A woman called me for advice the other day; I’m glad she did. She was told to make a natural insect repellent for her 2 year old son from the following items; 4 tbsp. witch hazel, 30 drops citronella essential oil, 20 drops rosemary essential oil. I was almost speechless but then managed to blurt out… You haven’t put this on your son have you!!???

Mosquito 1
I will now explain why this blend is dangerous, ineffective and why the person who suggested it has no idea how to safely use or mix essential oils. I will also suggest safe options in place of it.
First of all, essential oils should always be properly diluted with such carriers as cream, lotion, liquid soap, vegetable oils or ointment. In the case of mixing with water, you must pre-mix the essential oils with some form of pure alcohol or glycerine first. If you do not, the oil will sit on top and remain a hazard as it is still in undiluted form.
Understanding this principle is important since witch hazel is mostly water. You can add any essential oils to this but they will sit on top and never mix. Please ignore any recipes which tell you to blend essential oils with witch hazel. I see it written everywhere but it is truly a case of incorrect information reprinted over and over without authors checking for glaring errors in efficacy, safety and basic chemistry. I believe the root of this ridiculous recommendation stems from the fact that many commercial witch hazels contain up to 30% alcohol. This is still not nearly enough alcohol to dissolve essential oils. A minimum 60% is required. I wouldn’t use commercial types anyways. For more on this subject, follow these links:

Witch Hazel Profile

Essential Oils Will Not Mix With Water!

Secondly, the potency of this mix even if it did blend well, is beyond basic safety protocols. Safe levels of essential oils in a product which is to be applied to the skin range from 0.25 -3%,  the former being safe for children and the latter being the extreme end. This supposed blend tops out at just over 4%. If you are going to make a blend of essential oils even approaching 3% which is to be applied to the skin, make sure that you or the person who made it have extensive training in all aspects of essential oils. There are very few reasons to create blends this strong as more is not better with essential oils. There is now the potential hazard of irritation even on the most hearty of skin types; and certainly not for the delicate skin of a 2 year old child.

By the way, I have an extensive background in clinical treatment of several illnesses and skin conditions in my 25 years, and I can’t think of many scenarios where I would even think of doing this.

The choice of essential oils is also to be questioned. While the two previously mentioned oils are effective insect repellents, they are also quite aggressive and harsh. Once again, not a good choice where children are concerned.  I would be more inclined to substitute with lemongrass and or geranium.  Much safer options for children, and in my opinion more effective.

Oh and one more thing; ignore recipes that use measurements such as "tablespoon", or "½ cup". This reveals how an amateur blends oils. These terms should be reserved for cooking, not formulating a precise essential oil blend for therapeutic use. Chemists and other professionals use grams, mls, oz etc. scales and graduated cylinders as they are standard and precise.

So What Can You Do?
Since there are few essential oils which are safe and limited amounts which can be applied to children, a different strategy is required. My suggestion is this:
1. Wash your children’s clothes in neutral soaps that do not have fragrances and other chemicals which attract bugs. Get rid of the fabric softener as well. This stuff is the worst for attracting mosquitoes not to mention many other health hazards. For more on that click here Natural Alternatives to Fabric Softeners

2. If you have a suitable liquid soap to use, this is where you can add significant amounts of key essential oils to the soap, mix well and add to wash cycle. Some of the best are citronella, lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass and cedarwood. Basil works well during black fly season. An example of a good dosage is to add 20- 30 drops of any of these essential oils or combination to 30 ml (1 oz) liquid soap. This makes the child’s clothes unappealing to bugs.

3. You can make a strong spray to apply around the child and on hats, blankets, camping equipment etc. Be sure to avoid direct contact with eyes and mouth. Mix 50 drops of any of the above mentioned essential oils to 30 ml glycerine. Put in a spray bottle and add 100 ml water. Always shake before use.

4. With regards to topical applications, one of the only essential oils I recommend  for children which is gentle yet has strong insect repellent properties is geranium. I suggest only 2-3 drops of geranium in 15 ml of vegetable oil such as fractionated coconut or a plant based cream or lotion. You can apply this liberally on exposed skin. Mix well and be careful to not apply too close to the eyes. Geranium has also proven to be popular as a tick repellent.

I know this may seem like a bit of work but if you want to reduce the early exposure of your children to chemicals such as deet, phthalates and other petrochemicals, it should be time well invested. When you feel that you have the right mix of product that is effective, you can start making larger batches and be ready for the season. Now get out there and enjoy the rest of the summer with your kids.

Sandy Powell

Nascent Naturals Inc

© Nascent Naturals Inc. 2017 All rights reserved.

A customer asked me recently if rose geranium essential oil was effective to repel ticks and fleas on dogs. Aside from my disdain for this oil ( I refer to it as one of the GMO’s of the essential oil world) which is another blog brewing, I would say yes to the geranium part, no to the rose part. Given that this is a fairly expensive essential oil, all you have is an overpriced ineffective bug repellant which will leave your pet smelling real pretty - which they hate.

If you want to use oils which are effective and lower priced, try a geranium, basil, cedarwood mix. This blend will help to repel ticks in the first place. If you follow these three effective applications, you will make your dog's environment unappealing to these nasty lyme disease spreading vermin (OK, so I don't like ticks).

 If your dog has a cloth collar, you can put a few drops of these oils right on it and let them soak in.

Make a spray by adding 20 drops of a combination of the previously mentioned essential oils together in a small glass or metal cup. Add about 30 ml glycerine. Make sure the oils mix well with the glycerine.   Then add to a 250 ml spray top bottle and fill remaining amount with water. Always shake before use. Be sure to not spray the mix in the dog’s eyes.

 Add about 10 drops of any combo of these oils to about 1 oz (30 ml) to a natural unscented soap base and mix well. Wash your dog with it.  The mix will smell more outdoorsy and it will be less likely that they will roll in something disgusting to get rid of the foo foo smelling shampoo you currently use. Strong fragrances attract bugs as well.

 Nothing is foolproof with tick prevention, so if a tick has latched on to your pooch, don’t drop soaps/oils or anything else right on the tick. This can cause the tick to clamp harder or even die, leaving harmful pathogens under the skin.

tick sizes

A safe way to remove a tick is to get a flat pair of tweezers or tick removal instrument. Many vets and pet stores will sell them. Gently get under the tick’s head and lift up slightly. Take a drop of pure marjoram on a q-tip and position it at the tip of the head or slightly under if you can get it to lift that high. Ticks hate the smell and may release its grip to get away from it.  You can then safely dispose of the little bugger any way you see fit. Remember to never pull a tick straight out of a dog’s or human’s skin as the legs will snap off, leaving harmful bacteria below the surface.

For more info on some of these oils and other ingredients listed, please click here to visit our website.

You're Welcome! - Sandy Powell

©Nascent Naturals Inc.  2015 All rights reserved.

711 Yonge Street
Midland ON
L4R 2E1
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