Bug Off! Keeps the Bugs at Bay

We want to avoid potential toxic products that can be harmful to the planet whenever possible, but need something effective to keep away insects as part of our summer personal protection plan. Our wise ancestors knew which plants had natural defenses against pests and would plant those with repelling aromatics around the garden as well as where people tend to congregate. Some of our favorite aromatic scents are a part of a plant’s natural defense system!

As an alternative to carrying potted plants every where you go, we use essential oils and other plant preparations to harness their anti-pest powers for our own use. 

Summer essentials: a hat and a potted plant

Bug Off!: A Natural Deterrent against Mosquitos, Moths, Gnats, Ticks & Flies.

(Does not deter people and good conversations!)


Spray on your exposed areas of skin as well as hats and clothes (does not stain fabric). Reapply as needed, around every few hours and more often if used while swimming. Avoid eye-contact and rinse with water should it occur. Apply to little ones by spraying your palm and rubbing it on to their skin to help avoid accidental eye contact. Travel tip: This formula can also be useful as a disinfectant for hands and toilet seats when necessary.

Complete List of Ingredients:

  • Witch Hazel Hydrosol: An effective astringent that relieves sores, bruises, swelling, and itching wile adding a freshness to the mix while an effective way to disperse the essential oils without compromising the skin’s structural integrity and pH.
  • 7% Organic Double Distilled Alcohol: Protects the integrity of the product and helps it to disappear without leaving a residue on clothing. (patch-test special things and delicate fabrics first just to be sure…)
  • Neem Oil (Azadirachta indica) Neem, known in Aryruveda as “the curer of all ailments,” is also protective against buggy pests. It confuses the insects’ hormonal responses and they tend to not want to feed or breed after being exposed to it. We sell a large, garden version for you to put in a spray bottle and dilute with water to keep those same pests from destroying your bounty!
  • Lemon Eucalyptus: (Eucalyptus citriodora) Also known as Quwenling (meaning “effective repellent of mosquitoes” in Chinese) We wanted maximum natural protection against mosquitos and believe our combination of woodsy essences to be the best possible chemical-free protection against bug bites. The refined version called Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus or PMD and has been shown in studies to have effectiveness at the same levels as DEET, but it is considered unsafe for toddlers, so we chose to use the less-refined but still potent essential oil.
  • White Thyme: Mosquitos don’t like this, which is a great excuse to plant bunches of it in your garden and have it handy for cooking as well.
  • Geranium Oil (Pelargonium graveolens): The absolute best tick deterrent. They RUN the other direction from it.
  • Cedar, Cypress, Rosewood and Juniper Oil: The essential oils from the barks of these trees provide wonderful staying power, meaning less applications are needed, as they diversify the aromatics in an effort to disgust even more varieties of buggies. (Meaning that they smell good and add moths to our list of bugs who doesn’t like our bug off. (Cedrus deodara, Cupressus sempervirens, Aniba roseodora, Juniperus communis)
  • Lavender Oil: A powerful antiseptic providing topical pain (and itch) relief for the bites you got before applying Bug Off!

About Essential Oils:

Essential oils are volatile, alkaloid liquids that are derived from distilling plants (leaves, seeds, roots and/or flowers depending on the plant and the intention) to get the precious drops of “essence.” In their natural environment, these essences protect their plant from insects, diseases and environmental threats as well as provide the plant with it’s own message system (kind of like hormones) that tell the plants what they need to do. Essential oils are a precious resource that are most effective when handled with consideration and care. When we use essential oils in this manner, we offer our respect to the wisdom of our elders.

The dilution of essential oils are at a level considered safe to use on young children and during pregnancy, but ask your doctor or pediatrician before use if you have any concerns. Newborns under 2 months of age shouldn’t use any kind of bug spray: better to keep them covered or indoors. Essential oils are considered safe for dogs, but not for cats.

What It Doesn’t Have:

No synthetic or petroleum based ingredients. Hypoallergenic, non-irritating, vegan, & biodegradable. {We do not use polysorbate 20 as a dispersant so you will need to shake before use to distribute the essential oils}

Oil-Free & Soy-free: no “vegetable” oils so it will not stain fabric, dissipates from the surface of the skin so that it leaves it “potent” constituents behind.

Citronella: There are some stories from the wise women that the reason citronella is used is to burn it away from where the people are so that the insects are attracted to the scent and flame. Added bonus: You won’t smell like a candle!

DEET: While DEET and other strong, artificial chemicals are approved by the US EPA and have been proven effective, it is a known eye irritant and can cause rashes, soreness, or blistering when applied to the skin. Additionally, DEET has been linked to neurological problems, particularly in children(1). Environmentally, DEET has been shown to have a profound impact on wildlife and water sources in production and during use. Highly toxic to birds and aquatic life, it has contaminated over 75 percent of U.S. water sources.

