Summer is a welcome change of season for most people, but it comes with some drawbacks – specifically, it’s bug season in most parts of the world.
In addition to sunscreen, most people take to slathering on insect repellent for the long hours spent enjoying the outdoors.
But insect repellent can have serious drawbacks – one of the most commonly used repellents, DEET, is a known neurotoxin (especially in children)(1) which can cause severe allergic reactions – even in people with no history of allergic reactions to insect repellents(2).
Fortunately, people who want to avoid troublesome insect bites this summer have a friend in yarrow herb, which can be used as a natural insect repellent when properly prepared.
Natural Insect Repellent Recipe
- Enough fresh yarrow to fill a medium-sized jar, roughly 2 cups
- Enough 100-proof vodka to fill the same jar
Go through the yarrow plant and discard any damaged plant material. Do not wash the yarrow. Chop the yarrow plant coarsely, leaving the flowers and buds intact. Fill the jar with the chopped yarrow plant, then cover the plant with 100 proof vodka. Fill the jar to the top, then cap the jar and label it. Leave it overnight, then top it up with vodka again the next day – the vodka levels will go down as the plant absorbs it.
Let the tincture steep for at least six weeks, then strain it into a spray bottle for use.
How It Works
The efficacy of yarrow has been widely documented. One 2008 paper lists insect repellent along with the many other health-promoting properties of yarrow – which include aiding in digestive problems, menstrual cramps, fever, and wound healing(3).
A second study on the use of plant extracts and natural oils as mosquito repellents named yarrow as one of the most effective natural mosquito repellent plants, along with pine and eucalyptus(4).
Using natural recipes like this one as insect repellents instead of chemical-based repellents like DEET is something more and more people are turning to, as the evidence against the use of DEET and its contemporaries piles up.
Parents of small children have particular reason to be concerned about the neurotoxic effects of DEET, which are most severe when ingested orally – although there is at least one case of an adult succumbing to poisoning from ingesting DEET as well(5).
Whatever the reason for wanting to avoid the use of DEET and other similar insect repellents, now you know about a healthy, natural alternative – yarrow tincture. While this recipe takes some time to properly prepare, it’s worth it for the peace of mind you’ll get from having a pesticide-free home.