Updated: Oct 29, 2020
A couple of years ago I ran out of my normal box store bug spray. I didn't want to run into town just for bug spray, so I turned to my Modern Essentials, 6th edition. I use essential oils for many things and thought that maybe there would be some concoction I could whip up out of what I had on hand that would ward off the pesky bugs and let me get back to weeding the flowers. I started off looking at the Repellent Blend in the book and saw that it was made up of a blend of Lemon Eucalyptus, Citronella, Lemongrass.
From years of studying herbs, I have found that:
Peppermint: wards off spiders and ants.
Rosemary: used to ward off plagues (often caused by insects or parasites).
Cedarwood: I observed that there were less insects under our cedar trees. Then researched cedarwood and, low and behold, it's an insect repellent and cedarwood was found to possess highly insecticidal activity against adult mosquitoes and other household insects in this study by (Singh et al., 1988).
Cypress: when I lived in southeast Georgia I somehow found out that Cypress repels termites. I also had this on hand so I tossed it in too because, why not?
Citronella: has long been known to keep mosquitoes away from small areas.
Eucalyptus: was found to repel lice in this study by (Choi et al., 2010) and it smells good!
Lavender: has been found to repel ticks and it smells good.
Clove: also used for plagues and blended with eucalyptus to repel lice (Choi et al., 2010)
Arborvitae: is a good insect repellent and blends well with cedarwood and eucalyptus. (I personally don’t like the heaviness of this oil, but my daughter loves it)
Initially, I blended all of these together in a carrier oil and hated the smell. It was strong and heavy but did the trick. As time went on I changed up the blend by omitting the arborvitae and clove. This was a blend that I could handle and bugs stayed away. You guys, ticks would even crawl away and spiders would flee before me (I promise, I’m not a basilisk)! I have been using this blend now for two growing seasons and it is still doing the trick! Here’s how I make it.
I usually add 10 drops each of Lavender, Rosemary, Eucalyptus, Cypress, and Cedarwood, 5 drops each of Citronella, Peppermint, and Lemongrass to a one ounce brown glass apothecary spray bottle. Next, I add my carrier oil, usually almond or olive oil. You can spray it on the inside of your wrists, the back of your neck, and around the ankles then rub it in. You could also mix it up and put it in a roller bottle which would probably be the easiest way to apply it. I was just out of roller bottles at the time. This blend works well for my family, but as always you should do your own research and find what works best for you and yours.
Aromatools: Modern Essentials: A Contemporary Guide to the Therapeutic Use Of Essential Oils, 6th edition. 2014.
Singh, D., Agarwal, S.K. Himachalol andβ-himachalene: Insecticidal principles of himalayan cedarwood oil. J Chem Ecol 14, 1145–1151 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF01019342
Han-Young Choi, Young-Cheol Yang, Si Hyeock Lee, J. Marshall Clark, Young-Joon Ahn, Efficacy of Spray Formulations Containing Binary Mixtures of Clove and Eucalyptus Oils Against Susceptible and Pyrethroid/Malathion-Resistant Head Lice (Anoplura: Pediculidae) , Journal of Medical Entomology, Volume 47, Issue 3, 1 May 2010, Pages 387–391, https://doi.org/10.1093/jmedent/47.3.387