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As is laid out in the section of Fragrances many household products contain ingredients that have been proven to contain undisclosed, toxic ingredients and common heavy-duty bug sprays like DEET have been proven toxic as well. Pharmacologist Mohamed Abou-Donia from Duke University discovered that prolonged exposure to DEET may impair cell function in parts of your brain. “Damage to these areas could result in problems with muscle coordination, muscle weakness, walking or even memory and cognition.”Abou-Donia says rats given even small doses of DEET for 60 days had a harder time accomplishing even the easiest tasks.4 This was demonstrated in the lab by behavioral changes and sometimes death in rats with frequent or prolonged DEET use.  The Duke pharmacologist adds, “We found that the combined exposure to DEET and other chemicals is more dangerous than just DEET alone.”5

Since many commercially sold insect-eliminating chemicals are undisclosed and untested, a combination of potentially hazardous and lethal chemicals may be getting sprayed onto a crop you or I will ingest in the near future. Like ammonia and bleach, two seemingly safe household chemicals which, when mixed, create poisonous chlorine gas, any number of similar, less obvious reactions may be occurring on a common basis in our farms. Yikes.

Many assume commercially sold pesticides and bug sprays are harmless and non-toxic to our bodies and world. But as long of insecticide manufacturers are concealing all the ingredients in their products, it is impossible to be certain.

 Terpene Infused Insect Control

Another powerful tactic is making your own products. Using terpene-infused essential oils is one way to ensure your household and body are clear of undisclosed toxic chemicals.

Garlic, hot pepper, peppermint, and clove oils are sold as insect repellents to protect plants. However, limited research is available about their effectiveness. Use of these naturally-occurring insect-repelling chemicals can provide non-toxic options to get rid of disease-carrying insects. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health is increasing research in a program entitled, Exploring the Mechanisms Underlying Analgesic Properties of Minor Cannabinoids and Terpenes. The NIH is allotting $3 million to the program, however, with enough support, both vocal and charitable support, research foundations can and will increase the amount of research on these compounds in order to understand them better and unravel unknown truths regarding their properties. The Department of Health and Human Services is another program which offers funding opportunities, at the time of writing, they have a clinical trial entitled Exploring the Mechanisms Underlying Analgesic Properties of Minor Cannabinoids and Terpenes. We have a lot to learn about terpenes and continued research is how we move away from cancer-causing synthetic chemicals in our households and in our lives.

Bug Bites

Insect bites can be incredibly irritating, itchy, and unsightly. Most insect inject formic acid into their victims, which leads to blisters, inflammation, swelling, redness, itching, and irritation. It is nearly impossible to spend a day in a forest or anywhere nature and not serve as a buffet of hemoglobin and plasma to the local mosquitos.

It is important to not scratch bug bites as this can re-open the wound which can lead to infection and thick, leathery skin. This process is called lichenification. In order to not be resist scratching, one must minimize the irritation. Some oils which work well in doing so are tea tree, menthol, lavender, and peppermint oils. Terpenes like menthol, eucalyptol, and geraniol in those oils reduce inflammation and ease the desire to itch while providing cooling relief.

Tea tree oil is ideal for small children who cannot resist the urge to scratch as it prevents bacteria and other microbes from invading the bite. Research shows that tea tree also acts as a natural antihistamine meaning it reduces swelling and itchiness. Camphor, chamomile, and lemongrass oil can also provide great relief and benefit to bug bites.

Oils can also be used to repel pesky and trespassing insects. Make your own non-toxic spray:

Insect Repellant:

  • 2 oz spray bottle
  • 1 oz witch hazel or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 oz distilled water
  • 5-10 drops catnip oil
  • 5-10 drops lemon eucalyptus oil
  • 5-10 drops citronella oil
  • 5-10 drops lemongrass oil or lemon eucalyptus oil
  • 3-8 drops patchouli

This combination can be made from home and safe to use. Apply generously and spray the surrounding areas. Increasing the concentration may be needed if not working for certain insects. As there are many oils in the formula, it is integral to start slowly and test each on your skin to make sure no reaction occurs. May be optimal to spray onto clothes more so than skin. Citronella oil is one of the most effective insect-controlling oils due to it monoterpene citronellol.

Pesticide Cleaning Produce Wash

When you buy fresh fruit and vegetables, one of the first steps you may take is to wash them under the faucet. While this may come down to habit or the prompting of your mother, father or loved one, real and legitimate reasons exist for washing your produce with more than just water before eating them.

