I am fed up with using chemical insect repellent on my skin. I don’t want to spray toxic liquid on myself twice a day anymore. When trying to live a conscious, natural life, you start to notice more closely what you put on your body. Toothpaste, shampoo, hairspray, creams and make-up: what is really in that stuff? It’s a stretch to imagine that all of the plastics and chemicals we surround ourselves with do not seep into our skin, which we will then pass onto our children throughgenetic abnormalities. But I digress… So off with the Off! I say, and I am making my own natural repellent. I’m infusing a jar of coconut oil with some aromatic plants that mosquitos hate: the spicy bite of purple tulsi basil, bitter neem, and sweet lemongrass. The key element to repellent is the scent, so the stronger the scent in the oil the more effective it will be.
I know what you’re thinking. Ok, Amelie, enough with the hippy-dippy, “eat this leaf and you’ll be cured” do-it-yourselfing. Does it actually work? YES. I did a study. Yesterday I put the repellent on my left arm and leg and nothing on the right side. Then I sat in the Mosquito Country that is the veranda front table at dusk. After over an hour I had 2 bites on my left leg and 10 on my right. Tonight I lost count at about 9, with only 3 on my treated left appendages. It works. I watch them land on my left arm and then fly away in disgust/fear, it’s quite fun.
Here’s the very simple and flexible recipe for you to make your own:
You can use any kind of oil, but you want one that is neutral or pleasantly scented. Coconut, olive, and tea tree oil are also good for your skin. If you are worried about grease getting on your clothes, you can also use cooling aloe vera gel mixed in with the oil, but it might not be as strong. In addition to basil, neem and lemongrass, mosquitoes also detest: pennyroyal, citronella, thyme, lavender, yarrow flower, garlic, marigolds, catnip, witch hazel, vinegar, and eucalyptus.
- Fill a jar with desired oil.
- Chop or crush plant material. Mix and match with different combinations of plants! A good rule of thumb is to use twice as many flowers as herbs and only a small amount of spices. Fill the jar about half-way with plant material.
- Let the jar sit in a sunny windowsill for 48 hours, shaking every 12 hours.
- Strain oil through cheesecloth, tightly squeezing plant material to get every last bit of oil. Some of the plant material will soak up the oil, so you need to strain very well.
- Put in fresh plant material. Repeat process until you have the scent desired.
With some wicks and beeswax you can also use this oil to make mosquito-repellent candles! (1.5 oz oil to 1 lb beeswax).
Try it! The only thing you have to lose is itchy summer nights.
Follow your nose