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This section is a vintage collection of opinions on natural remedies by various authors, some who have passed on. For historical reference only. These articles are old. They have not been updated since the early 2000s and are not intended to provide medical information.

Repelling Insects with Herbs

A day out with nature can leave you refreshed and exhilarated. But without proper preparation you may face a sleepless night of scratching bug bites afterward. In last month's issue I featured information on soothing poison ivy rash, so this month we will deal with another pitfall of enjoying the great outdoors. BUGS!

The most unpleasant parasitic creature I have encountered is the chigger. Or I should say chiggers because they seem to attack in armies of 20 or more and attach larvae to the skin on the legs, beltline and any fold of skin they find. They cause an itch and rash, which may be confused with poison ivy (due to its intensity) that lasts up to two weeks. If you bathe within a few hours after exposure in very hot water it lessens the chance of the larvae attaching and causing irritation. The larvae only stay attached for a few days but the itching and swelling from the bites can last for weeks. A chigger infestation makes poison ivy seem like a mild malady for most.

Chiggers can be found in tall grass or woods. Read more about chiggers at this site from the University of Nebraska https://ianrunl.edu/ianr/lanco/enviro/pest/factsheets/008-96.htm

James Duke, Ph.D., in his book The Green Pharmacy says that rubbing mountain mint (Pycnanthemum sp.) on your legs prior to going in tall grass or woods will repel chiggers. You can see pictures of mountain mint here.  Oil of Pennyroyal would have the same effect and is used in some commercial preparations. Neither should ever be used by any women who may be pregnant, as they may cause uncomfortable uterine contractions. I have also heard it said that putting sulfur powder in your socks and shoes as well as pant cuffs would deter chiggers.

Many other herbs have insect repellant properties. Citronella is said to repel mosquitoes but must be applied every hour or to remain effective. Eucalyptus is also effective, use a teaspoon of oil in a cup of warm water and smooth over the skin. More herbs with insecticide properties include wormwood, perilla, and mints. feverfew, lavender leaves and of course garlic. It is said that bugs don't bite people who eat a lot of garlic. But they don?t get kissed a lot either!

Try making some natural insect repellant sachets from the recipes at this web site:

https://glenbrookfarm.com/herbs/rec9699.html  You can also sew the same ingredients in a tube shape and tie them around your pant legs, wrists and neck to repel biting bugs.

Here is a natural insect repellant recipe that was sent to me.

Vinegar of the Four Thieves

One part each {all plants are dry] Rosemary, Wormwood, Lavender, Sage, Mint

Place in a jar and cover with vinegar let set 7 days

Put on cloth and exposed skin repels ticks, fleas, and chiggers

From Mike the Hillwizard :)>

 OK, what if it's too late and they've already got you? A tea made from a teaspoon of dried chickweed, (or a handful fresh) drunk three times a day acts as a natural antihistamine. This can also be applied externally to help with itch. A tiny dab of peppermint oil on bites is very cooling. For stings apply a wet aspirin to ease pain, you may also want to try this on chiggers. A cup of oatmeal tied in a cloth and added under running bath water is a great skin soother. You can add a cup of Epsom salt or baking soda to your bath and soak for 20 minutes. A few drops of lavender essential oil with calm your nerves from all that itching, as well as sooth irritation. Other bug bite soothers include Aloe Vera, Plantain, Witch Hazel, Comfrey and of course my favorite Jewelweed. (See jewelweed link at /jewelweed.htm )

Here is a generous addition to this page sent in by a reader.

I wanted to share my bug repellant recipe........please share with anyone. I do a huge amount of outdoor gardening........I have 1 1/2 acres,  partly woodland.  This is my recipe, and it works.  It works on mosquitoes, chiggers, and a host of unknown other little biting things.

Base:  4 oz. aloe vera gel
            4 oz. very light skin lotion.......I like Coconut Skin Trip
            2 drams oil of Citronella
            1/2 dram oil of eucalyptus
            1/2 dram patchouli oil

Pour in a bottle and shake Use liberally all over the body except on the face.

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