Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Beat the Bugs!

By Mara Fleishman, June 14, 2011  |  Meet the Blogger  |  More Posts by Mara Fleishman
Are you the outdoors fan who’s loved just a little too much by the bugs? Fortunately, nature almost always provides a solution. Learn about essential oils, vitamins and homeopathic remedies in this encore podcast presentation. Malia Curran, MS, MPH, is a nutrition and health consultant.

There are a few ways to keep the bugs away that change the taste of the skin:
  • Taking B-complex vitamins and eating garlic and onions may make skin less attractive to mosquitoes.
  • Avoid floral and sweet-smelling scents.
  • Disguise your body scent and change the taste of your skin with essential oils that bugs don't like. Essential oils for mosquitoes include citronella (lemongrass), evergreen and/or eucalyptus. Essential oils for biting flies include lavender, basil and/or geranium.
  • Neem oil and geraniol (from lavender) are effective also.
  • Look for a combination of these essential oils in products to keep bugs away.
Homeopathic medicines can help with swelling and stings from bugs:
  • Ledum (wild rosemary) and Apis (from the honeybee) are two helpful remedies to try.




Dee says ...
Thank You for the natural ideas. We have tons of mosquitoes in FL and my kids bug bites swell when they get bit. Thank You!
06/14/2011 10:12:25 AM CDT
Dawn says ...
I've found that tea tree oil works great on mosquito bites.
06/15/2011 7:10:32 PM CDT
Chris says ...
Folksy herbal medicines sound fun, but you should really only advertise and sell remedies that have been shown to work (as in controlled studies, not anecdotes). I love natural products, but they need to work, and not via placebo. Last year when I researched this the only non-deet insect repellent that actually worked for more than a few minutes was soybean oil. I went to whole foods but could not find the product I was looking for, but found a bunch of alternatives that did not hold up well in tests. Also, homeopathic "medicines" should not be sold in Whole Foods because they cannot treat anything. They are not medicine and should not be mentioned as such. As guaranteed by the method for producing homeopathic remedies, there is nothing in them. Homeopathy is very different than herbalism, people should read about homeopathy before they buy such a product. Most people will then realize it is a sham since there are no active ingredients in homeopathic remedies.
06/15/2011 7:23:04 PM CDT
Allyson says ...
Anything to avoid DEET. Thanks for the tip
06/15/2011 11:04:58 PM CDT
Dorey says ...
Use witchhazel on those bug bites. It will cool the itch immediately and will take the swelling down too. Plant Beautyberry bushes around your yard. They are a natural insect repellant. Beautyberries are native to the mid-Atlantic region. For Florida, I'd recommend Citronella plants - place them in pots around the patio. Both are very effective.
06/16/2011 6:34:00 AM CDT
Mandy says ...
My mom has used a homemade spray of vodka infused with catnip. It seemed to work pretty well when she was gardening. This may not be the best solution if you're going to be hiking in mountain lion country. May also confuse house cats.
06/16/2011 8:04:17 AM CDT
antigona says ...
Couple drops of vinegar mixed with pinch of salt, instantly takes away the itch from mosquito bites, cheapest and always handy.
06/16/2011 9:51:56 AM CDT
Joan says ...
<strong>Waiting for Answer</strong> I'd like to know which homeopathic bug deterrents are safe for my dog. He is often bothered by flies on our walks.
06/16/2011 10:14:16 AM CDT
Bobby Hawley says ...
“Thanks for your question! Our specialty is selling groceries, so we recommend asking your local veterinarian.”
06/16/2011 4:22:51 PM CDT
Bernard says ...
Homeopathy? Seriously?
06/17/2011 11:33:51 AM CDT
zena says ...
Man BUGS are the one thing that get to me during the summer. Actually they get AT me. My blood must be like a fine champagne, I've already been bitten twenties of times and its not even July. Will take note of recommendations, thanks WFM, gonna munch on some of your food now. Yum yum.
06/18/2011 8:34:30 PM CDT
Miss Vialex says ...
I tried all natural remedies imaginable first &amp; even went to use 95% deet spray, NONE of them worked!! IF U don't get bitten u just lucky!
06/18/2011 9:29:10 PM CDT
Gini says ...
Thanks for the info! We love lavender essential oil and tea tree oil for bug bites. Vit. B and garlic have always helped us repel mosquitos, and garlic and cedar chips have helped my dog repel fleas also. And Chris, of course you're welcome to use pesticides on your body, but many of us would rather not- and have had good results from natural solutions.
