by Joanie Blaxter, founder of Follow Your Gut
How to Get Rid of Bugs Naturally
What's a “bug magnet?” You know, THAT person at the BBQ who's constantly whining about being bitten when no one else is bothered. Or the person who gets flea bites overnight when her bed partner has nothing. Or maybe the one who ALWAYS seems to get head lice.
“Eeeeewwwwww!” We're all itching now, right?
But, see, here's the thing… if you tend to attract one kind of bug you may very well be a magnet for others. It frequently has to do with the way we smell. And that can be changed. I might just have a solution for not just one buggie problem, but a whole list of them! So, hold on, even if you don't have young children chronically scratching their heads, what I describe here may just apply to you…
But to start the explanation, I want to begin with the dreaded head lice.
This is Kelly, butting in for a sec. Check out my post about how we fought lice and WON: How to Get Rid of Head Lice Naturally — you'll see a disgusting video of our daughter's poor head and find out how we got rid of lice without chemicals. Also, there's a natural product on the market that I wish was available back when we had this issue!!! This is a sponsored ad, but I was excited to find out about it because it’s made from safe ingredients and doesn't smell horrible! Read more here about ClearLice. Okay, back to Joanie…
My personal journey with head lice began when my 7 year old daughter ended up with a KIDNEY INFECTION after the second time I washed her hair according to directions with the drugstore shampoo recommended by my local pharmacist, which turned out to be laced with lindane. (Nowadays most pharmaceutical head lice shampoos contain pyrethroids as the pesticide, but I wouldn't put that on a child's head either!)
That settled that, I knew I was never again going to massage and soak pesticides into my child's scalp, think how close it is to the brain!
But I HAD to find some way to keep her free of head lice. As an only parent supporting us both, I couldn't possibly take any more time off from my full time job to fetch her home from school because the nurse found more evidence of lice on her head.
You know the phrase (Joanie's version)… “Fear and single parents are the mother of invention.” So here is what I learned about how to get rid of bugs naturally through insistent research and resourceful experimentation.
But Why Me????
The good news is that head lice are an Equal Opportunity Employer! EVERYBODY who spends any time at all with youngsters – babysitters, grandparents, teachers – has a head lice story to tell these days. It has nothing to do with cleanliness and is not a big deal. Pain in the ass, yes, but not a big deal.
Really, just ask a school nurse. Take a deep breath. Seriously. Now take another one.
Now, a few lice factoids:
- Head lice live only on the human scalp (leave the dog alone).
- The eggs take about a week (6-12 days) to hatch.
- Once hatched, within 2-3 days they can begin laying eggs.
- Lice lay their whitish eggs on the hair shaft quite close to the scalp.
A couple strategy tips for tired mothers:
- You don't need to wash everything whenever you find a bug or egg on someone's head. Heat kills the little buggers, so just throw exposed bedclothes, etc. into the DRYER at HIGH HEAT FOR 20 MINUTES. (This is Kelly again, I did 45 to be sure!)
- And, no, head lice don't jump off the head. Passing the live bugs requires actual head to head contact. Or accidentally getting a live egg on the head. Lice are harder to get than you think. Ok, now take another breath.
(Yes, it's still about head lice, but keep going! How this applies to human health in general is coming up.)
Non-Toxic Approach to Head Lice
Like many insects, head lice can be killed through exposure to not only high heat, but also strong aromatic oils: tea tree, oregano, peppermint, etc. The oil soaks through the exoskeleton and poisons them. This is the basis for the “natural” head lice shampoos, tea tree being the most commonly used oil in those formulas.
In general, insects that operate by smell will be repelled by strong aromatic oils (unlike, for example, ticks, which seek out their host by sensing heat). This is why these oils are in natural insect repellents.
You can easily and cheaply make your own lice prevention shampoo simply by adding aromatic oils to your own shampoo. The key is to make sure the oil is strong and the exposure time AT LEAST 20 minutes. The bugs must be exposed long enough that the oil soaks through their exoskeleton.
The oils ONLY kill the live bugs, though; it can't soak through the thick shell of the egg (also known as a nit). So you must always do two treatments about a week apart, three to be really certain you've gotten them all. The basic idea is to kill the live lice with exposure to the oils when they have just hatched and are still too young to have laid any eggs.
