Non-Toxic Herbal Insect Repellent Spray

Reader Contribution by Stephanie Tourles
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Image by mika mamy from Pixabay

Summer greetings everyone! It’s that time of year when the flying, buzzing, blood-sucking insects are at their peak annoyance, and, if you want to comfortably enjoy the great outdoors, you’ll need to apply some sort of bug repellent to your body.

Most insect repellents on the market today are chock-full of chemicals and replete with unpleasant, toxic aromas that are often masked by irritating synthetic fragrances. Why would you want to repeatedly spray your body with unhealthful products in order to enjoy the outdoors? Many people, myself included, are highly sensitive or even allergic to the chemicals in these commercial products, especially the pesticide DEET, a chemical the U.S. Army patented in 1946, and which is so poisonous that even the Environmental Protection Agency says you should wash off your skin when you return indoors, avoid breathing it in, and not spray directly on your face! Really now … if it’s that toxic, then how are you supposed to actually use it? No thanks!

If you’re into all things scary, instead of reading a Stephen King novel, why not just read some of the precautionary statements (in tiny print) on the labels of some of the popular, commercially available, chemical-based mosquito repellent sprays. The information is downright frightening! Perhaps you’ll think twice before using these types of products on your skin and instead seek out natural, non-toxic alternatives.

Thank goodness there are now a handful of truly non-toxic insect repellents available commercially from health food, home goods, and hardware stores or online … just in case you don’t want to make your own formula at home. But, if you do want to craft your own antibug material, the following easy-to-create, wonderfully aromatic recipe, “Fend Off” Herbal Oil Insect Repellent, offers a natural alternative to chemical-based sprays. When applied to your skin, it will help form an insect-repelling barrier around your body, minimizing the chances that mosquitoes, black flies, deer flies, gnats, no-see-ums and their ilk will land on your skin and inflict their misery.

This formula tends to work best on days when the local biting and stinging nasties are only slightly to moderately hungry. If they’re voracious, additional protection such as a net hat, net body suit, or just a high-collared shirt and lightweight pants can come in handy. Wearing a baseball cap or gardening hat, sprayed with this formula, works super to keep bugs from flying into your eyes, nose and neck area.

NOTE:  Before venturing outdoors, remember to avoid wearing any type of fragrance (aside from your natural insect repellent product), including cologne, aftershave and scented deodorant. These seem to attract pests, as do the scent of  shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, bath oil, soap, hair gel and even breath mints,  laundry detergent and linen sprays.  Biting insects seem to love the same odors that we do!

The base oil recommended for this recipe is organic soybean oil, which has natural bug-repellent properties and a light-to-medium texture. It easily penetrates the skin and leaves it soft and silky. Make sure you purchase organicsoybean oil as nearly all soybean oil on the market is derived from genetically-modified soybeans … and you definitely don’t want that on your skin! Jojoba oil can be substituted, if you don’t want to use soybean oil. Jojoba oil is a medium-textured, golden-colored oil (technically a liquid wax ester) derived from pressed plant seeds or beans and it is chemically similar to your own moisturizing sebum. Jojoba penetrates well, leaving no oily residue and can be used by almost everyone, including those with very sensitive and oily skin. It’s one of my favorite base oils for making essential oil perfumes, facial elixirs, and bath and massage oil blends because it does not turn rancid and requires no refrigeration. It’s also an excellent conditioner for hair, scalp, skin and nails, and is an all-purpose skin lubricant.

All ingredients for this recipe can be found at better health food stores and/or online from Mountain Rose Herbs or Jean’s Greens. My favorite organic jojoba oil can be purchased from The Jojoba Company (located here in Maine). Essential oil companies that I recommend are Simplers Botanicals, Oshadhi and Aromatherapeutix.

If you are looking for an effective, pleasantly aromatic, non-toxic insect repellent, then you’ll love this recipe. Please give it a try. A bottle of this oil also makes a fabulous gift for your outdoorsy friends!

“Fend Off” Herbal Oil Insect Repellent

I use this oil every day when bugs are at their worst …  and sometimes twice per day to saturate  my pores with its bug repellent properties. As a bonus, my skin is soft and conditioned. Occasionally I even get a compliment on my unusual fresh “perfume.”  If they only knew!

Recommended for: all skin types except very oily

Use: as needed

Prep time: approximately 10 minutes, plus 1 hour to synergize

Blending tools: shake container before each use

Store in: plastic or glass spritzer, pump or squeeze bottle

Yield: approximately 1/2 cup or 4 ounces


  • 1/2  cup soybean base oil (Note:This oil has natural bug-repellent properties.)
  • 15 drops eachof the following essential oils: lemongrass, geranium, catnip
  • 10 drops basil or eucalyptus radiata essential oil


  1. Add all ingredients directly to a storage container. Shake the mixture vigorously to blend. Allow the oil to synergize, for 1 hour.
  2. No refrigeration is required, but for maximum bug-repelling freshness and potency, please use within 6 to 12 months.

Application tips: I like to apply this formula onto my palms first, then massage the oil into areas that need bug protection. During the height of bug season, when the little biters are on their worst behavior, I actually use this pleasantly fragranced, oil-based repellent as an after-shower massage oil, bath oil, hair conditioner, scalp massage oil, and all-purpose body moisturizing oil.

You can learn how to make other natural skin and body care products by reading my best-selling book, Organic Body Care Recipes (Storey Publishing, 2007). I’ve also written many other “healthy living” books, including my most recent, Hands-On Healing Remedies:150 Recipes for Herbal Balms, Salves, Oils, Liniments & Other Topical Therapies (Storey Publishing, 2012), and my very popular title, Raw Energy: 124 Raw Food Recipes for Energy Bars, Smoothies, and Other Snacks to Supercharge Your Body (Storey Publishing, 2009).

Please visit my website (plus see my blog and Facebook page which you can access through my website by clicking on the appropriate icon in the upper right-hand corner) to find out more about me and stay tuned for my 2014 Mother Earth News Fair speaking schedule.

Stephanie Tourles is a licensed holistic esthetician, certified aromatherapist, and gardener with training in Western and Ayurvedic herbalism. She is the author of eight books, including Hands-On Healing Remedies, Organic Body Care Recipes, Raw Energy, Naturally Healthy Skin, 365 Ways to Energize Mind, Body & Soul, and Natural Foot Care. She lives in Orland, Maine.

Excerpted from Organic Body Care Recipes © Stephanie Tourles. Used with permission of Storey Publishing.

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