Natural Aromatherapy for the Outdoors 

This can bring up with a lot of questions, like:

  • What is effective?
  • What is safe for my kids and me?
  • What is safe for a pet?
  • What will feel good on my skin and smell okay on my clothing?
  • What should I pack in my backpack for a day out or a hike in the park? 

These are all great questions to ask, and I tried to cover them for you here as well my own needs, with as little to carry as possible.

When I think about summer, I think about bugs, the sun, and kids crying after they had a fall.  I am a yoga gal by nature, so I rarely wear footwear unless I have to. That makes me think about refreshing foot baths, on my little patio with a cold drink of some kind, a book, and watching the fireflies rise up. Then I think about swatting the other bugs away, and here we are again, back at insect repellents.

When it comes down to it, I wanted to create something small enough to fit in a cooler, mini-backpack, and beach bag. Summer is problematic because it gets hot, and we want things that won't melt or feel sticky.

Easy Family Protection for the Outdoors with Aromatherapy

My outdoor first-aid protocol is pretty simple and universal:

  • A salve to calm irritated skin and reduce pain and inflammation to bites, burns, and bruises. Click to learn more about Mama Gaia
  • A spray I can keep in my fridge or travel coolers as a cooling and universal boo-boo mist suitable for my 7year old, 9-year-old, and myself. It feels wonderful and cooling on scrapes, burns, bites, and minor kitchen cuts.
  • A massage or bath oil to replenish my skin from the sun, or a long day of yard work. It helps with muscle tension, backaches, and tired feet. Soothing to the skin for scrapes and bites.

Let's talk bugs.

Insect repellents are an alternative to insecticides and are presumed safer for human/animal use. Up North, we are nervous about ticks and have been warned about the diseases they spread.  As far as the usual summer bugs, I get eaten alive, but my daughter barely gets touched. I am not sure why that happens, but I apply as needed, sometimes every 20 minutes, for it to be effective. 

I find mists will only last on top of the skin for a very short period of time, so I find spraying my clothing, outdoor blankets, or camping gear works a bit better. Using the salve and roll-on will give longer-lasting results, especially around the ankles and temples. It is hard to say how long, due to skin absorption rates being different, fabrics, and even the outdoor temperature, what will work best for you, so you will need to experiment. Essential oil-based insect repellents have only been researched to a certain amount. We are not 100% sure what stage of insect maturity (i.e. insect larvae or adult stages) these essential oils work the research is limited.

Lastly, in the summer, I retain a lot of water, so I want a cooling foot bath outside with a big glass of iced tea or a nice summer beverage. If I do this with COLD COLD water from the hose and massage my legs a little too with a scrub, I see results in my "cankles" and a massage with my Waning Moon blend to aid with bloating and water retention.

The Research:

OKAY! Let's chat about what it takes to create a recipe that will repel insects, so I start with what the research shows. Research shows the effectiveness of essential oils in repelling and killing mosquito (species usually not stated) larvae and repelling adult bugs. There is research that demonstrates the efficacy of certain oils against ticks. The problem is the research is really not done out in the environment where we are exposed, and a lot of time, we don't know what species of insect there is showing effectiveness.

The other problem I find is since you know that essential oils are volatile plant molecules, they are very lightweight, so unlike synthetic chemical sprays or fragrances, they do not last long when dispersed in the air or to our skin. It will be helpful then when applying to our skin, our let's say our bedding in a tent, or to the inside of our shoes if we are going hiking that we find a way to bind it to ourselves properly, but know we will have to apply it more than the over the counter dangerous synthetics.

There is research connected to geraniol, a constituent found in palmarosa and geranium that is effective in repelling ticks. Cedral is a constituent associated with repelling insects, found in Virginia Cedarwood, which makes sense because the old pack it up in a cedar box so the moths don't eat your clothes advice. When formulating my tick blend, I had to research my essential oil distributors' GC/MS paperwork to ensure that there was a high enough percentage to be effective in the blend of these constituents. Since the research is slim and not usually conducted on humans, usually in a lab under a microscope, or from animals, like on cows, we are making scientific assumptions of what will work.

In conclusion, your blends from Heaven & Earth are formulated to be safe topically on your skin and clothing for healthy older children and adults. Always conduct a skin patch test first to make sure you do not have any irritation.  Apply as needed, but do not put this on your pet as they may lick it off, and that may not be safe for them. Look to special sprays for your animals that use herbs rather than essential oils. Placing the spray on the collar and not directly on their fur or skin might be an alternative if you are in a pinch, but I still recommend animal-created products from the experts.

Remember, just because it is natural doesn't mean it is safe, dosage/dilution is imperative for what is safe AND effective. If you notice you are using a product and it is not working, many factors go into that.  Your body type and scent that you give off, your clothing color, detergents and fabrics, and overall insect population and space you are in, sometimes there are just too many! Time to head inside if needed! I found a study that stated Vanilla "essential oil" may help deter mosquitoes, but it was done on their larvae and not on adult insects. I use a CO2 extract for blending, and I do not know what the research used. Vanilla does have a great aroma and is a fixative, so it may help keep the aroma on your skin longer. So I did add a little to this blend, but it is costly, so I would not say there is enough to produce a practical addition to this blend. The vetiver is long-lasting and more affordable to add to a bug spray, which people will want to spray often.

Further Reading:

Myth Busting?  I enjoyed this little blog because so many homemade items go viral without evidence to support it.

May 17, 2021 — Jennifer Langsdale

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