Summer season in many parts of the northern hemisphere has already begun, which in addition to sun and fun means a lot of bad-smelling insect repellant wafting through the air.
Did you know that the standard chemical ingredient in many conventional bug sprays is DEET?
This neurotoxic chemical, although seems to work against annoying critters, is also working against yours and your family’s health. But!! You have a health-friendly ally in yarrow herb, which just happens to work stronger and safer than deet.
If you live in hardiness zones 3-9 of the US, chances are, yarrow is growing wild somewhere in your yard or neighborhood. Its flowers are small and clustered, and it can manifest in a variety of appealing colors including red, yellow, pink, or the common white. So, this amazing plant is more than just a candy for your eyes, offering a safe escape from pesky mosquitoes, horse and deer flies, ticks and various other insects, all without the need to apply poisons to your skin!
Deet exposure, particularly in children, is associated with some pretty nasty side effects. Some children, sprayed with deet-based bug repellants, have gone on to develop seizures, even when it was applied at low potency. According to an article of 2001 published in the journal Human & Experimental Toxicology, there were 17 cases where children have also developed brain damage in the form of encephalopathy.
So, deet isn’t something you want to mess up with! If you are serious about finding a viable and safe alternative to this poison, consider making your own yarrow tincture at home. Or, if you don’t have the time to go down the homemade route, you can simply buy a pre-made yarrow tincture, though it’s slightly less potent.
Note that crushing yarrow leaves and stems and rubbing them on your skin does not really work very well. The yarrow potency needs to be concentrated via tincture. The one drawback of this solution is that it does not remain effective as long, so it needs to be reapplied more often.
Avoiding the use of deet–containing repellents on you and your children by all means is a wise decision! Actually, this stuff is so toxic that it isn’t worth using it EVER!
Yarrow made into a tincture
Another research conducted by the United States Army also found that yarrow extracted into a tincture works better than deet at repelling insects. Though it does not always last as long, yarrow tincture is orders of magnitude safer than a conventional bug spray.
The best tinctures are made with freshly-picked plants. Fortunately, finding fresh yarrow (Achillea millefolium) isn’t that hard as it’s a common plant that grows wild all around the world in temperate regions. It has lovely, long lasting flowers. We suggest you use the white or pink yarrow varieties as the best ones to tincture. We recommend that you pick the flowers, flower buds, seeds, stalk, and leaves from the top third of the plant.
Use this helpful tincture to make your own yarrow insect repellant
- Discard any damaged plant material.
- Do not wash any of the yarrow with the exception of the roots and only with water and if necessary.
- Coarsely chop the yarrow plant parts except the flower and buds.
- Fill a jar to the top with the chopped yarrow. You don’t leave an inch like when you are fermenting food and drinks.
- Pour in 100 proof vodka or vinegar. You can use potato vodka if there is gluten sensitivity in your home.
- Cap the jar.
- Label the jar with the date and type of plant used (yarrow).
- The next day, top up the liquid as the level will go down slightly as the plant material absorbs the liquid.
- Leave for a minimum of 6 weeks.
- Strain the tincture into a spray bottle and it is ready for use.
How often yarrow should be used
We suggest spraying yourself every 20-30 minutes if the insects are heavy. If not, every couple of hours should be sufficient.
Note that powdered yarrow is not suitable for tincturing. You can only use the dried yarrow root, as the dried flowers, buds, stems, and leaves will not retain enough potency after drying.
Dried yarrow for a tincture
If you absolutely cannot find fresh yarrow to make this tincture, you can use dried one instead. Just know that it won’t be as potent and you will have to re-spray yourself more often.
- Place two ounces of dried yarrow root in a pint jar. Add 10 ounces of 100 proof vodka.
- Cap and label as described above.
- Top up with more vodka over the next week if necessary.
- Leave for 6 weeks and then strain it for use.