Natural insect repellants

June 11, 2008 by  
Filed under featured, Lifestyle, Travel, Wellness

If you are trying to live a more natural lifestyle then it makes sense to try and avoid the chemical insect repellents that are on the market. The most common of these are based on DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide) which is a very effective insect repellent developed in America some years ago but which can cause irritation to eyes, lips and other sensitive areas. Formulas usually have an oily feel and can cause skin reaction with some users and DEET damages certain plastics and fabrics. It is also less effective in low concentrations, but there is an increased reaction risk in high concentrations and it has a strong ‘chemical’ smell.

Natural insect repellents are usually based on the essential oils of Citronella, specific varieties of Eucalyptus, geranium, lemon grass, cedar or soy. One analysis of various plant essential oils found catnip oil to be promising for mosquitoes – or rather for avoiding their bites. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is often included in natural formulations and the active compound in the plant, extracted from the leaves and twigs, is thought to be p-menthane-3, 8-diol which can be chemically synthesized. The oil is thought to repel mosquitoes, biting flies and gnats and, according to Consumer Reports in the US, a lemon eucalyptus product called Repel received a higher overall score than the 7% DEET insect repellents tested.

Some natural repellents also make use of pyrethrins, which are naturally-occurring compounds with insecticidal and repellent properties. They are found in pyrethrum extract from certain chrysanthemum flowers and are safer to use on children, pets and plants. Pyrethrins are biodegradable and safe in normal use because of their low toxicity to mammals and the fact they don’t accumulate in the body. Although generally harmless to clothing and plastics, caution must be used if applied before going in the water as they are harmful to fish and amphibians.

Modern formulations have improved the effectiveness and reduced the need for frequent re-application and the use of micro-encapsulation technology has resulted in some almost odourless repellents. Their advantage is that they are not sticky; are environmentally friendly; safer on sensitive skins and most can be used on children. There is much less potential for skin irritation and they are much less harmful to plastics and fabrics.

There are a couple of websites I suggest you go to look for natural insect repellents who are based in the UK. The first is the Deetfree Natural Insect Repellent which is based on natural oils including Rosemary, Sage, Artemesia, Chrysanthemum Parthenium, Tea tree Oil, Lemon Eucalyptus Oil), Calendula, Lavender, Wild Mint and Thyme.

Another effective natural alternative is based on an old Indian herbal recipe used for generations to stop insects biting both humans and animals. It is made without using any chemicals (including no DEET, Citronella, or CFC’s) and instead has ingredients that include Neem oil (a vegetable oil pressed from the fruits and seeds of an evergreen tree – Neem Azadirachta indica) plus Bergamot, Rosemary, and Eucalyptus. This one also comes as a handy pocket size spray, details on their website at

Finally, would you believe an Avon product has many supporters as being a great mosquito repellent? Apparently the Avon Skin So Soft Dry Oil Spray contains citronella so you can ward off the mosquitoes and condition your skin at the same time! It is being used by some customers on their pets, dogs, cats, and horses to keep the flies away – and presumably to keep them smelling sweet.