A version of this article originally appeared in Edible Toronto Magazine, where Kate regularly contributes articles about health, wellness and holistic living.

When the Bug Bites, When the Bee Stings

Sometimes there is no escape from the unavoidable onslaught of bug season. Flies, mosquitoes, ticks, and other warm weather bugs can cause painful wounds, putting a damper on summer fun.

But commercial bug repellents are full of harmful chemicals that can cause rashes, skin sensitivities, and allergic reactions, especially in children and those more sensitive. Additionally, most commercial insect repellents contain the pesticide DEET.

This compound is so toxic that the Environmental Protection Agency suggests washing it off your skin when returning indoors, avoiding breathing it in, and not spraying repellent directly onto your face. With these warnings, I would say it’s best to avoid it altogether!

Luckily, toxin-free replacements for these summer essentials are quick, easy, and affordable to make. And, with the internet, sourcing the best ingredients has become a non-issue. The recipes below require minimum skill and effort but reap maximum results when it comes to your health. Plus, they are kinder to the environment too. 

Homemade essential oil bug sprays are easy-to-make, smell great, and are safe for the whole family. The quality of ingredients is very important for maximum potency and effectiveness so be sure to select 100 percent pure essential oils to get the best results.

The special blend of essential oils in the recipe below has been used for centuries to dispel bugs. Citronella’s distinctive odour is pleasant for us but confuses bugs, making it difficult for them to locate a host. It is also environmentally friendly, helping to repel bugs without harming or killing them.

Lemongrass oil has traditionally been used in the tropics to help repel insects and bugs. It has a delicious earthy and lemony scent and pairs well with the fresh and cooling properties of peppermint oil, which is particularly effective in repelling mosquitoes.

Bug-Be-Gone Essential Oils Bug Repellent Spray

Ingredients

6 tablespoons distilled water
1 tablespoon vegetable glycerin
10 drops citronella essential oil
10 drops lemongrass essential oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil
10 drops eucalyptus essential oil

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a 1/2 cup or 125 mL glass spray bottle and shake well before each use.
  2. Spray as needed, or about every two hours, when outdoors during bug season.

Speedy Heal Anti-Itch Bug Bite Balm

If you run out of bug spray or forget to bring a bottle along, you might become familiar with the unfortunate sensation of the bug bite. Itchy, burning, red, hot, and swollen, it can be very painful and unpleasant.

Bug bite creams are an effective way to help combat the painful symptoms while speeding up healing and helping you get back to summer activities. However, the average commercial bug bite cream may contain neurotoxins which soak into the skin and can negatively affect nerve and brain function. They can also have short-term side effects like rashes and skin sensitivities.

This safer, cleaner alternative contains no neurotoxins or harmful chemicals and can be used freely by the whole family. Calendula flowers are smoothing and promote healing while tea tree oil disinfects the bite; and lavender and peppermint oils help cool and reduce inflammation.

Ingredients

1/4 cup beeswax 
1/2 cup shea or cocoa butter 
3/4 cup dried calendula flowers
12 drops tea tree oil
12 drops lavender essential oil
10 drops peppermint essential oil

Instructions

  1. Create a double broiler by bringing a small pot with a little water (about 2 inches) to a boil.
  2. Place a stainless steel or heatproof glass bowl on top making sure it’s just above the water.
  3. Melt the beeswax and shea/cocoa butter together in the bowl.
  4. Meanwhile, using a clean coffee grinder, pulse the calendula flowers into small pieces.
  5. Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the flowers. Let this warm mixture sit and infuse for 25 minutes.
  6. Strain out the flowers and add in the essential oils.
  7. Place in a small glass jar and let set overnight.