06/18/2011 9:33:11 PM CDT
Evi @evitravels says ...
Great tips! I can vouch for the eating garlic tip. I've been traveling around the world for about 8 months now, and after several months in India and Thailand, I went to Australia for a few months. In Australia, we didn't eat much garlic, but as soon as I returned to Cambodia, large amounts of garlic were back in my diet. The first few days were nuts - I was eaten alive. On my third day I counted over 40 bites. But as the garlic heavy diet began to kick in, the mosquitoes began to stay away. I haven't sprayed repellent in about two weeks now, and haven't had any new bites the whole time! Course, there could be other reasons for this, but I'm going to stick with my belief that it's the garlic. :)
06/19/2011 12:07:02 AM CDT
Laura says ...
I purchased a product from a "slumber parties" friend of mine, which is a vanilla scented carnation oil spray. I have been pregnant twice now over the last several years and have a young one at home now. This oil has been priceless in our lives. It's all natural and works like a charm. You'd think that vanilla would attract mosquitos, but the carnation oil is the trick. We normally get eaten alive, but this product is the best! I'd go for carnation oil in anything.
06/26/2011 7:32:58 PM CDT
Martha Vance says ...
I found recently with the cicada bug invasion we had for the past month and a half in St. Louis that while lemongrass did a good job of keeping the mosquitos away, cicada bugs love it. I was contstantly having cicada bugs land on me whenever I used lemongrass body wash. Friends commented on how much the cicadas were attracted to me when I smelled of lemongrass.It was definitely an attractant for them. I will keep in mind to use it to ward off mosquitos though now that the cicadas have all passed on. Thank you!
06/28/2011 1:12:14 PM CDT
Ben says ...
Baking soda + a little water to make a slurry will cure a bite really quickly if you get to it son after the bite occurs.
07/07/2011 10:41:26 AM CDT
Loralyn says ...
I applaud Whole Foods for suggesting natural remedies as many of us are trying to eliminate excessive chemicals from our lives! However, as a PhD scientist who has studied mosquitoes for over a decade, the suggestions above are not substantiated by research. Mosquitoes are attracted to your breath regardless of how much garlic you ate and they are highly attracted to an odor generated by your feet(which some scientists have described to smell like aged cheese which originates from skin bacteria on your feet). Some of us generate more of this odor than others! One of the best things you can do is thoroughly cleanse your feet and shoes, particularly neoprene shoes (this is where you can use natural cleansers from Whole Foods), and keep rubbing alcohol handy for bites. Once mosquitoes feed on you, they eliminate (which means they "pee" on you) and this triggers a skin response. By cleansing the bite as soon as possible, both the swelling and itch are greatly reduced. A 2002 mosquito repellent study showed that herbs and essential oils, such as lavendar, citronella and others, had little to no effect on repelling mosquitoes of the species that is the most common in the USA. (Order the article at http://1.usa.gov/obXPPd) Another thing to do is avoid wearing blue or blue jeans - scientists haven't figured out why mosquitoes are attracted to blue denim but they have shown it's not the thing to wear out in the woods!
07/07/2011 11:00:08 AM CDT
Jean says ...
Tea Tree will help tremendously in keeping bugs away. They don't like the odor. One drop Essential Oil of Tea Tree on a cap top, shirt or blouse collar, or 16 drops in 16 ounces of warm water sprayed over everyone, including the pets, will keep the bugs away. My grandgirls use it at camp and everyone wants to use their Tea Tree Spray. Just cover your face with your hands and spray the entire body from head to toe. It works. Especially for Mosquitoes.
08/08/2011 1:44:16 AM CDT
lala r says ...
tnx for the informative article. also for the giveaway @theorganicblonde
10/24/2011 11:50:36 AM CDT
Jenn Scott says ...
Wow, thanks for all the great ideas!! I'm always looking for natural ways to do things. =)
10/25/2011 9:19:14 PM CDT
Pu Ye says ...
Couple drops of vinegar mixed with pinch of salt, instantly takes away the itch from mosquito bites, cheapest and always handy, very nice.
10/27/2011 1:18:55 AM CDT