This article is written by naturopathic doctor, Joel Villeneuve, at Revivelife Wellness which is one the outreach clinics I work with in Ottawa. Enjoy your summer and let this information help keep the mosquitos away.
ARE YOU A MOSQUITO MAGNET?
For a Video on Natural Mosquito Bite Treatment
Buzzzz! Buzzzz! Why is it that some people can sit out doors and enjoy all the beauty that nature brings while others seem to be a mosquito magnet? Not only are mosquito bites annoying causing you to itch like crazy but they also may increase your risk of mosquito-borne illnesses such as encephalitis, yellow fever, malaria, West Nile virus, or dengue. If you are one of the one in five people that these pesky mosquitoes are really attracted changing your diet may actually be one of the best bug sprays that you can invest in!
WHY DO MOSQUITOES BITE?
Mosquitoes are not looking for dinner as many believe when they buzz around you. It is actually only female mosquitoes that will bite as they need the protein and iron in human blood to develop fertile eggs. Males do not bite people.
WHAT ARE MOSQUITOES ATTRACTED TO?
Although the exact formula of what mosquitoes consider as an ideal target to bite is still being researched, what we do know is that genetics account for 85% of your susceptibility to be a mosquito magnet. In addition scientists have also discovered certain elements of body chemistry that when present in excess on the skin’s surface that act like perfume and attract mosquitoes to swarm closer.
Mosquitoes are attracted to high levels of:
1. Bacteria: Your microbiome which are the eco-system of bacteria that live in your body including your skin. These microbes create your body odour and certain individuals have a formula of microbes that are irresistible to mosquitoes.
2. Cholesterol on skin: People with high concentrations of steroids or cholesterol on their skin surface attracts mosquitoes. Not all people however that have high concentrations of cholesterol on their skin will have high blood cholesterol, as some individuals may be more efficient at processing cholesterol, with the by-products of which remain on the skin’s surface. Either way increasing Power Foods that are Plant Based can help keep cholesterol in its optimal zone. For more on Power Foods…
3. Uric Acid: Uric acid can increase in those who eat a high amount of animal protein and or processed foods that contain fructose. Reducing animal protein and fructose, especially high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that can be found in many packaged foods can help reduce uric acid and thus help as a natural bug spray!
4. Carbon Dioxide: Yes the mere process of breathing out carbon dioxide attracts mosquitoes to you. The larger the person the more carbon dioxide is given off, which is why mosquitoes typically prefer munching on adults (especially pregnant women – who tend to give off more carbon dioxide) to small children. Mosquitoes can actually smell you from an impressive distance of up to 50 meters or about half the size of a football pitch! Now that’s pretty amazing!
5. Movement: Here is where it all evens out as kids generally tend to move around more than adults and thus are just as easily mosquito magnets as adults!
6. Lactic Acid from Sweat Glands: Not only does breathing harder and running around cause you to be mosquito perfume so does the lactic acid from your sweat gland! The older the sweat the better as the chemical reaction from fresh sweat is not as attractive to these little guys as old sweat (the bacteria increase changing the pH from acidic to alkaline as sweat components breakdown into ammonia).1-3 So don’t forget to throw those smelly socks in the wash if you don’t want them to attract mosquitoes near you!
So there you have it, the recipe for mosquito magnets!
HOW TO PREVENT MOSQUITO BITES NATURALLY
My philosophy has always been if you can do it naturally that’s the way to go! Although bug sprays that contain DEET (N,N-Diethyl-m-toluamide) are approved by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and are effective they also come with side effect risks that range from eye irritation and rashes to severe neurological concerns according to researchers at Duke University Medical Centre.
With over 175 known species in the U.S. these smart little buzzing insects certainly are all around you in the warmer weather. Scientists have discovered that you actually have a natural bug spray that the body releases called 1-methylpiperzine, which blocks mosquito’s sense of smell! 4 Bug sprays that contain 1-methylpiperzine are in the works but not available yet.
Can changing your diet actually be one of the most effective natural bug sprays? Yes by eating more plant based foods like garlic (a natural mosquito repellent), reducing animal products and processed foods that are rich in fructose that both can increase cholesterol and uric acid is the way to go for your overall health and to help keep those mosquitoes at bay.
