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Natural Insect Repellents: Alternatives to Harmful DEET

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Prevention Centers related image Photo: Getty Images

With the warm (and sometimes humid) summer weather, often come mosquitoes and other disease-carrying insects.

West Nile, dengue fever and malaria are just a few of the scary diseases that could result from mosquito bites. Many people resort to popular insect repellents that contain DEET, but studies have found that DEET can be dangerous and harmful to your health.

According to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, "Some persons who used products containing a high concentration such as 50 or 75 percent of DEET or who were exposed to excessive amounts of DEET experienced rashes, blisters, and skin and mucous membrane irritation. In a few cases of overdose and misuse, brain effects (encephalopathy) and seizures occurred in children.”

Research done by Duke University pharmacologist, Mohamed Abou-Donia, has concluded that side effects such as memory loss, behavioral changes in rats, and slurred speech can also result from the use of DEET.

Not to fret, there are natural, alternative home remedies for insect repellent!

1. Repellent soap: Use a castile soap as a base and add 15-20 drops of essential oil per ounce of soap. Wash before and after going outside. Many essential oils have been shown effective in repelling bugs. Smart oils to use include: lemon balm (citronella), pennyroyal, lavender, and rose geranium.

2. Neem oil: Made from an herb used in Ayurvedic Medicine. It can be purchased easily online!

3. Repellent recipe for clothing: In a mixture of four parts rubbing alcohol and six parts water, add 20-40 drops of citronella essential oil and 10-20 drops of lavender, eucalyptus, rose and geranium essential oils. (Use this mixture very sparingly on skin, as the rubbing alcohol and oils can be irritating and hazardous if used often.)

4. Repellent recipe for skin: ¼ cup of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar mixed with 25 drops of essential oil. Apply a few drops to skin and clothes.

5. Indoor/outdoor repellent: Although they don’t provide complete protection, citronella candles are a easy and effective way to ward off bugs around you, whether inside or out.

Add a Comment4 Comments

I use Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) and love it. Repel, Cutter and Coleman all make OLE based products that can be found at sporting good stores, Wal-mart, and on-line.

September 14, 2011 - 10:58am

Hi Danielle
I have a range at homeopathy world that includes a travel kit - but just google and see which ones you like best. The advantage of mine is it fits in the palm of your hand so you can travel light. There's lots of free advice / training too on my blog.
be well

August 30, 2011 - 9:32am

Wow! These kits sound unbelievably helpful! Where's the best place to get one?

August 24, 2011 - 5:55pm

Ledum 30c taken for 7 days prior to departure makes you much less attractive to mosquitoes. A homeopathic travel kit is a must have especially if you are traveling to more exotic regions.

August 23, 2011 - 1:10pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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