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Bites from mosquitoes as well as other bugs can be annoying and can spread disease. While conventional bug sprays can help you avoid bug bites, they can also have toxic pesticides and other chemicals. We at the Wellness Way don’t trust those chemicals for our patients, families, and friends. So, we’ve made a point to find more natural ways of repelling bugs.  

WHY BUG REPELLENTS MATTER

Why are natural options important? What goes on your skin can be absorbed into your bloodstream. Unlike what you eat, which goes through the digestive system, the liver and kidneys cannot easily filter out what goes through the skin. The skin is our largest organ, so we need to care for and protect it from damage, not put toxic stuff on it; definitely, not toxic stuff like DEET!  

DEET is an abbreviation for N-diethyl-meta-toluamide, a chemical patented for military use in 1946 by the army. [1] The military used DEET to protect troops stationed overseas.  Remember, mosquitoes can spread disease quickly, especially in other parts of the world (think Zika and malaria). Protecting yourself from mosquitoes is a good idea because you don’t want other people’s blood and diseases injected into you. In 1957, the government authorized DEET for public use. [2]  

The problem with DEET is that it causes massive neurological issues. Manufacturers will say there’s no evidence it’s harmful. However, plenty of studies say otherwise, and the effects go further than you might think.   

DEET AND THE EPITHELIAL LINING

One study published in 2021 shows DEET had a notable impact on cell health and growth in the sinonasal epithelia. [3] That may not sound like much – what is sinonasal (“within the nose and sinuses”) epithelia, anyway? Do a little research, and you’ll find a connection between a compromised sinonasal epithelial barrier and allergic disease. [4] The sinonasal epithelial barrier is the tissue lining the nose and sinuses. It’s there to serve as a barrier – just like the rest of our skin (epithelial barrier).  

Why do scientists think a compromised barrier could lead to inflammation and illness? Because the epithelial barrier of the nose and sinuses is made of tight junctions, just like the gut lining. [5] When the gut’s tight junctions are compromised, you end up with a leaky gut, or, as doctors call it, intestinal hyperpermeability.   

When the gut is leaky (“hyperpermeable”), it doesn’t keep foreign substances out of the bloodstream. When something is in the bloodstream that shouldn’t be there, the body reacts to it as an invader and remembers it as such. That’s how we get allergies. And the inflammation of the allergic response only adds to the poor state of the gut, leading to a nasty cycle. [6] Do we breathe in substances through our noses and sinuses that we don’t want in our bloodstream? Absolutely. Could these substances cause allergies? Yes! 

DEET AND THE NERVOUS SYSTEM

That’s not the end of the story about DEET, though. The CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry lists the massive toxic effects of DEET on the skin and nervous system. These effects include aggression, low blood pressure, uncoordinated movement, and even seizures. [7] For these reasons and others, we at The Wellness Way choose natural ways to repel mosquitoes and other bugs. 

EAT YOUR BUG REPELLENT?

At The Wellness Way, we advise patients (and our families) to focus on “eating your medicines.” These include sunscreen, skincare, supplements, and more. We’re talking antioxidants, healthy oils, and herbal tinctures rather than using chemical-filled products. Unfortunately, no concrete scientific evidence shows that foods can keep mosquitoes away from you. [8] 

 However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t foods that don’t work for some individuals. If someone swears up and down that mosquitoes leave them alone due to the amount of garlic, bananas, or chili peppers they eat, they may be right. Mosquitoes are attracted to the smell of our breath and sweat, which vary from person to person. Adding specific foods into the mix might make the sweat or breath of your Uncle Steve repel bugs but do nothing for you. 

NATURAL BUG REPELLENT IDEAS

 That said, there are some scents mosquitoes don’t like that you could use to your benefit: 

  • Citronella oil – If someone uses a natural insect repellent, there’s a good chance they’re using citronella. Due to its effectiveness, the United States EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has officially listed citronella as an insect repellant. Its constituents also have other beneficial properties, including antioxidant, anti-parasitic, and wound-healing effects. [9] Citronella candles are also popular for making outdoor gatherings more enjoyable. 
  • Lemongrass & Cinnamon A study published by the NIH found lemongrass, cinnamon bark, and rosemary effective at keeping mosquitoes away. [10] 
  • Peppermint oil– While it can help us focus or increase our energy, mosquitoes hate the smell of mint. In a 2019 systematic review, peppermint was among the most effective scents to repel mosquitoes, lasting 9.1-11.5 hours. Other effective botanicals included citronella, pine, and Chinese privet. [11] Catnip is a member of the mint family that’s also effective. 
  • Geranium oil – In the same study, PubMed found geranium, lavender, eucalyptus, chamomile, cinnamon, lemongrass, and more effective in repelling mosquitoes, with a complete repellency of 8 hours. [11] 
  • Apple Cider VinegarAnyone who has opened a jar of ACV knows its powerful scent. For this reason, it’s probably not the most popular remedy. But the point stands that mosquitoes hate it, and it’s an effective way to manage mosquitoes at every stage in their life cycle. [12] 

These all-natural scents aren’t toxic to your body if you get the oils from a reputable source and use them in proper concentrations. Buy a deet-free natural mosquito repellent with essential oils listed as active ingredients. You can often find oil of lemon eucalyptus-based spray at outdoor stores and even some box stores. You can also mix them with a carrier oil like avocado, shea, or coconut to apply as a lotion. Or use them as part of a homemade bug spray for you, your kids, or the surrounding area! 

DIY NATURAL SPRAY FOR MOSQUITOES

Making a bug spray with natural ingredients is easy and can be very effective. Use a base of apple cider vinegar and witch hazel in a spray bottle– both are good for your skin and as a bug repellent. Then add a few drops of essential oil to make a repellent spray. Cinnamon can kill mosquito larvae. [13] Did you know mosquitoes can leave larvae in your hair? Now you won’t forget. Be careful – essential oils may not be toxic, but that doesn’t mean they can’t cause skin irritation. Spray on your clothes first and test a patch of your skin. Check out this recipe and the chart below for good mosquito-repelling essential oils. 

natural bug repellents

PROTECT YOUR YARD FROM BUGS WITH COFFEE GROUNDS 

Coffee has many health benefits, and you can use the grounds after enjoying your morning joe. Take those grounds out of your coffee maker and put them in your plants. They will repel bugs for about a week. You can also burn a mixture of coffee grounds and cinnamon oil. Place dry grounds mixed with cinnamon essential oil in a bowl or on a flat surface. You can burn it like incense or add a bit of cedarwood. 

CHOOSE NATURAL BUG REPELLENTS 

These remedies keep the bugs away without the toxic effects. Chase those pesky bugs away while feeling good about how you’re doing it. Learn more in Dr. Patrick Flynn’s Quick Tip on Bug Sprays: 

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Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your Wellness Way clinic or personal physician, especially if currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medications. Pregnant women, in particular, should seek the advice of a physician before trying any herb or supplement listed on this website. Always speak with your individual clinic before adding any medication, herb, or nutritional supplement to your health protocol. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

2 Comments

  • Tammy T says:

    Thank you. I recently subscribed to your site and I am looking forward to gleaning all the knowledge I can to better protect me and my family naturally. I already use essential oils and herbs and such. Currently getting ready to visit a wellness way office.

    • The Wellness Way says:

      Hi Tammy! We are so glad the information is helpful and that you are getting ready to visit a Wellness Way office. It sounds like you are already well on your way for a healthy journey. Keep us posted on how it goes!

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