We’ve written before about the dangers of commercial bug sprays.
Sure, bugs can be a real pain—as summer sets in and the pests begin to descend, even the most health-conscious purists can be tempted to reach for the nearest can of repellant.
But just remember that the relief offered by chemical bug sprays is not worth the health consequences of poisoning yourself with DEET.
N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide is one of many industrial chemicals treasured by corporations for its inexpensiveness, the ease with which it can be manufactured en masse, and its consistent ability to provide relief from pesky insects. Unfortunately, though—like so many other products of convenience offered within our commercial society—corporations love to hide the fact that their “effective” product is also extremely toxic.
DEET is so poisonous that even the EPA recommends that you thoroughly wash it off your skin before entering your house, lest you pollute your home with it and continue to inhale its fumes. They even advise calling Poison Control if you spray it in your eyes or mouth by accident. Bug spray manufacturers simply place a “For external use only” label on the can and call it safe.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Your skin is the largest organ in your body, and an extremely porous membrane to boot—many toxins are absorbed even more readily through the skin than when they’re actually consumed (recall our article about how showering in chlorinated water can be even more dangerous than drinking it).
DEET exposure can cause a wide variety of adverse effects, including redness, irritation, blistering, burning, permanent scarring, respiratory problems, neurological damage, disorientation, and death. One study found that even low-strength DEET caused respiratory distress and seizures in an 18-month-old boy, and formed the basis of the hypothesis that applying DEET-containing bug sprays to children can lead to various development problems.
Bug spray companies continue to hide behind what they call the “limited” body of research demonstrating the neurotoxic effects of DEET. Thus far, though, every study conducted by unbiased researchers has suggested that DEET is to be avoided at all costs—and many scientists are calling for more comprehensive studies.
Just know that there’s more than enough evidence to warrant avoiding DEET bug sprays. And luckily, there’s one completely safe alternative that works just as well.
Yarrow is more effective and completely non-toxic
If you’ve been part of the natural health community for long, you’ve probably already noticed that Nature has provided us with an unbelievable bounty of wonderfully sophisticated natural medicines. And the more conventional medical scientists open their minds to researching plants and natural substances, the more they find just how sophisticated these natural medicines really are.
The use of conventional medicines nearly always carries a long list of side effects, which we’ve been made to believe is an inevitable and small price to pay. This is probably why our society is able to overlook the deleterious effects of DEET—like all medications and commercial lifestyle solutions, the inherent risks are simply a natural part of the relief offered by the product.
But with natural alternatives, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Case in point: the United States Army found that a concentrated tincture of yarrow is a stronger insect repellant than DEET, and it works without any health risks whatsoever.
And the best part is that yarrow is a plant that grows naturally in the vast majority of the United States, can be easily harvested, and just as easily made into a usable tincture in your own home. Why use expensive, toxic, DEET-laced products, when you can easily make your own bug spray that’s just as effective and completely safe?
It can be very difficult to break the patterns of convenience into which we’ve been trained. I don’t have time to make my own self-care products. The natural versions never work as well as the “real thing” anyway, so the extra cost is worth it. These are the kind of limiting beliefs that keep us locked in the cycle of purchasing poisonous products, even though we know better.
But just break the cycle once, and you’ll never go back.
How to make your own yarrow tincture
Making your own yarrow insect repellant is much easier than you may think. Just follow these simple steps…
Gather yarrow. Look up a picture of yarrow, and seek out some in your area. You’ll almost surely be able to gather more than enough wild yarrow for your purposes, but if necessary, you can always purchase dried plant matter in bulk from reputable online sources or local herbal supply stores.
Make the preparation. Fill a jar all the way to the top with undamaged, chopped yarrow plant pieces (excluding the flowers and buds, which you can save to make a highly medicinal tea). Pour in 100 proof vodka or similar grain alcohol (choose one made from potatoes if you have a sensitivity to gluten). Add more alcohol over time as the plant matter absorbs it, and let the concoction sit for at least six weeks (the longer you let it sit, the more assured you can be that the tincture is maximum potency). If you’re using dried yarrow root instead of fresh root, use 2 ounces of root and 10 ounces of alcohol. Strain the tincture into a spray bottle.
Apply as necessary. Spray liberally onto the skin whenever you need to keep bugs at bay. Note that yarrow works best when applied often, ideally every twenty to thirty minutes. As long as you follow this simple guideline, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the effectiveness of this simple plant tincture.