Dr. Joël’s Natural Bug Spray:
- ½ cup distilled or boiled water
- ½ cup witch hazel
- 10 drops of each essential oil: citronella, clove oil, cinnamon leaf oil, catnip oil & lemon eucalyptus
Mix all together in a spray bottle and apply to clothing vs direct skin and repeat every few hours as needed. You can find all of the ingredients at your local health food store.
- Citronella: One of the most widely used natural mosquito repellents.5
- Clove Oil: Several laboratory studies showed 100 percent protection for three hours.6
- Cinnamon Leaf Oil: One study found cinnamon leaf to be more effective at killing mosquitoes than DEET.7
- Catnip Oil: May be 10x more effective than DEET. 8
- Lemon Eucalyptus: Contains PMD (para-menthane 3, 8 diol),a 32 percent mixture was found to be very effective providing more than 95 percent protection for three hours..9
HOW TO NATURALLY TREAT MOSQUITO BITES
The itch that you experience from a mosquito bite comes from the saliva of mosquitoes that contains an anticoagulant which causes a histamine release and a mild allergic reaction. Mosquitoes bite to draw the blood required to fertilize their eggs while bees/wasps inject venom.
The 3 steps to easing mosquito bites are:
1. Clean: with alcohol or water
2. Neutralize The Bite: Alkaline Solution : 1 Tbsp. baking soda and warm water, leave on few minutes then rinse with water
3. Reduce Itching & Inflammation: Choose any one of the following:
- Lavender oil: Great for all kinds of bites ie tick, fleas etc too and can help you get a good night sleep, Take a small amount and dilute it with water, then apply directly to the bite. Helps to reduce itching.
- Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV): Apply with a cotton ball and leave on for a few minutes to reduce the inflammation
- Aloe: Anti-inflammatory thus helps the itching, swelling and healing , draws the sting out , keep aloe in refrigerator for cold helps to reduce itchiness
- Local Raw Honey: Anti-microbial & anti-inflammatory properties , apply after you’ve come inside because it can attract more mosquitoes!
- Basil: Itching, crushed on site
- Onion: Apply topically, the sap takes the sting out
- Cold Green Tea Bag: Cold helps soothe the itch and compounds in the tea help with inflammation.
For a Video on Natural Mosquito Bite Treatments
Dr. Joël, ND, Inspiring Health Naturally
For more on Power Foods
REFERENCES & SOURCES:
- Richardson, Jill, Why mosquitoes bite some people and not others – And the surprising , natural way to avoid bites, AlterNet June 25, 2014
- Smallegange, Renate C, Verhulst, Neils O., Takken Willem, Sweaty skin: an invitation to bite?, Trends in Parasitology April 2011, Volume 27, Issue 4, 1p 143-148, DOI:http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.pt.2010.12.009
- Braks, M et al. Journal of Chemical Ecology (1999) 25: 663. doi:10.1023/A:1020970307748, Journal of Chemical Ecology March 1999
- EurekaAlert! September 9, 2013
- Moore SJ, Hill N, Ruiz C, Cameron MM. Field Evaluation of Traditionally Used Plant-Based Insect Repellents and Fumigants Against the Malaria VectorAnopheles darlingi in Riberalta, Bolivian Amazon. J Med Entomol. 2007;44(4):624–630. doi: 10.1603/0022-
- Carroll SP, Loye J. PMD, a registered botanical mosquito repellent with deet-like efficacy.J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 2006;22:507–514. doi: 10.2987/8756-971X(2006)22[507:PARBMR]2.0.CO;2.
- Cheng SS1,Liu JY, Tsai KH, Chen WJ, Chang ST., Chemical composition and mosquito larvicidal activity of essential oils from leaves of different Cinnamomum osmophloeum provenances., J Agric Food Chem. 2004 Jul 14;52(14):4395-400.
- American Chemical Society. “Catnip Repels Mosquitoes More Effectively Than DEET.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 August 2001.
- Frances SP,Rigby LM, Chow WK., Comparative laboratory and field evaluation of repellent formulations containing deet and lemon eucalyptus oil against mosquitoes in Queensland, Australia., J Am Mosq Control Assoc. 2014 Mar;30(1):65-7.