Timing is everything with getting rid of head lice!
As long as parents continue to use the drugstore preparations, expect the incidence of head lice to increase. That's because the live bugs are becoming resistant to the pesticides used in the pharmaceutical brands and surviving the shampooing treatment.
Okay, back-and-forth breathe into that paper bag… Better now?
Yes, that means even if you do all this work to get lice-free, as soon as your child returns to school or day care she's going to play with other kids who've been treated with the drugstore shampoo and so they are likely to get the bugs again.
The Up Side (Yes, I Mean It!) To Head Lice
The absolute best way to keep head lice at a minimum is to carefully look through the hair for eggs on a daily basis… which means your child/ren and you are about to bond in a whole new way. You could call it “monkeying around!” (Think National Geographic and all those documentaries of primates picking through each other's hair…)
(Don't stop reading, oh child-free person, almost there!)
My daughter and I would sit outside on the front stoop in the sun (best light), comb in hand with a lighted candle by my side, I would chat with her about her day, give her a snack, let her listen to a story on CD, whatever, anything to make the interaction as pleasant as possible.
When I found a hair shaft with an egg attached, I would pull out the hair and immediately burn the egg in the candle flame.
And at the first sign of head scratching, do the non-toxic lice shampoo treatment again.
Or to be REALLY careful you could simply prophylactically do the treatment weekly until lice season is over. The down side is having a child who smells something akin to a newly scrubbed hospital room (it's the tea tree oil) – definitely a damper for play dates!
(Ok now we're getting close…)
If Your Child Seems to Be a Extra Potent Magnet for Head Lice
All parents, teachers and day care professionals have these stories. One child in a family, play group or classroom seems to get head lice over and over when others, similarly exposed, don't.
(Bingo! Here comes the most important sentence in this article!)
Bugs that find a host by smell are generally more attracted to those that somehow smell different or, presumably, toxic, or ‘wrong.'
Any good farmer or vet will tell you that parasites go first to those plants and animals that are less vital and more weakened than the others. This devitalized state is reflected in the scent given off.
Yes, This Applies to Other Bloodsucking Buggies Too
I've noticed a similar pattern with my cats. In the past my cats that have eaten canned and dried pet food, even the ‘good' stuff bought at the natural foods store, itched and scratched constantly from fleas.
This is because dried cat food is comparable to box breakfast cereal for humans. All dried pet food has been extruded which means the protein fractions in the food have been made toxic and hyper-allergic.
My current two cats, who have been raised since day one on raw meat and by-products, are spotless. I never see them scratch nor do I ever find a flea on them. For more information on feeding your cat an appropriate diet, see Raw Fed Cats.
A true story concerning fleas: Mysteriously, almost overnight, my rented home had become loaded with fleas. At the time, my landlord was unreachable because she was on vacation for another two weeks. We couldn't have guests over, because as soon as you stepped into the house, a black ring instantly formed around the base of the ankle as hungry bloodsuckers hopped up looking for dinner!
Years earlier I had read in one of the many books written by nutrition pioneer, Adele Davis, that taking B-Complex could change your body odor and discourage mosquitos from biting. What did I have to lose? I started taking massive doses of coenzymated B-Complex: 50mg, 3-4 times a day. Guess what? The fleas simply stopped jumping on me.
My roommate didn't believe me. So one night we walked in together and placed our ankles side by side. She watched in horror as all the fleas jumped on her and none on me!
She immediately grabbed my bottle of B-Complex and within 24 hours she was flea-free.
Whenever I plan to be in a buggy area, I bring my coenzymated B vitamins along, getting my best results if I start taking 2-3 doses the day before. Apparently this gives my body chemistry a chance to get fully saturated, altering my smell.
My theory is that the B-Complex does more than simply change body odor. I think it actually improves our overall nutritional state and that is the real reason for the change in scent. When we are less than optimally healthy, I believe bugs can smell that difference.
Heads Up Gardeners! This Principle Applies to Plants, too.
Rodale Institute proved this theory years ago by growing crops side by side, one row being treated commercially with chemical fertilizers and pesticides and the row right next to it organically and fertilized only with sustainable methods.
