Ask An Herbalist: What are some essential oil free tick repelent options?

Summer asks,

This Oklahoma spring has us crawling with ticks! I've only seen one mosquito, but I'm sure they'll be swarming soon as well. I usually try to stick with citronella for insect repellent, but I have an open mind to your view opposing essential oils. What safe simple herbal suggestions could you make for repelling insects? I already eat plenty of garlic :) 

Thank you so much for sharing so much of your life with the world. You're an inspiration <3


Hello Summer!

Oh how I feel you on this! One word Yarrow! She is amazing at repelling not only ticks but mosquitoes too. In fact the US army preformed tests using yarrow and found it to be more effective than even DEET. However you will have to spray it on every hour or so versus every 12 hours with DEET.

You can make a yarrow tincture by placing fresh yarrow leaf (should be out in abundance if the ticks are, nature is awesome at being in tune like that!) cut up into a jar till at the very least half full then just dump 100 proof vodka to the brim cap and let set 3-6 weeks (8 weeks for medicinal use) then strain.

After straining I will cut the whole thing 50/50 with water again. This makes it go much further as well as makes the alcohol content only about 25%. So you wont smell like you've been doing some drinking back in the cuts haha!

But there's more you can do, I like to actually make an oil infusion out of yarrow as the scent will stick around for a few hours. Shoot on bad seasons I do both! An oil infusion is made in a similar manner with a few twists. Gather up you yarrow and let it set out a few days to wilt. This will help prevent your oils from going rancid. Chop it up put it in a jar. Cover with oil of your choice, regular olive oil is good or sunflower. Cap and set in a cool dark place for 3-6 weeks. No you can strain this and apply it as in with like a roller or squirt bottle or make it a bit more shelf stable by melting some bees wax into it to make a full on yarrow salve.

I've also had good results with using cedar in this way (even straight up cedar wood chips will work sold in the pet bedding section and such) making a tincture or infused oil.

Rosemary is another good option, I actually use infused rosemary oil to keep my kids from getting lice. They hate the smell.

Even mint will work great and comes in handy for keeping spiders and roaches at bay too!

Now I know you are currently under siege so hearing it will take weeks to be able to use something is likely well a put down. No worries! There are lots of options for scent that are essential oil free that you can use in the meantime. Did you know those lovely true cooking extracts in your local store are great for scent and are made from simple cold press methods?!

I just add about one tsp per cup of water in one of those little travel sized spray bottles and I'm good to go! I usually use the mint kind for this and may toss in a bit of citrus peel/extract for good measure.

Anyhow I sure hope you are enjoying spring and some stuff jabbered about here was of some help!

Kindest Regards,

April G.


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