Homemade Natural Bug Repellent

Do you love getting out into nature? Me too! I absolutely love hiking with my family and dog. I also enjoy dinner in the backyard, working in the garden and camping. What I don’t enjoy (and I think we can all agree) are the bug bites. Nothing ruins a great meal faster than a swarm of mosquitos.

While you can light up the backyard with citronella candles when you are home, that isn’t always enough to keep those tricky bugs from getting to you. And when you aren’t at home it is nice to have something that is both effective and non-toxic.

In the past I have bought natural bug repellent and found that it works very well. One weekend we decided to take our baby out into the woods for a hike and I found we were out of bug repellent. I quickly put together a homemade bug repellent with essential oils I had in the house. It worked so well and was so easy to make I’ve not had to purchase bug spray since.

Initially, I had used tea tree, lavender and peppermint essential oil since that was what I had on hand. Since then, I’ve modified my “go to formular” and purchased other essential oils.  You don’t need all of the essential oils listed. This is just a combo that I’ve personally found effective. The citronella is effective for mosquitos and the geranium is supposed to be the top oil for repelling ticks. I use the geranium and have never had a tick, but I also don’t hike in tick infested areas.

Essential oils are a wonderful alternative to DEET when camping and hiking.

Essential oils are a wonderful alternative to DEET when camping and hiking.

What you’ll need:

  1. An 2 oz spray bottle (Of course, you can make a larger batch, but this is handy for travel.)
  2. 1 oz Witch Hazel
  3. 1 oz Distilled Water
  4. Essential Oils: Geranium, Tea Tree, Citronella, Cedar Wood, Lemon Grass

How to make:

  1. Fill the spray bottle with distilled water.
  2. Add essential oils: 35 drops Citronella, 20 drops Tea Tree, 15 drop Geranium, 10 drops Cedar Wood, 10 drops Lemon Grass
  3. Fill the rest of the bottle with witch hazel.
  4. Shake well. Always shake well before applying.
  5. Apply to clothes and skin. Avoid applying to face and sensitive areas.

One way to give your head some protection from bugs is to spray the repellent on your hat before you go outside. This is especially good for children or if you sweat since you don’t want essential oils making their way into your eyes. For my baby, I apply the bug repellent to his clothes rather than to his skin and avoid areas where it may end up in his eyes or mouth. Although it is natural, essential oils can be irritating to sensitive tissues, so be mindful with your application.

It is recommended that you wash with warm soapy water after being out in an area that may have ticks. You can add a little essential oil to a liquid soap or you can easily purchase a soap that has essential oils already in them, like Dr. Bronner’s.

There are other natural ways to repel bugs through diet and nutritional supplements. I love to travel and I love to help my patients maximize their vacations by minimizing common traveling ailments. Whether it be bug bites, traveler’s diarrhea or boosting immunity to avoid getting sick, I am here to help. I invite you to contact me to learn more about how natural medicine can help you during your travels.

Are there essential oils you have found to be effective in repelling bugs? What do you do to keep yourself and your family free from bug bites? We’d love you to share your ideas!

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About The Author

Dr. Jolene Brighten

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Dr. Jolene Brighten is a Functional Medicine Naturopathic Doctor and the founder of Rubus Health, a women’s medicine clinic that specializes in women's hormones. She is recognized as a leading expert in Post-Birth Control Syndrome and the long-term side effects associated with hormonal contraceptives. Dr. Brighten is the best selling author, speaker and regular contributor to several online publications including MindBodyGreen. She is a medical advisor for one of the first data-driven apps to offer women personalized birth control recommendations.