July 2012
The Herb Farm

Natural Ways to Keep Bugs Away


Pennyroyal is a low-growing groundcover that actually repels fleas, ticks, chiggers and mites.

Thank you for letting me take the month of June off. I needed the rest. There are times when I hate my garden, but that is only when I’m forced to stay away from it. I love gardening with such a passion that if I were told I would never be allowed to garden again, I would just go ahead and die. Gardening, growing plants, learning, sharing and observing are big reasons for me to want to live! That is why I have dedicated my efforts to finding out the healthiest way for me to live and I want to share my findings with you, but you should do your own research before trying anything I report.

One thing I know for sure already is bugs really bug me and dumping chemicals on me, in the air or on the ground is definitely not the healthy way to go! I used to be a fan of DEET (the active ingredient in most insect repellants), but chemicals that deteriorate plastic and polyester can’t possibly be good for your skin.

Over the past several years, I have tried various home concoctions to keep mosquitoes from biting me. Now, with the advent of the Internet, there are probably a million really good/bad ideas for keeping bugs away. It seems somebody is always trying something that works for them and they have to post the information online without scientific trials or testing. Just because a mosquito won’t bite your skin while you have coated it with a lard and castor oil cream, doesn’t mean it is a breakthrough remedy.

Here are a few things I have tried and they really work for me.

Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is the same mint I prefer in teas and Mexican cuisine, but the essential oils, when diluted with vegetable oil and applied to exposed skin, will repel mosquitoes, gnats and other small biters.

Mountainmint (Pycnanthemum sp.) essential oils can be used the same way as spearmint. Mountainmint grows wild all over North America, but clustered mountainmint (Pycnanthemum muticum), which is native to the southeastern states, will repel mosquitoes and gnats by rubbing the leaves on the exposed skin and clothing.

Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) is also known as mosquito plant, but a lot of plants carry that common name. You may have read my references to this plant in previous articles. It is a low-growing perennial groundcover that actually repels fleas, ticks chiggers and mites. I grow it here for that reason. Additionally, the leaves can be crushed and rubbed on the skin and clothing to repel mosquitoes, gnats and other no-see-ums. Pennyroyal is an abortifacient and, because some humans are extremely sensitive to the chemicals in the plant, should be carefully tested before it is used directly on the skin.

Lemongrass is an all-natural mosquito repellent.


Patio torches filled with citronella oil help keep the bugs away.


Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a relatively tall, clumping perennial grass that is a very close cousin to citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus), which is used in insect repelling oils. In fact, lemongrass is being used in torch oils and insect repellant sprays because of its effectiveness.


Patio torches filled with citronella oil help keep the bugs away.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is another fragrant mint that goes a long way in keeping mosquitoes from biting. Although the repelling properties wear off in a relatively short time, basil leaves rubbed on the exposed skin will keep you safe while you are outdoors. I use it while weeding and cultivating the herb and flower beds. Basil has a wonderful aroma and I enjoy crushing some leaves every time I go to the garden, just because it smells good.

Sulfur (S) also repels mosquitoes, but the odor is a bit too much for me to tolerate while I garden. I use it whenever hiking in the woods to keep chiggers and ticks from crawling up my legs. I just sprinkle a little on my socks and shoes.

Using good sense is the best way to avoid using chemicals on your body. Here are a few basic tips to keep mosquitoes and other small biting insects from bugging you this summer.


Sweet basil can help keep mosquitoes from biting, but wears off in a relatively short time.

Keep the breeding grounds out of service. Don’t allow water to collect in reservoirs. Keep the water changed in pet dishes. Empty and refill birdbaths at least every three days. If you have a garden pond, use an all-natural, organic water breaker to keep insects from laying eggs.

Blue Spice basil, right, has an unusual aroma bugs don’t like.


Plan your activities when the mosquitoes are less active. Dawn and dusk are prime times for biters. If you are entertaining outdoors in the evening, be sure to use mosquito-repelling torches and candles. Also, flying insects do not like breezes. An oscillating fan on the patio of deck will help keep your guests from being attacked and annoyed.

Finally, I know it is hot outside. But, wearing a lightweight long sleeve shirt and lightweight trousers will go a long way in protecting you from being bitten by the blood suckers! Besides that, it will help you protect your skin from the dangerous rays of the sun.

Enjoy this summer without using chemicals. Protect yourself naturally.

Next time, we’ll have more on herbal alternatives for our health.

Until then, watch your salt and sugar, drink plenty of pure water and breathe in and out!

Thanks for reading!

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Be sure to find me on Facebook at "Herb Farmer-The Herb Farm."

As always, check with an expert, like your doctor, before using any herbal remedy.