by Michelle Schoffro Cook
Before you grab that DEET-based mosquito repellent, consider using a natural option instead. DEET, also known as diethyl-meta-toluamide, by any other name still stinks. And research proves that the main ingredient in commercial mosquito repellents leaves more than a bad odor. According to a Duke University study, it damages brain cells, can cause behavioural changes, and can have harmful interactions with some medications. The scientists also observed that it caused brain cell death in animals frequently exposed to or after prolonged use of DEET.
Additional research found that up to 15 percent of DEET is absorbed through the skin directly into the bloodstream. According to safety data sheets on diethyl-meta-toluaminde, the toxic effects of this chemical include: reproductive disturbances, genetic material mutations, and central nervous system disorders.
There’s no need to suffer long-term and serious health consequences to ward off pesky mosquitoes. Choose a natural alternative that’s proven to work as effectively as DEET or in some case, MORE effectively than DEET.
Here are some natural options:
1. Catnip—You can drive cats wild and make mosquitoes run in terror, according to research at Iowa State University which found that the essential oil found in the herb catnip is about 10 times more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes.
2. Citronella—the old standby. Use only pure essential oil of citronella—not fragrance oil. Oils purchased in bulk for burning are not adequate for applying topically to your skin. For your skin it is best to get a high quality citronella essential oil from a natural food store. While it’s not as effective as catnip, it’s still a good option.
3. Garlic—eat lots of fresh garlic—mosquitoes can’t stand the stuff.
4. Lavender essential oil smells great and is a commonly used and effective mosquito repellent. It’s best diluted in a carrier oil like apricot kernel, sweet almond, or coconut oil. If you can find organic soy oil, it is also a good option since it also keeps mosquitoes at bay.
5. Neem oil or neem seed oil: According to a study by the US National Research Council neem oil is more effective than DEET. The results were confirmed by scientists at the Malaria Institute in India and in research cited in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association. Neem is a plant that grows in India.
6. Organic soy oil—Research cited in The New England Journal of Medicine found that repellents made of soybean oil are just as effective as DEET-containing repellents. Soy oil is inexpensive and easy to find, making it an excellent choice. Plus, it is an excellent body moisturizer. As an aside, research shows that an ingredient in soy can slow the growth of body hair when applied topically. Choose organic soy oil if possible since many soy crops are now genetically-modified.
7. Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera)—New research published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine shows that lotus is an effective mosquito repellent and also helps kill mosquito larvae. Since lotus grows in water it is a good option as a natural repellent in backyard ponds and water features rather than something that is applied topically.
8. Black pepper (Piper nigrum)—New research from the same study shows that an extract (the study used an alcohol extract but black pepper essential oil would probably work too) of black pepper is effective in repelling mosquitoes.
I mix about 30 drops of the essential oils of catnip, citronella, lavender, neem, and black pepper (total, so about 6 drops of each essential oil) into about 30 mL of an unscented and natural oil or moisturizer, which I keep handy in a jar. I rub a bit onto my skin prior to heading outdoors. You can also mix 30 drops of these essential oils into organic soy oil for extra protection. Always do a 24-hour skin test to be sure you don’t have sensitivities to any of the oils.
by Eve Fox
The bad news is that our honey bees are dying. U.S. bee keepers lost a shocking 31% of their hives this winter, as they have for the past seven years in a row. Although the exact causes of Colony Collapse Disorder are not 100% certain, what is crystal clear is that we’re speeding towards the disastrous point at which we will not have enough bees to pollinate our crops.
The good news is that there are a number of easy (even enjoyable) ways YOU can help honey bees to survive and, hopefully, to thrive. And none of them involve rushing out to buy protective mesh clothing and a smoke can!
Here are seven simple ways to help our favorite pollinators out.
