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Herbs to repel Insects, for bites and stings and parasites

 
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https://southernappalachianherbs.blogspot.com/2021/12/herbs-to-repel-insects-for-bites-and.html

Herbs to repel Insects, for bites and stings and parasites



From Herbal Medicine for Preppers, Homesteaders and Permaculture People:

Most often, the bites of mosquitoes, fleas, chiggers, tics, bed bugs, kissing bugs, etc. are minor annoyances.  But, they can easily become infected.  Also, if the victim of such parasites is immuno-compromised, chronically sick, has a weak liver or other essential organ, or has serious allergies, they can be life threatening.  I well recall my first chigger infestation!  I was down in Georgia, catching a mess of catfish with a friend.  We got into an area heavily infested with chiggers and I doubt a thousand gallons of bug spray would have saved us, we were sweating so heavily and drenched by heavy summer thunderstorms.  Sure, we sprayed down, but the next day those almost undetectable bugs had eaten us alive!  It was misery waiting out the histamine response - old wives tales say that the bug buries itself under the skin and that clear nail polish covering the bite will suffocate them.  That is not true.  They are just bites, the same as any parasite - they suck your blood then leave.  I suppose I was young and dumb, because I must have either scratched too much or not have disinfected the bites properly.  After a few days, I got very sick.  Sick enough to go to a doctor, which is something I have done only 3 times in 25 years.  He was an old General Practitioner, the only kind of doctor I trust, and something we rarely find anymore.  I had a high fever and passed out in his office.  Somehow, the little, elderly man dragged my 6'4" tall, 210-229 lbs to a chair and gave me a shot of antibiotics and, after I came too, a strong hydrocortisone for the itching.  I had more than 300 bites!  So, my top priority has been for that not to happen again!

If you spend time in the woods, you likely know all about DEET, regular bug spray, tucking your jeans into your boots, citronella and all the regular stuff.  While a lot of that stuff may be toxic to humans, I am not going to say you shouldn't use it.  I do think you should have some of the smelly, sticky nasty stuff on hand simply because you never know when you may need it in an emergency.  There are several herbs that work very well as insect repellents, but they generally need to be used fresh or as essential oils.  Fresh herbs are literally just crushed and rubbed on the skin, so unless they are in season, you may be out of luck.  Essential oils can be put on the clothing or pre-diluted with a safer oil like olive oil and then rubbed on the skin. You should probably grow some of these herbs for quick access, have some essential oils on hand and some nasty old "bug dope" in your bag.

Several herbs have proved very effective as insect repellants, some far more effective than DEET, which is a chemical toxic to humans, by the way!

One of the most effective herbs to use fresh is Beauty Berry (Callicarpa americana).  This plant has been used as an insect repellant in Louisiana and Mississippi for generations.  "In 2006, researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture‚Äôs Natural Products Utilization Research Unit in Oxford, MS, found that extracts from beautyberry leaves could match DEET for repelling mosquitoes. The next year, experiments showed that the active ingredients from the leaves (callicarpenal and intermedeol) provided 100-percent repellency of black-legged ticks for three hours. In 2008, the four-person research team, headed by chemist Charles Cantrell in Mississippi and entomologist Jerome Klun in Maryland, published research that added fire ants to the list of pests repelled by essential oil distilled from beautyberry leaves." - Natural Insect Repellent: Beautyberry Banishes Bad Biting Bugs by Barbara Pleasant, Mother Earth News.

Last year, I watched a seminar by herbalist, Julie James on The Grow Network.  Several of the herbs I will write about the next few herbs comes from my notes from that presentation.

Catnip/Catmint (Nepeta cataria) has long been used as a mosquito repellant.  Euell Gibbons praised it highly in his classic work, Stalking the Healthful Herbs, which was a best seller that re-introduced such plants into common use in the 1960's.  Recent studies at Iowa State University have found essential oil of Catnip to be 4-5 times more effective than DEET in repelling insects!  Again, I recommend not using pure essential oils on the skin.  The best way to use Catnip is simply to rub the fresh, flowering tops and leaves on your skin.  For use out of season, make a fresh plant tincture with a high proof alcohol and use that.  You can put the tincture in a spray bottle.  Because the volatile oils that repel insects evaporate, you will need to reapply it every hour or so.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is also an herb that has been studied as an insect repellant. It is used identically to Catnip.  Yarrow has been widely studied for this use, even by the US military.

The Wormwood family (artemesia) including Wormwood, Mugwort, Southernwood, White Sage, etc., has been used since ancient times as one of the most effective insect repellants.  These herbs may also be used to disinfect and sooth insect bites.  Some are strong enough to help expel parasites.  Some are anti-viral and even have pain killing properties.  They are all bitter and good for digestion.  These are some of our most under-utilized herbs.  They belong in every garden.

The Geranium contains an essential oil called Geranial.  This makes Geranium (which is astringent) also good as both an insect repellent and for soothing bites.

Eucalyptus, which is in the Myrtle family, is highly aromatic and has long use as an insect repellant.

Lavender (Lavandula) is also a useful herb to repel mosquitoes.  Although mostly known for its subtle flavor in cooking and its calming scent, sachets of Lavender have been used for centuries to keep bugs out of clothes and oil or tincture of Lavender has been used as an insect repellant perfume.  Lavender is also antiseptic.

Folk tradition holds that eating Garlic and Onions regularly helps repel biting insects.  Honestly, I eat a lot of Garlic and Onions... probably more than most folks, but still get bitten.  Apparently, this has to do with the body chemistry of an individual.  The body odor or scent of the sweat and breath of certain individuals is simply more attractive to mosquitoes and such than others. I have noticed that when I eat fresh Ramps, the bugs harass me less.