Washing your vegetables is an extra measure that prevents food-borne illnesses, including those caused by bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria and E. coli. In addition, washing fruits and vegetables can eliminate any residue left by harmful pesticides.

For smaller and more delicate produce like berries, grapes, cherries, and small tomatoes, it will be easier to use:

  • 3 cups of warm water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 12 drops lemon oil

Mix the ingredients into a large bowl and place the produce in to soak in the cleansing formula for a minute or two. Lemon oil is a disinfectant and has anti-fungal, antiseptic, and detoxifying properties. For sturdier and larger produce, it will be easier to use the following:

  • ½ cup of water
  • ½ cup of white vinegar
  • 5 drops lemon oil

Mix the following into a spray bottle. Spray and then wipe down your potatoes, apples, lettuce, etc.with a clean kitchen towel. Limonene is a non-toxic anti-bacterial terpene found in lemon oil which will clean your produce. This mixture is a safe way to ensure your food is rid of pesticide residue, bacteria, and dirt, while being safe to consume.

Fleas & Lice

Lice infestation, or pediculosis, is a global issue. Many studies have been conducted in Asia, in Turkey, prevalence varied from 0.7% to 59%, data from Africa, were derived from Egypt found prevalence varied from 0% to 58.9%, In the United States, Cuba, and Argentina, prevalence varied from 3.6% to 61.4% and were higher in females in all accounts.6 Socioeconomic status seems to be an indicator of the magnitude of lice infestation.

Fleas are tiny parasitic insects that hitch a ride on dogs, cats, and our feet and bodies. Fleas can lead to a variety of health issues and complications like tapeworms, typhus, and other parasitic ailments, making their expediated removal a priority.

The management of head lice infestation has a major disadvantage compared to the control of other insect pests, as head lice must be completely eliminated to ensure their removal.7 However, the use of inappropriate chemicals have allowed head lice to develop resistance to a significant number of pesticides like lindane, DDT, carbaryl, and pyrethroids.8 Consequently, the use of naturally occurring insecticidal compounds (terpenes) could be an attractive alternative to control head lice, including those which are resistant to pesticides.

Essential oils have shown different results as pediculicidal agents (used to treat lice). Terpenes like 1,8-cineole, anisole, limonene, β-pinene, linalool, menthone, α-pinene, pulegone, and myrcene have demonstrated fumigant activity.9 According to a recent study, it has been suggested that the useful mechanism for terpene action could be due to competitive inhibition of the enzyme acetylcholine esterase.

Terpenes prevent the spread of lice by working against their nervous system. The inhibition of acetylcholine esterase either blocks nerve impulses or over-stimulates them. If the lice have not built a resistance, the compound binds onto chemicals on the cell membranes, causing a distortion in the membrane structure. As a result, the process by which the cell controls the flow of salts in and out from the cell is disrupted. This in turn results in a false stimulation of an electrical impulse within the nerve cell, which continues as long as the insecticide binds to the cell membrane receptors. The result is exhaustion of the insect’s nervous system.10 And then death.

Essential oils containing these insect-killing terpenes are tea tree, pennyroyal, cedarwood, lavender, lemon, lemongrass, clove, rosemary, basil, and thyme oil among many more. Dilute the oils and mix with a carrier oil like coconut oil apply directly onto the flea-infested skin, whether it is yours, your dog’s or other animal’s. Oils can also be blended with apple cider vinegar, mixed into a spray bottle and sprayed onto flea-infested areas like a dog bed, crate, rugs, etc.10 Rubbing these oils onto a dog’s collar is a great way to prevent them from being bitten, not only by fleas, but other insects as well. Another method to achieve such results is using a bandana infused with oils to ensure they are flea-free and adorable.

[Murphy with his bandana]

Citronella oil can be used as a carpet powder treatment to get rid of fleas. Fleas can hide deep in the carpet where the vacuum can sometime not reach.

  • 1 cup borax
  • 30 drops citronella oil

Mix the two well and sprinkle across the flea-infested area for a great-smelling flea-free carpet. Let the powder sit for at least 20 minutes to an hour, then vacuum.