1. Add your name to the petition urging the EPA and USDA to ban neonicotinoids, a widely used class of agricultural pesticides that is highly toxic to bees and believed to play a crucial role in colony collapse disorder. The EU has just enacted a ban on neonicotinoids and we must follow Europe’s lead as there is literally no time to waste.
Also known as yellow palm or butterfly palm, the areca palm is one of the most popular and graceful palms. It is tolerant of the indoor environment, releases copious amounts of moisture into the air, removes chemical toxins, and is beautiful. The areca is consistently rated among the best houseplants for removing all indoor air toxins tested. Best in direct, bright sunlight.
This large palm has fans six to 12 inch wide with four and 10 thick, shiny leaves. It is highly resistant to attack by most plant insects and is great for improving indoor air quality. It grows slowly and is easy to maintain. Best in direct, bright sunlight.
Easy to care for and a popular variety. The bamboo palm pumps much needed moisture into the indoor atmosphere, especially during winter months when heating systems dry the air. This palm is also one of the top-rated plants tested for the removal of benzene, trichloroethylene and formaldehyde. Best in direct, bright sunlight.
Bred for toughness, it will tolerate dim light and cool temperatures, making it an excellent house plant. This plant is easy to grow and is great for removing chemical toxins from the indoor environment, particularly formaldehyde. Best in direct, bright sunlight to indirect, medium sunlight.
Dracaena “Janet Craig”
The dark-green leaves of dracaena “Janet Craig” make it an attractive plant. It is one of the best plants for removing trichloreoethylene. These plants can tolerate neglect and dimly lit environments. This plant does best in indirect, medium sunlight. It will tolerate dimly lit areas, but growth will be slow.
English Ivy is often used as ground cover in public atriums or lobbies. But to add interest, try growing it in topiary form or in hanging baskets. They are easy to grow and adapt to a variety of home environments. However, they do not generally do well in high temperatures. Best in indirect, medium sunlight to low sunlight.
One of the primary reasons Pothos is popular is it can tolerate lower light, lower humidity and cooler temperatures than many other plants. Pothos are rated one of the best houseplants for removing all indoor air toxins. Pothos also goes by a few other names: devil’s ivy, pothos ivy and has a few cultivars. The most common variety “Golden Pothos” gets the most use in the interior business. Two other varieties are “Marble Queen” with a streaky white on green and “Jade” which is green. Pothos does not like wet feet and the soil should not stay too moist. Every so often a Pothos could use a good pruning – but prune selectively. This will also promote new growth. Best in indirect, medium sunlight but it will also tolerate very low light.
This is a new ficus variety that is rapidly gaining in popularity. Its slender dark green leaves make it an extremely attractive plant. Its ability to help purify the air, ease of growth and resistance to insects make it an excellent choice for the home or office. It is much less finicky than the Ficus Benjamina. Like all species of ficus, expect some leaf drop until the plant adjusts to its new location. Best in direct, bright sunlight to indirect, medium sunlight.
Ferns are probably one of the oldest groups of plants. Many have been found as fossils dating back to prehistoric times. The Boston Fern’s stiff fronds arch out, drooping downward as they age. It is grown strictly for its foliage for it does not produce flowers. It is best displayed in a hanging basket or sitting upon a pedestal. As an indoor plant, the Boston Fern requires a certain amount of attention. It must have frequent misting and watering, or the leaves will quickly turn brown and begin to drop. It is the best for removing air pollutants, especially formaldehyde, and for adding humidity to the indoor environment. Best in indirect, medium sunlight.
Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum)
An outstanding foliage plant that also produces beautiful white spathes, the peace lily should always be included when seeking a variety of indoor plants. This plant has a high transpiration rate and enjoys the large water reservoir that hydroculture offers. It possesses all the qualities to make it one of the best indoor plants. The Peace Lily excels in the removal of alcohols, acetone, trichloroethylene, benzene and formaldehyde. Its ability to remove air pollutants and its excellent performance in all categories make it a most valuable houseplant. Best in indirect, medium sunlight to low sunlight.
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