Further Wisdom

About Mosquitos:

  • Mosquitos are bad fliers so a small fan will interfere with their flight path towards you. A porch with a ceiling fan is another good idea. If you swat at mosquitos, you can teach them to leave you alone (for about 1 day) because they can recognize your smell and hate air vibrations. I’m not kidding. It was on NPR.
  • Stagnant pools or puddles (including bird baths) can quickly become mosquito breeding grounds. Clear them at least every 3 days (more if possible) and try to keep all water fresh and moving.
  • Mosquitos are out and more active during the early morning and at twilight. Be prepared when heading out around that time.
  • Mosquitos like some people’s scents more than others: Each humans gives off a distinct blend of four compounds that are emitted as odors by our skin and three are detectable by mosquitoes. Of the three, “nonanal” registers the highest sensitivity in a mosquito’s brain. (Meaning that it LIKES it.) Some essential oils that include this compound are rose, citrus and pine oils. Avoid strong use of these oils before your outdoor gatherings and see what happens.
  • Mosquitoes’ sensory organs seek sources of carbon dioxide and lactic acid because these substances lead them to humans and other warm blooded animals. Do not use a product that uses lactic acid and stays on your skin before going outdoors.
  • Dark colored clothes (particularly black, dark blue, and red as well as large, dark, flowery prints) stand out to mosquitoes and lights up a “yummy” message in their sensory parts.

If You Do Get a Mosquito Bite:

  • Remember that the swelling is your body’s immune response (uncomfortable as it may be) to get rid of the enzymes that it recognizes as foreign. Think twice before you decide to suppress it with an “anti-“ cream. When you tell the body not to fix a problem, it usually responds by creating a bigger response the next time (which is better, in my humble opinion, than having it give up on you…)
  • Some people are more reactive to mosquito bits than others. Improve your body’s cellular communication so that you have a better, more pleasant immune response. We have some articles on this or you could book a consultation with one of our herbalists or skin care specialists.
  • To relieve the itchiness and help protect the are naturally, Cow Fart Juice or Cow Fart Goo may be applied to the area after it has been cleaned. You can also chew up a bit of plantago that you can find in your garden (or just about anywhere) and apply it directly to the area.
  • A little squirt of our bug off can give the itchy area immediate relief.

About Ticks:

  • Tall grass is the ideal home for ticks, so keep it trim to generally deter their presence.
  • Wear long, light-colored pants tucked into your tall, light colored socks to go hiking in the woods or through tall grasses. Wear a hat to protect your scalp (and a brim to protect your face!)
  • Showering within two hours of coming indoors has been shown to reduce your risk of getting Lyme disease. Showering may help wash off unattached ticks and it is a good opportunity to do a tick check.

Tick Check:

As soon you get home from a outing start checking. Some diseases can only be transmitted after 24 hours of the tick feeding.

  • Strip off all your clothes and shake them in a dry bathtub. You should see any ticks against the white tub and it keeps them from the rest of the bathroom.
  • Check your body from the top down. Use a mirror to check your behind if necessary.
  1. Hair: Check your hair by running your fingers against your scalp checking the entire scalp for small bumps and then follow with a comb.
  2. In and around the ears.
  3. Neck
  4. Under the arms
  5. Under breasts
  6. Around the waist
  7. Inside belly button (Ticks like dark areas)
  8. Between the legs, buttocks and groin
  9. Back of the knees
  10. Ankles and feet (Look between the toes)
  • Bath your body well in hot (but not too hot!) water.
  • Shake all clothing in the bathtub before bringing to laundry.

If You Find a Tick

  • No need to panic—just remove the tick as soon as possible.
  • Remove the tick by grasping it close to the skin with a pair of tweezers.
  • Do not squeeze the body of the tick or attempt to remove the tick through burning or chemicals or solvents such as Vaseline or ammonia.
  • Pull straight-out.
  • Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.
  • Never crush a tick with your fingers. Dispose of a live tick by putting it in alcohol, placing it in a sealed bag/container, wrapping it tightly in tape, or flushing it down the toilet.
  • After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with soap and water.
You can also make a nourishing soup using astragalus root, mushrooms, and bay leaves


  • Make 1 quart of astragalus root herbal infusion (because it is delicious and can help boost your immune system!). Steep 1 oz astragalus root in 1 quart of boiling water for 4-8 hours. Keep in the refrigerator and drink throughout the next day or two. It can be made into delicious ice pops—especially with anti-inflammatory black cherry juice concentrate.
  • Watch for signs of illness such as rash or fever in the days and weeks following the bite, and see a health care provider if these develop. Your risk of acquiring a tick-borne illness depends on many factors, including where you live, what type of tick bit you, and how long the tick was attached. If you become ill after a tick bite, see a health care provider and be sure to tell them about your recent tick bite, when the bite occurred, and where you most likely acquired the tick.

Products Mentioned In This Article:

Bug Off!
Infused Witch Hazel
Garden Neem
Cow Fart Juice
Cow Fart Goo

Rabbit Hole

NPR’s How to teach Mosquitos to leave you alone

The CDC’s advice on ticks

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found that DEET causes diffuse brain cell death and behavioral changes in rats. (1) http://www.dukehealth.org/health_library/news/5500

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