The bane of mammals’ existence, mosquitoes are a hazardous annoyance: prolific, omnipresent, making us itch, and carrying disease.(1)
They seem to pop out of nowhere all at once at the end of spring, providing a challenge for the summer to keep them off our skin.
Using chemical insecticides can be hazardous. DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-tolouamide) is the active ingredient in many mosquito repellants. The Environmental Protection Agency has deemed DEET safe for human use but still posts a list of warnings in its use.(2)
The problem with applying any synthetic chemical to your skin is that it’s then absorbed into your body. The Environmental Health Agency of Nova Scotia reported in 2003:
“’Up to 56% of DEET applied topically penetrates intact human skin and 17% is absorbed into the bloodstream.’ Blood concentrations of about 3 mg per litre have been reported several hours after DEET repellent was applied to skin in the prescribed fashion. DEET is also absorbed by the gut.”(3)
DEET affects the central nervous system.
Animal studies at Duke University in 2002 found that prolonged use of DEET caused brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats and called for further testing.(4)
In 2004, Health Canada banned all insect repellants with a concentration of DEET higher than thirty percent due to concerns over high dose, repeated use.(5)
Studies have also shown that DEET can cause various skin and mucus membrane conditions.(6)
So the question remains of how to safely keep those little blood-thirsty pests away from us.
The answer is for us to simply smell unappetizing.
It’s been found that when ample amounts of vitamin B1 (thiamine) are ingested, our bodies exude a smell unpleasant to mosquitoes.
This essential (water-soluble) nutrient has been called the “anti-stress” vitamin because it strengthens the immune system, maintains the nervous system, and boosts the metabolism, enabling us to withstand stressful conditions.
Your body needs thiamine in order to produce adenosine triphosphate, which every cell uses for energy.(7)
A deficiency of this vitamin can cause neurological complications, eye conditions, heart failure, and depression.
It’s called B1 because it was the first B vitamin to be identified. And since it’s water-soluble, there’s hardly any chances of overdosing; what the body doesn’t need, it will eliminate.
Don’t worry—humans won’t be able to smell an increase in B1 in your system.
Thiamine can be found in many foods:
- Beef, poultry, and pork—especially in organ meats
- Blackstrap molasses
- Mustard seeds
- Nutritional yeast
- Whole grains
There are also several plants you can place around your home that mosquitoes don’t like: catnip, lemongrass, citronella, mint, and thyme, to name a few.
For added protection from mosquitoes, try this natural repellant spray.
- ½ cup boiled water, cooled
- ½ teaspoon witch hazel
- 15 drops tea tree oil
- 15 drops lavender oil
- Pour water into spray bottle (allow it to cool down first!). Add the remaining ingredients, screw on the top of the bottle, and shake gently to mix.
- Use as needed.