Mosquitos

Potentially the single most annoying and despised organism in the entire world, mosquitos transmit deadly diseases and are often referred to as the most dangerous animal on the planet. Every year, approximately 700,000 people die from complications associated with etiologic disease agents transmitted by mosquitoes.11 Mosquitoes represent one of the most significant threats to human and veterinary health throughout the world. Over 3,500 unique species of mosquito currently inhabit different ecosystems and their ubiquity and capacity to transmit disease agents are unparalleled in the animal kingdom.11

Currently, there are recipes for DIY terpene-infused bug sprays, and while they may be non-toxic and effective, they are known to not last very long.12 The Center for Disease Control (CDC) claims that oil of lemon eucalyptus can be used as an effective repellent for mosquitoes.13

Other suitable oils for natural mosquito repellant are citronella, lemongrass, tea tree, catnip, peppermint, lavender, and cinnamon oils. The terpenes in these oils, geraniol, citronellol, limonene, eucalyptol, and citronellal, are among the most studied and most promising for their insect-repelling properties. There is a variety of mosquito and insect-repelling products one can effectively make from home with essential oils and a limited amount of supplies.

For a terpene-infused bug spray, you will need the following:

  • 8 ounces of witch hazel
  • 8 ounces of cheap, flavorless vodka
  • 16 oz spray bottle
  • 50-100 drops preferred essential oil(s)

It may be best to mix multiple oils to receive the benefits of more terpenes. However, one oil will suffice as well. Be careful with stronger, more potent mixtures around the skin, especially around the face and on those who have never used the oils. While the mixture is natural, it can still cause irritation, so it may be best to apply the majority of the spray onto clothing.

For an all-natural terpene-infused lotion or ointment, you will need the following:

  • 4 ounces of virgin coconut oil
  • 4 ounces of beeswax (optional)
  • 30-50 drops preferred essential oil(s)

Mix the ingredients well and store in the refrigerator to assure longevity. Once again, the more terpenes the better, so use as many as possible in the lotion.

Another use for these oils is in a bug repellant candle. This decorative and functional terpene-infused product is easy to make, smells great, and repels disease-spreading insects. To make, you will need:

  • 8-ounce Mason jar
  • Unscented candle (small enough to fit in a mason jar)
  • Sliced lemon and/or lime
  • 8 ounces of water
  • 30-60 drops preferred essential oil(s)

Place two to four slices of lemon and/or lime into the Mason jar. Mix your preferred essential oil(s) with the water and add the candle. Place the candle on top, light it, and enjoy! For more aesthetic and insect-repelling benefits, feel free to add rosemary, basil, citronella, or any other naturally repelling herbs.

Of course, these oils can be diffused as well. Try any combination of the aforementioned oils and determine which scents and mixtures smell and work the best. These terpenes can even be topically applied to an existing mosquito bite and will help get rid of the urge to scratch and aid in its healing.

The advantages of these plant-derived repellents are their non-toxic qualities, pleasant fragrance, and nice feeling on the skin, but we have to coax these natural compounds to last as long as today’s commercial products do.

 

Citations:

4 - "Contamination in U.S. Private Wells." United States Geological Services, www.usgs.gov/special-topic/      water-science-school/science/      contamination-us-private-wells?qt-science_center_objects=0#qt-science_center_objects. 5 - "MEDMINUTE: USE CAUTION WHEN USING INSECT REPELLENTS CONTAINING DEET." Duke Today, today.duke.edu/      2002/06/mm_deetmm0602.html. 6  - "Worldwide Prevalence of Head Lice." US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health,      NCBI, Sept. 2008, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2603110/.
7 - A. C. Toloza, Bioactividad y Toxicidad de Componentes de Aceites Esenciales Vegetales, en Pediculus Humanus Capitis (Phthiraptera: Pediculidae) Resistentes a Insecticidas Piretroides, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y Naturales, 2010.
8 - A. C. Toloza, J. Zygadlo, G. M. Cueto, F. Biurrun, E. Zerba, and M. I. Picollo, “Fumigant and repellent properties of essential oils and component compounds against permethrin-resistant Pediculus humanus capitis (Anoplura: Pediculidae) from Argentina,” Journal of Medical Entomology, vol. 43, no. 5, pp. 889–895, 2006.
9 - "HOW THE HEAD LICE PRODUCTS WORK." Lice World, liceworld.com/how-the-head-lice-products-work/.
10 - "9 Essential Oils that Kill and Repel Fleas." Central Park Paws, www.centralparkpaws.net/      flea-medication/9-flea-repellant-essential-oils/. 11  - "Current and Future Repellent Technologies: The Potential of Spatial Repellents and Their Place in      Mosquito-Borne Disease Control." US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health,      NCBI, Jan. 2017, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5334678/. 
12- "Why Plant-Based Mosquito Repellents Are So Hard to Make." Smithsonian, www.smithsonianmag.com/      innovation/why-plant-based-mosquito-repellents-are-hard-make-180970210/.
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