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Natural Mosquito Repellents

After dinner, my kids usually get a little crazy. It’s like they need a just one more burst of energy to release before they finally collapse for the night.

We live in a not-so-spacious condo. So, every night, around 7 pm, I am faced with a dilemma. Do I let my kids bounce between our walls and furniture or take them outside?

Why is this a dilemma?

If you are one of the unlucky few, you don’t have to ask…you know this means risk being viciously attacked mosquitos.

I’ve long suspected, and with the help of the internet, have now verified that some of us, are more attractive to mosquitos than others. (Probably the only instance where we’d like to be less attractive.)

According to the Smithsonian magazine, as many as 20% of us are more susceptible to mosquito bites. There are many factors that contribute including: blood type, exercise and metabolism, skin bacteria, beer, pregnancy, genetics and even the colors you wear can contribute to your appeal (Stromberg, 12 July 2013).

In a nutshell: if you have O-type blood, exercise often (thus building up your lactic acid), breathe more (because carbon dioxide attracts them), have not recently bathed in Purell, are drinking a beer while pregnant, and wear black – your doomed!

While mosquito repellents containing DEET are almost universally considered the most effective way to combat the bites, it’s also a chemical that many would prefer not to regularly spray on their (or their kids’ skin).


There are natural alternatives you can try.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus – One of the more common natural repellents, OLE consistently . Try one part lemon eucalyptus oil to 10 parts sunflower oil or witch hazel. (healthline.com) WebMD warns, “If you decide to try OLE, make sure you buy the insect repellent version and not “pure” oil of lemon eucalyptus (essential oil). They aren’t the same. The safety and effectiveness of the essential oil as an insect repellent is not clear. Also, OLE should not be used in children under age 3.” If oils aren’t your thing, and you have a garden, you can also try planting the Lemon Balm plant.

Catnip – Not just for Fluffy, this powerful plant can help keep the mozzies at bay. A 2010 Iowa State University study found catnip is about “10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes” (Michelle Cook, Care2.com). The extract and oil from the leaves is most valuable though planting it in your garden can’t hurt!

Citronella – High quality, pure citronella oil is best. The citronella oil used for burning, should not be applied to skin (and probably not as effective anyway). Citronella oil doesn’t last as long as lemon eucalyptus or catnip but is probably the most well-known. Citronella is also a plant that can be added to your mozzie fighting garden.

Lavender – Both the plant and the oil can be effective. If you are going to use the oil, dilute it first – ideally in soy oil (see below) or “a carrier oil like apricot kernel, sweet almond, or coconut oil” (Cook).

Soy oil – Easy to find and relatively inexpensive, soy oil can be used as a repellent. Organic soy oils may be more effective than their GMO counterparts. Many natural repellants sold on the market today have a soy oil base.

Neem oil – Neem is another all-around miracle leaf. Grown in India, Neem is used to treat all kinds of skin ailments from chicken pox to acne. It’s no wonder this oil comes up as a mozzie repellent as well. “According to a study by the US National Research Council neem oil is more effective than DEET.  The results were confirmed by scientists at the Malaria Institute in India and in research cited in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association” (Cook).

Garlic – This wonder-herb can cure illnesses, fight vampires and as it turns out, other blood sucking insects. Eat lots of it, wear it around your neck, keep it in your pockets…you may also repel new frjends, but at least you’ll be safe!

Other common herbs that may provide some protection:

  • Thyme
  • Fennel
  • Peppermint
  • Black Pepper

The use of essential oils for medicinal and topical uses is a huge, growing industry. Before using them on your skin, always test to be sure you have no allergies or adverse reactions. Carefully follow instructions on how to dilute and combine oils safely and effectively before concocting your own recipe. Here are a few to try.


And here’s more on how to get rid of those pests without pesticides!


By Kathleen Siddell, June 2015

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