Fighting off mosquitos the 'natural' way

Wednesday, August 7th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The best way to fight West Nile virus is to avoid mosquito bites. One of the most recommend ways to do that is use an insect repellent that contains "Deet" - a chemical that forms a vapor barrier around your skin so bugs can't smell you.

But is Deet isn’t the only thing that keeps mosquitoes at bay? News on Six medical reporter Tami Marler went to Binding Stevens to find some natural alternatives. What if you don't want Deet on your skin? You can do what people have done for centuries.

Bee Gray is tending her garden, and trying to avoid the inevitable bug bites. But Bee doesn't use products that contain Deet to protect against mosquitoes, even though she knows it's clinically proven to be safe and effective. "Because I don't like putting chemicals on my body." She's been using natural products to fight off mosquitoes for years, it helps that she's an herbalist. "I'd prefer to put something on my body that comes from a plant. Our bodies are just more adjusted to deal with plants rather than using something that's a chemical that comes from a laboratory."

Bee recommends essential oils, the immune system of a plant that drives away anything that can do it harm, including bugs. "Mosquitoes are directed to us by their sense of smell; and if we have something on us that they find revolting, then they're not going to come around." Herbal Glen customers use “Burt's Bees”, a ready-made, all-natural blend. Many drug stores carry natural repellents like "Buzz Away”, made up of citronella and cedar wood.

Others like Bee Gray, mix up a home brew. "And if you want to do a spritzer or a splash, you can do this." Bee says to mix two drops of thyme with the same amount of lavender and peppermint, and then add five drops of lemon grass oil. For lotions, add two drops of the mixture with two teaspoons of oil, like olive or grape seed. For a spritzer, four drops of the mixture to two teaspoons of alcohol and 4 tablespoons of water. Bee says - unlike products that contain Deet, your body will use every bit of it. "People eat garlic, you know how they get garlic breath? That's the essential oil. The body's absorbed however much it can and then it gives it off."

Bee also says you can also use essential oils outdoors to ward off mosquitoes, put drops on pieces of paper or ribbons and hang them around your sitting area. Or, you can use plants like the citronella geranium found at Binding Stephens. They say mosquitoes hate those.

Remember, Deet is still the recommended weapon; herbal alternatives must be reapplied often.