Nothing spoils a pleasant summer evening like mosquitoes buzzing around. If slapping at your ankles or neck isn’t your idea of fun, consider making your own mosquito repellent from the Lantana camera flower, or essential oils, vinegar and vodka.
Lantana-Infused Coconut Oil
Lantana camara is most often regarded as a decorative garden hedge plant. Its medicinal uses were more appreciated in old times, but recent studies done in the Malaria Research Centre, Hardwar, India, confirm that coconut oil infused with the flowers and applied to the skin repels mosquitoes for close to two hours.
Lantana mosquito repellent is easy enough to make. You can probably find enough flowers in your own neighborhood. When you find a healthy bush – it’s usually planted as a sturdy hedge – ask the owners’ permission to clip off enough flowers to fill a mayonnaise-size glass jar. The jar must be very clean and dry.
Fill the jar with Lantana flowers, as much as you can cram in. At home, pour coconut oil over the flowers, filling the jar. Stir the contents gently with a chopstick or the handle of a spoon, to break up any bubbles and make room for a little more oil. When the jar is full, screw the lid on and put it in a warm place.
The most potent medicine comes from two weeks’ infusion in the sun, but you can speed it up by putting the jar in a water bath. Place the tightly-closed jar in a saucepan and pour water around it to come slightly over halfway up. Use low heat to keep the water hot. Let the oil infuse one or two hours, adding more water as needed. Don’t let the water bubble up to the height of the lid; any water getting into the oil will spoil it.
Either let the jar and its contents cool down in the saucepan, or remove it to a folded kitchen towel in a safe corner. The jar will be hot; use tongs or a dry towel to handle it.
Once cool, put the jar in a warm location: a sunny window is fine. Rotate it once a day. Strain the oil after a week (two is better still)and apply as needed. If you have the time, use the infused coconut oil to make a double-strength batch with new flowers.
Mosquito Repellent Essential Oils Spray Recipe
It’s even easier to put together a spray based on essential oils. It works for hours and is safe for frequent adult use, although it’s wise to avoid spritzing near the eyes, nose and mouth. It’s best to spray children’s clothes and socks or sandals rather than their bare skin. Essential oils are strong!
A word to the wise: when shopping for essential oils, look for the following signs of good quality: opaque bottles and the botanical name of the plant (in Latin) under the familiar English name on the label. Example: Peppermint – Mentha piperita.
You’ll need 110 drops of essential oils per 1/2 cup water, 1/2 cup witch hazel, and 1 tablespoon vodka or rubbing alcohol. If no witch hazel is available, substitute 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar.
You will also need a glass spray bottle. Plastic won’t do; the essential oils and vinegar will corrode it. You can mix the ingredients in a 1.5 cup capacity glass jar, transferring as much as you need to the spray bottle with a small funnel; or use a spray bottle that will contain 1.5 cups of fluid. Needless to say, containers must be kept tightly closed between uses.
The essential oils:
Geranium, 30 drops
Citronella, 30 drops
Lemon eucalyptus, 20 drops
Lavender, 20 drops
Rosemary, 10 drops
If you have sensitivities or simply dislike any of the above oils, substitute lemongrass, mint, cedar, clove or cajeput for it.
Drip the essential oils into the spray bottle (or glass jar)
Add the vodka or alcohol and shake (or stir) well.
Add the witch hazel or vinegar; shake or stir again.
Add the water and shake or stir again.
Shake the spray bottle before each use to re-combine the ingredients.
You can make a salve to soothe bug bites and stings with our mallows salve formula. Shake about 20 drops of lavender into the warm salve and mix well before it cools.
Our editor Karin Kloosterman reports that rubbing bunches of crushed geranium leaves all over her little son did the trick once, on a day when the mosquitoes were particularly vicious. Necessity is the mother of invention.
That’s it! Happy summer!
Photos: Lantana camara by Alvesgaspar via Wikipedia; herbs in glass bottles by silviarita via Pixabay; 3 essential oils by Laryssa Suaid via Pexels