Insect Busting Ingredients
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
Diatomaceous earth or DE, is a sedimentary mineral rock derived from the remains of diatoms, oceanic single cell algae. These diatoms are actually over 30 million years old! When this aquatic algae dies, it sinks to the ocean floor where it eventually cements. The result is an off-white powder similar to talc that contains the fossilized remains of these marine phytoplankton. (9) The “active ingredient” in this powder is silica grains that are harmful to insects but essentially innocuous to you and your pet. When DE comes in contact with the exoskeleton of the insect, the very sharp structure of the silica pierces the waxy coating of the bug’s shell, which allows the vital moisture within it to seep out, eventually dehydrating the insect until it dies. (10) DE is very effective, especially because insects cannot “build a tolerance to it” like they can with the over use of pesticides. DE works on a physical level, not a chemical one.
Yarrow is a known anti-inflammatory for skin issues as it can soothe irritated skin. Yarrow is also an effective anti-microbial with powerful pain relieving properties. (11) This herb is especially helpful for healing flea bites as they often evolve into secondary infections. Yarrow will not only protect your pet from any secondary infection, but it can also help to soothe irritated skin.
In Ayurvedic medicine, neem has been used as an effective herbal repellant for fleas, ticks, lice, mites, ants and mosquitoes and has even been shown to be effective against malaria. (12) (13) The active compound in neem is called Azadirachtin, which has been shown to disrupt the metamorphosis of insect larvae by interfering with their hormonal systems. (14) It has also been shown that compounds in neem thwart their ability to feed. In fact, Azadirachtin is so repulsive to insects that they will starve before eating anything with neem on it—even minute traces. Neem also contains a compound called salannin, which is equally as effective as an insect repellent. In some studies it was even proven more effective at repelling insects than DEET (15, 16) Further, neem has moisturizing properties, which are helpful for dry, itchy skin, especially since DE can be quite drying. Neem has also been shown to have powerful anti-bacterial properties that can help prevent any infection from flea and tick bites. (17)
Other Natural Flea and Tick Treatments
Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
Lemon eucalyptus is a potent natural repellent derived from the leaves of the lemon eucalyptus tree. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil contains 85 percent citronellal. The effectiveness of this oil is so powerful that it has been confirmed by the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) as the only plant-based repellent advocated for use in disease-endemic areas. (18)
The major compounds in lemon grass oil are citral, geraniol, myrcene, citronellal and limonene. Citronella oil contains large amounts of citral, which gives lemon grass oil its lemony fragrance. A 2002 study shows that lemon grass oil is as effective as commercial mosquito repellents without the dangerous side effects of chemicals. (19)
Cinnamon oil is a key natural mosquito repellent. Studies show that 15 percent cinnamon oil to water ratio can kill mosquito larvae in 6 hours. Even a 5 percent solution is able to kill larvae in 24 hours. (20) Another study shows cinnamon oil is more effective than some commercial and even natural mosquito repellents. (20)
Many essential oils have been tested as natural insect repellents. While several are deemed effective, clove oil is shown to repel against mosquitos that carry malaria, filarial and yellow fever. Clove oil is also shown to repel the longest—2-4 hours, which is longer than any other natural repellent. (21)
Geraniol, is the active ingredient in geraniums. This fragrant oil has been shown to be effective for repelling a wide variety of insects, including “mosquitoes, house flies, stable flies, horn flies, cockroaches, fire ants, fleas, gnats, dog ticks, lone star ticks, and no-see-ums (tiny gnats).” (22, 23)
Warning for Cats
While essential oils are generally safe for dogs, you should be careful using these with cats. Cats have problems metabolizing the compounds in essential oils, which can lead to toxic build-up in their bodies. So, always check with your vet before using any essential oil on a cat. (24)