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Natural Insect Repellent for Foragers

Here at Eat.Drink.Better, we pay a lot of attention to the toxicity of our food. But what about the chemicals that we put on our skin?

As an avid forager for wild foods, I’m in the woods a lot. I don’t want to be eaten alive while hunting for dinner, but I also don’t like using toxic repellents against ticks, chiggers, mosquitoes, and biting flies.

Luckily for me, there are some great natural alternatives to DEET, the most common pesticide in insect repellents. My favorite is All Terrain Natural Herbal Armor.

All Terrain Natural Herbal Armor uses a combination of citronella, soybean, peppermint, cedar, lemongrass, and geranium oils to repel biting insects. It works great against mosquitoes, gnats, black flies, horse flies, and ants.

Unfortunately, Herbal Armor doesn’t do much to defend against ticks, but I have yet to find anything natural that does. The best defense against ticks is proper clothing. Wear closed-toed shoes, tight-weave socks, and long pants. Tuck your pants into your socks (sexy, I know) and tuck your shirt into your pants.

Herbal Armor is fairly sweat- and water-resistant, but I usually need to reapply after going on a long trail-run or taking a swim. It has an intense herbal aroma, which might be problematic for sensitive noses.

I prefer the pump spray version of this bug spray, but it also comes in a lotion.

Find this product at Whole Foods, REI, or on the web.

Image courtesy of ernestvr2001 via a Creative Commons license.

5 comments
  1. kelly

    Thanks for the tip. I got eaten alive by mosquitoes while camping a couple of weekends ago and all we had was Jungle Juice. Wish I'd read this last month!

  2. Steve Savage

    It says that the "all terrain" product has "never been tested on animals." That sounds nice, but then, how do you know that it is safe for you (an animal)? Natural does not automatically mean safe. Some of the most toxic substances known are "natural" (aflatoxin, botox, cyanide…).

    How can you recommend something that has no documentation of its safety?

    1. rachelshulman

      I totally agree with you that natural does not mean safe. Like you said, many poisons are natural, and it's a common misconception that "organic" and "natural" products do not contain toxins.

      All of the ingredients in this product, however, are well known to be safe to humans (unless of course an individual has an allergy to one of the herbal oils, that is. for instance, someone who has a peppermint allergy should avoid this product).

      I can think of dozens of products that have safety documentation that I don't trust one bit. For instance, DEET-based sprays are considered "safe" despite documentation of health risks of exposure to this chemical.

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