Saturday, June 26, 2010

Essentially Repellent

This one is for Belinda because we were talking about the problems we have in the mid-south with biting bugs in summer, and she asked for my essential oils insect repellent recipe. Where commercial repellents have side effects and smell yucky, essential oils have health benefits and smell like the best of nature. It's a no brainer.

Some of us simply attract bugs! When I was a child, we roamed the fields and woods, picnicked alongside gurgling streams, waded through waist high sage grass to get to the swimming hole, and I can't ever remember getting bitten by ticks, chiggers or mosquitoes. These days, they'll crawl, fly or hop past a dozen people to get to me, and when I'm bitten, it's red and itchy for days. Global warming? I dunno, but they never bite Jim. I resent him deeply for that. He says it's because I don't drink enough alcohol. I tell him it's because I'm so sweet, dang it! Anyway, I'll digress here and tell you my favorite remedy for insect bites: Wipe the inside of a banana peel on the bite. It works better than Benedryl, and you get to eat the banana. When we're out of bananas, I have pieces of frozen banana peel in the freezer. It works just as well.

If you're new to essential oils, buy the good stuff online or in your health food store, but when you find a display where all the oils are the same price, walk on by. They may smell nice, but they're mostly filler because true essential oil prices within a brand can vary from $4.95 to 50 bucks or more, depending on how rare or expensive they are to produce. They are the essence of plants, flowers, berries, seeds, bark, rhizome, resin, peels and roots. Store the bottles tightly capped in a cool, dark place, and they'll last a long time. The uses are infinite. I believe they were the first medicines and are capable of making our bodies and homes healthier. (I think I've already shared with you my using Tea Tree Oil for dust mites and Oil of Cloves for ants.) I love nice perfume, but I don't wear it in summer because it attracts insects. Instead, I wear a dab of my favorite oils.

Many essential oils repel insects, and you can learn about them with a little research. The ones I've used in this recipe are simply some of my favorites.

Lavender Oil.....If I could have only one essential oil, it would be lavender. It's used in perfumes, is calming, anti-depressant, treats skin problems, is anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, is used for burns, migraines, muscle cramps, digestion, asthma, allergies, menstrual cramps, and insect repellent. I have a diffuser pad where I can drop a few drops of Lavender Oil and plug it into an outlet in my bedroom; it fills the room with tranquility.

Cedarwood Oil.....Of course we know cedar keeps moths away, but among its many other uses are tonics for muscles, skin, digestion and brain disorders, also an expectorant, insecticide, fungicide, and sedative qualities.

Lemon Balm Oil (Citronella)...... has traditionally been employed against bronchial inflammation, earache, fever, flatulence, headaches, high blood pressure, influenza, mood disorders, palpitations, toothache and vomiting. A tea made from Lemon balm leaves is said to soothe menstrual cramps and helps relieve PMS. Researchers have found that using lemon balm also improved memory and lengthened attention span in individuals suffering from Alzheimer's disease. This effect may be due to its content of antioxidants, which are thought to protect body cells from damage caused by a chemical process called oxidation. And a few plants in your flower bed repels insects.

Orange Oil .....Gives relief from anxiety, anger, depression, inflammation, is a detoxifier, and boosts immunity, and insects avoid prolonged exposure to it.

Rosemary Oil.....has been a symbol for remembrance since ancient times. Aside from the fact that I love the smell of this herb and have a huge bush about 4 feet wide just outside my back steps, it's excellent in cooking, relieves muscle pain, is calming, lowers blood pressure and inflammation and treats wounds. Sometimes when I'm walking past it, I break off a long stem and rub it on my arms and legs just because I enjoy being enveloped in its scent. Oh yes, and bugs don't care for it.

Sandalwood Oil.......This is the most expensive essential oil I own. At Rose Mountain Herbs, 1/4 oz costs $42, but it's an awesome scent, found in many of my favorite perfumes, and it's all the good stuff, like antiseptic, deodorant, tonic, memory booster, etc. You'll notice bugs don't like anything antiseptic.

Patchouli Oil......I'm probably more drawn to this one simply as a scent than any other. There's a site called Basenotes, where I've learned tons about why we're attracted to certain scents. When I plugged in all my favorite perfumes from throughout my life, Patchouli was a common denominator in most of them. It's also a fungicide, insecticide, anti-inflammatory, tonic, etc.

So, take a small bottle, preferably one that has a pump, and fill it to within an inch from the top with a good oil. You can use Sweet Almond Oil or even a high grade olive oil. Now begin to experiment with quantities of your essential oils. Start with a dozen drops of each. Let your nose be your guide; you inherently know what's good for you, if your trust the process. Shake well before each use. I apply it to my arms and legs when I'm finished showering, wiping it on my wet skin and then letting myself air dry. Some of the scents evaporate before others. I notice the Patchouli lasts longest on me.

I wore this to my uncle's cookout on Memorial Day. It was a typically humid, sticky summer day, and everyone there was getting stung repeatedly by those dratted little sweat bees. I never even had one light on me. Proof enough. Let me know if you make your own repellent and if you come up with any new additions. The possibilities are endless................. Oh, and one more thing, I don't use commercial repellents on Marley. Some of the most popular ones have proven to be lethal to small dogs. When he gets his weekly bath, I put a few drops of essential oil, usually Patchouli, into his rinse water, and he's protected and smells a little like Jim does when he's wearing Polo.

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