrier oil is just a plain vegetable oil- olive oil, canola oil, coconut oil, whatever you want to use.
Several years ago, I read that lemon thyme had repellent properties. I planted a mat of it underfoot my garden swing. We brushed our feet on it as we would swing in the evening. It smelled wonderful to us, and I hardly ever was bothered by mosquitoes. We even had a large pond (perfect mosquito breeding ground) nearby. My recent reading indicates that lemon thyme’s effect lasts only about 20 minutes when rubbed on your skin, so be aware you may need to do some personal experimenting here. (Use common sense!)
Here are two sites with some instructions on making your own repellent, if that's what you're after:
And a recipe, from Mother Earth News (disclaimer- though they have some great information, they are very pro- ‘save the planet’-forget those invasive humans). They adapted this one from The Green Pharmacy.
Herbal Insect Repellent
2 ½ teaspoons total of any combination of the following essential oils (available at health food stores): basil, cedarwood, citronella, juniper, lemon, myrrh, palmarosa, pine, rose geranium and/or rosemary
1 cup 190-proof grain alcohol (available in liquor stores)
Put everything in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake it hard. Store in small bottles; glass is best. To use, rub a small amount on any exposed skin (test first to be sure you're not allergic to the repellent!) or dab it on clothing. You might put it in a small spray bottle.
Experiment a little to find which essential oils work best with your body chemistry. If you're lucky, you also will like the way they smell; otherwise, add a few drops of peppermint oil to fine-tune the fragrance.
recipe from http://www.motherearthnews.com/Nature-Community/2003-08-01/Outsmarting-Mosquitoes.aspx?page=5