Mints (mentha) other than Catnip may also be used - Spearmint, Peppermint, Water Mint, Pennyroyal, etc.

Many aromatic, culinary herbs have strong volatile oils that can be used similarly to repel insects.  These include: Rosemary, Basil, Oregano and Lemon Balm.

Marigold (tagetes... not calendula) makes an effective bug spray using either tea or tincture.

Lemon Grass (cymbopogon) is the source of Citronella.  Citronella is well known.  You can grow Lemon Grass in your yard to help deter mosquitoes.  You can cook with it.  You can have it in tea.  You can make a fresh plant tincture of it and use it as we discussed under Catnip.  You can dilute the essential oil in a neutral oil and use that.  You can make or buy commercially produced citronella oils and candles to burn.  It can be used in bath oils, soaps, sachets, etc., etc.  If you like Vietnamese and Thai food (as I do) you'll probably want to grow some anyway.

Many herbs have been used in stored clothing or as sachets to help repel insects.

Camphor (Cinnamomum camphora) is derived from the sap of an Asian tree in the Myrtle family. Although not recommended for internal use, it is included in very small amounts, in the Swedish Bitters.  It is what moth balls were originally made from, but now most companies used a synthetic version.

Cedar and Juniper.  These are distinctly different families of trees, but are often used interchangeably.  These aromatic and resinous woods have historically been used in trunks, closets and humidors to deter bugs and to impart a wonderful flavor to fine cigars.

Myrrh and Frankincense are likewise aromatic resins that have been traditionally used to repel insects... probably a bit more practical a gift than the gold the Magi presented along with these aromatic resins to the Christ child... especially in a manger.

Mexican Marigold and Chrysanthemum contain chemicals that do more than just repel insects, they are actual insecticides that kill bugs.

Goat's Rue (Tephrosia virginiana) has been used as both an insecticide and a vermifuge (kills intestinal worms).

Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) leaves are insecticidal and vermifuge.  However, Tansy oil is toxic to humans - this herb must be used with care.

Tobacco is insecticidal as a spray on plants, but the tea used is too strong for human use.

European Vervain (Verbena officinalis) has been used to kill blood flukes (parasites).

Echinacea is not only useful to treat bites and stings, but is an insect repellant.

Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) tea has been used for tape-worm.

Walnut, Butternut, Hickory, Pecan (the Juglans family) have traditionally been used as a primary herbal treatment against worms and parasites, as a leaf tea.  

Magnolia family, bark tea may be useful against worms.

Pawpaw leaves are insecticidal

Many Ferns, including (at least) Male Fern, Lady Fern, Crested Wood Fern, Maidenhair Fern, Venus Maidenhair Fern, Bracken Fern and Common Polypody have traditionally been used against worms.

Let's wrap this one up with a very effective old home remedy, Listerine (the original, brown version, not the sweet one).  Listerine is actually a potent herbal tincture diluted enough to use as a mouthwash.  It contains four essential oils: Thymol, Eucalyptol, Menthol and Methyl Salicylate... or, Thyme, Eucalyptus, Mint and Wintergreen.  Applied to the skin, it is an effective mosquito repellant.  Applied to bug bites, it calms itching and reduces inflammation.  A comparable generic brand often works just as well - compare labels before buying.



The above article is an excerpt from my new book Herbal Medicine for Preppers, Homesteaders and Permaculture People




You can read about and purchase Herbal Medicine for Preppers, Homesteaders and Permaculture People here: southernappalachianherbs.blogspot.com/2021/10/herbal-medicine-for-preppers.html

Also available on Amazon: Herbal Medicine for Preppers, Homesteaders and Permaculture People: Carroll, Judson: 9798491252923: Amazon.com: Books










Disclaimer


The information on this site is not intended to diagnose or treat any disease or condition. Nothing on this site has been evaluated or approved by the FDA. I am not a doctor. The US government does not recognize the practice of herbal medicine and their is no governing body regulating herbalists. Therefore, I'm just a guy who studies herbs. I am not offering any advice. I won't even claim that anything I write is accurate or true! I can tell you what herbs have "traditionally been used for." I can tell you my own experience and if I believe an herb helped me. I cannot, nor would I tell you to do the same. If you use any herb I, or anyone else, mentions you are treating yourself. You take full responsibility for your health. Humans are individuals and no two are identical. What works for me may not work for you. You may have an allergy, sensitivity or underlying condition that no one else shares and you don't even know about. Be careful with your health. By continuing to read my blog you agree to be responsible for yourself, do your own research, make your own choices and not to blame me for anything, ever.
 
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Interesting list Judson.
I'll add another herb to your list: Bog Myrtle (Myrica gale) is used to protect against midges here. It seems to wear off pretty quickly though. I usually use a repellent based on citronella, which does work well.
I'll have to try Yarrow next summer and see if it works at all.
Thank you.
 
Judson Carroll
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Nancy Reading wrote:Interesting list Judson.
I'll add another herb to your list: Bog Myrtle (Myrica gale) is used to protect against midges here. It seems to wear off pretty quickly though. I usually use a repellent based on citronella, which does work well.
I'll have to try Yarrow next summer and see if it works at all.
Thank you.



Thanks, Bog Myrtle is such an interesting herb - seems it was either one of the "Myrica Gale" herbs or closely related.  I want to brew a batch soon.
 
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