Ah, the great outdoors – the sun is shining, birds are singing, and you’re free to enjoy it all – when suddenly you hear that dreaded “bzzz.” The fear of being covered in agonizing bug bites can get even some of the most health-conscious people slather on mainstream bug sprays. It’s smart to be cautious, as mosquitoes and ticks bear more risk than simple irritation or itchiness. They can transmit diseases like Lyme and West Nile Virus. Malaria, for instance, is responsible for over500,000 deaths a year.
(Incidentally, only female mosquitoes bite (males feed on flower nectar) because they require blood to produce eggs. Their mouthparts are constructed so that they pierce the skin, literally sucking the blood out. Their saliva lubricates the opening.)
However, most mainstream repellents, such as OFF, mainly contain harsh toxins that negatively effect the body – why expose yourself to such things when there are natural bug repellents that are even more effective than the mainstream ones?
What’s So Bad about Mainstream Repellents?
Most mainstream brands mainly use DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) , which is so strong that it has the power to melt plastic upon application! Is that what you want sinking into your pores?
In the last 30 years of studies, the following adverse health effects of DEET have been traced:
• Impaired brain cell function, neurotoxicity 8, 9
• Memory loss
• Nausea and vomiting
• Skin irritation, hives, blistering
• Shortness of breath
• Muscle weakness
• Muscle and joint pain
• Pain, irritation, and watering eyes
Keep in mind that children’s skin is more absorbent, which makes chemicals exert more potent effects on their developing nervous systems, putting them at risk for subtle neurological changes – among the many other side effects.
Pregnant woman should also be very careful applying DEET. There have been several cases of women who applied a significant amount of DEET during a portion of their pregnancy (sometimes for a period as short as a week), and their babies consequently developed serious defects and/or diseases.
Permethrin, a member of the neurotoxic pyrethroid family of synthetic chemicals, is another potentially harmful chemical found in many mainstream bug sprays. Synthetic pyrethroids are synthesized derivatives of naturally occurring pyrethrins, which are taken from extracts of dried chrysanthemum flowers.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has officially deemed them carcinogenic. This means slathering on bug repellents can cause immune system problems, lung and liver tumors, and chromosomal abnormalities. Studies have also linked pyrenthroids to behavior problems in children.
And putting ourselves aside for a moment, permethrin has horribly toxic effects on the environment. Honeybees, cats, and aquatic life are extremely susceptible to the toxicity of this chemical. Thus, if you’re wearing bug repellent and basking in nature – even your own backyard – you can potentially harm some of your animal friends.
According to Susan Brandt, co-founder of
an eCommerce gardening website called Blooming Secrets, “when you use chemical bug repellents, you wind up killing beneficial bugs.” Our whole environment is thrown off balance by use of toxic bug sprays – and that’s nothing to be taken lightly.
The Seeming Catch 22
Look, we all know what it’s like to try natural products that simply aren’t as effective as the chemical ones. The natural laundry detergents that simply don’t combat major stains the way the mainstream ones do. Then natural toothpaste that doesn’t keep your teeth as sparkling white as Crest might. And when you’re out on a tropical or woodsy escape during your few vacation days, you may not want to jeopardize everything by trying out a natural insect repellent. Especially since most of the natural products that you might have tried in the past smelled bad and/or weren’t so helpful.
What’s more, most trusted sources, such as state agencies, will advise anyone going into forested areas to apply as much DEET as possible.
Most people are left feeling like they are stuck with two choices: to either put toxins into their skin or get bitten up by potentially life-threatening bugs.
Nature Really Does Hold the Key
Fortunately, for the first time in years, there are natural bug repellents on the market that have been proven to be more effective than mainstream, chemical ones. A 2015 investigation by Consumer Reports had brave people test out a wide array of both commercial and natural repellents and then, under surveillance, exposed them to bugs. They had tried similar tests for years, and DEET had always come in first. But this year, many of the newer natural bug repellents proved to keep bugs off more effectively than DEET!
“The use of essential oils as bug repellents dates back to over 1,000 years ago,” says Michael Fensterstock, who together with his wife Michelle, created Aromaflage, a natural bug repellent that is not only effective but also smells so good that it doubles as a perfume.
“There are allusions to the use of botanical extracts to repel insects in ancient Roman, Greek, and Indian texts. Tropical regions worldwide use this practice.”
So, effective natural bug repellents aren’t really such a novel concept. It’s just that it takes us Westerners a little bit of time to catch on to age-old truths.
For Further Reading:
Submit your story or essay to Buzzworthy Blogs.