For decades, the insect repellent DEET has been the “gold standard” when it comes to deterring mosquitoes. Parents slather themselves and their children alike with unknown chemical compounds that soak into the skin and cause potentially irreversible health complications such as seizures, disorientation, and skin conditions. But if that’s the only option it’s surely better than contracting the West Nile, or Zika virus carried by mosquitoes, right? Well, recent research suggests there may be a more effective natural alternative available in the form of coconut oil.
In recent years, many people have become concerned with the side effects of DEET and other synthetic, chemical-laden bug repellent. This public health and safety outcry has caused researchers to go on the hunt for natural remedies that can match DEETs standards, without the harmful toxins. One study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, found that compounds derived from coconut oil are better than DEET at repelling various blood-sucking insects.
Coconut Oil Bug Repellent vs. DEET
The study showed that the coconut oil-derived free fatty acid mixture—lauric acid, capric acid, and caprylic acid as well as their corresponding methyl esters was more than 95 percent effective against stable flies on cattle compared to DEETs 50 percent effectiveness. It was also able to repel bed bugs and ticks for up to two weeks, whereas DEET only worked for three days. The coconut oil compound was the only tested natural option that provided long-lasting protection from insects.
The study authors stressed that it isn’t coconut oil itself that showed natural repellent capabilities, but rather the extracted compounds. So don’t wade into a mosquito-infested swamp armed only with a jar of coconut oil. The research is promising because it paves the way for the development of a natural, coconut-oil based product that could protect from insect-transmitted diseases and bites, without harmful toxins.
In fact, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency, The Agricultural Research Service has filed a patent application for this technology and is working with commercial companies on the development of a coconut oil fatty acid derived repellent formula.
Of course, the mosquitoes, bed bugs, ticks, and other nasty, blood-sucking insects aren’t going to patiently wait for the development of a new, non-toxic product. And while DEET should be avoided due to increasing health and safety concerns, it’s not a good idea to spend time in bug-rich environments without protection, either. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, illnesses from tick, mosquito, flea bites have tripled in the U.S in recent years. While the world waits for an effective, long-term, natural deterrent, try these options to keep away the insects.
Remember, any of these remedies will need to be applied frequently so bring them with you if you are spending time in the wilderness or anywhere plagued by mosquitoes and ticks.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is the only plant-based remedy approved by the CDC and has shown promising short-term repellant capabilities. Avoid using it on young children and always test it on a small area of skin before using to make sure that you are not allergic.
Soybean oil has been shown to be one of the more effective deterrents and can provide protection for up to 95 minutes. It is used in many alternative remedies and is most effective when combined with other ingredients.
Thyme oil is an excellent option to deter insects and has been shown to have a 91 percent protection rate when applied to the skin of hairless mice. Try throwing thyme leaves into your next campfire as the burning scent may be unappealing to mosquitoes.
Geraniol is an extracted oil from plants such as geraniums and lemongrass and has been shown to be more effective than citronella. Look for natural products containing geraniol.
DIY Coconut Oil Bug Repellent
Try this homemade coconut oil bug repellent recipe to make your next summer hiking trip a fun adventure rather than a test of your mosquito-swatting capabilities.
- 30 drops geranium essential oil
- 30 drops citronella essential oil
- 20 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
- 20 drops lavender essential oil
- 10 drops rosemary essential oil
- 1 cup virgin coconut oil
- Add all essential oils and coconut oil together and mix vigorously to combine.
- Apply regularly to any exposed skin whenever you’re outdoors.
Ways To Repel Insects From Your Yard
Though you can’t do anything to reduce the mosquito population in the great outdoors, there are a few steps you can take in your own yard to make it inhospitable to these flying vampires.
Fill your garden with peppermint, lavender, basil, marigold, and catnip or place these plants in pots around your outdoor living area. Mosquitoes are driven by their sense of smell and hate the odor of these fragrant herbs. As an added bonus, you can use them in cooking and other herbal remedies.
Not only do they provide an atmospheric glow to any evening spent on the patio, but citronella candles or torches can deter even the most persistent flying insects. Place them on any outdoor tables and light them as it gets dark.
Avoid standing water
Standing water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Clear away any stagnant puddles, leaking faucets in your yard, or clogged gutters.
The good news is, you don’t have to sacrifice your health or suffer potentially dangerous bug bites just to avoid even more harmful chemicals. Always pay attention to the labels of any store-bought “natural” bug repellents to avoid toxins and use homemade remedies so that you actually know what you’re putting on your body. Plus, keep an eye out for a coconut oil based repellent that could be hitting the shelves at any time!