Consistently, the commercially treated produce develops diseases and attracts bugs while the organically grown produce, just inches away, is vital, healthy and parasite-free. Anyone involved in plant health — tree arborists, backyard gardeners, nursery owners, etc. – all know this phenomena.
If a plant (or animal or human) is nutrient-deficient or toxic, it will develop diseases and attract insects and parasites.
Check out what John Kempf, an Amish farmer and CEO of Advancing Eco Agriculture, has to teach us in this audio interview with Dr. Mercola with farm pictures about how agricultural chemicals block the uptake of minerals and create plants with disease and low nutritional value. These weakened and fundamentally deficient crops compromise the health of the animals and humans that eat them.
You're definitely going to want to see those pics of radishes bigger than most apples!
The delivery of minerals to the plant through the presence of bacteria and microbes in the soil is what produces healthy, pest-and-disease-free plants. This is an exact analogy of health within humans.
Optimal human health is only possible through a nutrient-dense diet grown upon healthy soils in combination with a strong gut microbiome in the eater.
This is why it's so critical once you begin to add more nutrient-dense traditional foods to your diet to also address any compromisation you may have in your gut flora. Correct gut microbial content is critical to our health for two reasons.
First of all, microbes perform a huge amount of detoxification, removing poisons from our system. Secondly, just like plants, without good gut flora, we cannot extract the nutrients we need from our food.
Isn't it amazing what bugs can teach us about our personal nutrition needs!
Keeping a Low Bug Profile in Your Family
So if your child seems to attract more than her or his fair share of head lice (or fleas or mosquitos) and you want to know more about how to get rid of bugs naturally, consider these possibilities:
- Detoxify your child's diet. Reduce or eliminate any toxins like pesticides, artificial color and flavor, GMO foods, etc. Poisons like these change our biochemistry. Go ORGANIC!
- Add this probiotic daily to improve your gut microbiome.
- Try increasing the amount of fermented foods. An overabundance of pathological microflora in the gut produces toxins that strain the system and will definitely, although subtly, change a person's body odor. More good microbes will also help her/him absorb nutrients from food better. (see Kelly's I Love Fermented Vegetables!)
- Cut back on the amount of sugar, starches and carbs s/he eats. From the body's perspective, all three are sugar and sugar changes not only the way we smell but also reduces the effectiveness of the immune system.
- Give her/him at least one 50mg co-enzymated B-Complex daily during head lice season (if s/he's old enough to swallow capsules). Don't worry! It's non-toxic, water-soluble and any excess will simply be peed out, although the urine color will become bright yellow. While I'm not sure this approach will make your child less susceptible to head lice, it certainly can't hurt and actually may help her/his overall health.
In general, keep in mind that Mother Nature always bats last! For example, the appearance of parasites on crops indicates a weakened plant condition that must be addressed. Similarly for us and our pets, the unusual appearance of insects can bring the message that our nutrition may need to be adjusted. Look first to your health! Then make changes in the environment.
- In a spray bottle, mix 2 or 3 parts peppermint oil with one part rubbing alcohol.
- Zap that intruder!
Just a couple sprays works wonders for me on ants and spiders and makes the garbage can smell awesome too. Note: Never use this directly on or close to your pet! This is simply too strong for their sensitive noses and eyes.
What about you? How have you resolved bug problems non-toxically? Have you noticed anything changes to your diet or nutrition that have affected your attractiveness, susceptibility or reaction to being bitten?
More Resources and Links for How to Get Rid of Bugs Naturally:
- Kelly the Kitchen Kop: How to Get Rid of Head Lice Naturally
- Peppermint Oil
- Non-Toxic Flea Control for your Home and Yard
This was a guest post by my sweet friend, Joanie Blaxter, who is now a regular writer around here!
Joanie has been the Ventura County, California chapter leader of the Weston A. Price Foundation since 2010, and you can contact Joanie here for health consultations. Also, find all her past posts here.
Disclaimer: Neither Joanie nor I are health professionals! Use what you read here as part of your own research and then consult with a natural-minded doctor or health professional you trust to find what is best and right for YOU. Read my entire disclaimer here, and also note that there may be affiliate links in this post.