It sounds old-fashioned, but the easiest and fastest way to repel mosquitoes and ticks is to use commercial insect repellants. Unfortunately, these products contain a good deal of chemicals, don’t always smell good, and can be expensive. As an alternative, some people use essential oils from certain plants.
In order to extract these oils, the leaves of the plants must be crushed and bruised. You can learn to do this yourself, or you can simply hit your local natural foods store and buy the essential oils of your choice. Nevertheless, if you have access to them, rubbing the leaves directly on the skin will also do the trick. Just be sure to test a small patch of skin first, as some individuals are allergic to certain oils.
So, which plants do the best job repelling the creepy-crawly things?
Lemongrass is a tropical island plant that belongs to the grass family. Though it has a variety of uses, such as in Asian cuisine, Indian medicine, and agriculture, it is widely used to naturally repel ticks and fleas. Because of its pleasing citrus scent, it has been used to make perfume, shampoo, lotion, and soap. According to the Ohio State University, a related species, called citronella grass, is also known to repel fleas.
Since 1940, eucalyptus has attracted a number of environmentalists and researchers, not only for its desirable traits like being rapidly-growing sources of timber, but also for producing oil that can naturally repel insects. Recently, the American Mosquito Control Association published a journal showing that 32% lemon eucalyptus oil in a mixture offers 95% protection against mosquitoes for three hours. And, the CDC reports that it is as effective at repelling both mosquitoes and ticks as DEET.
Lavender is a flowering plant that is native to the Afro-Eurasian continents. While these are extensively cultivated in tropical regions as ornamental plants, in other countries, its flowers are crushed to produce natural insect repellants. In addition to this trait, lavender plant has antiseptic and analgesic properties, which means it soothes and calms the skin.
Cinnamon is not only used as a topper to oatmeal or apple sauce. In a study conducted in Taiwan, the oil extracted from cinnamon can effectively get rid of mosquito eggs. Apart from that, it also acts as a repellant to mature mosquitoes, particularly the Asian tiger mosquito.
Citronella belongs to the Cardioperidaceae family that is native to the tropical regions of Central and South America, as well as in Southeast Asia. Although it is known for its remarkable hardiness, it has been extensively used to ward off bugs and insects. As a matter of fact, its insect repellant traits have already been verified by research. Also, the United States Environmental Protection Agency has stated that citronella oil has little or no toxicity when used as a repellent.
Otherwise known as pudding grass or the mosquito plant, Pennyroyal is a type of flowering plant that is native to North Africa, Middle East, and Europe. Its oil is perilous to animals and humans, so it is toxic to insects as well. Because of this characteristic, it has gained worldwide recognition as an effective insect repellant. It is now mixed in vaporizers and sprays as it can efficiently kill mosquito and other insects.
Neem, also called Nimtree, is a tree species in the Azadirachta genus. It is commonly grown in tropical and semi-tropical regions, such as Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Nepal. With its germicide and pesticide traits, it makes a perfect insect repellent. Its oil can either be extracted by pressing and be applied on the skin, or burn its leaves like incense so as to drive off mosquitoes and other insects. Neem oil is also widely available in natural food stores as an ingredient in lotions.
Even when these plants are commonly grown in gardens and yards, some oils can be very harmful when used in high concentrations. As suggested, it is best to dilute the oils with lotion, water, or a carrier oil to avoid unwanted effects.