Pre-Mission Trip – Natural Bug Spray

On Thursday I spoke with many missionaries from Nicaragua where I will be serving medically for a month. One of the things we talked about was my need for bug spray to help decrease my risk for mosquito borne illnesses like Malaria, Zika, and the like.

Obviously the mosquito repellent that comes to mind first include brands like “Off”, which contain the well-known repellent “DEET”. While I would love to discuss the chemical compounds of DEET and its efficacy and safety (snooze fest)…. that is not what I am going to discuss today (yay!). Instead, I want to look into what alternative bug repellents are out there. One thing of note is that DEET does its mosquito repelling magic by masking your smell so that the mosquitos have a more difficult time finding you… “the more you know”. If you are curious to read more about possible side effects of DEET click HERE to enjoy an article (if you are into that sort of thing).

Anyways… what are some alternative/natural bug spray options one might ask?

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil:


The CDC actually has this listed as one of their alternative bug spray options on their website, which I found was kind of reassuring. WebMD notes that while it has shown to have the same efficacy as DEET containing mosquito products, it often does not last as long. One positive, is that it also can help prevent deer tick bites, which some bug sprays do not!

  • Usage: WebMD recommends a 30-75% solution, but often all you can find in the store is 10-30%. There is no known increase in mosquito repelling power with the higher concentrations so you are probably good to go with a 30% solution. Make sure, like with any oil, you wash your hands after applying. They also recommend not applying this on the skin more than twice a day.


Lavender-Picture-8Some studies state that Lavender (the scent, plant, oil, etc) can be used as an effective mosquito repellant. Often gardener’s will plant lavender to help prevent bugs and other critters from coming into their garden.

My favorite part about this option is… 1) lavender is one of my favorite scent/herbs, 2) it is relaxing and calming to the skin (and the mind for that matter), and 3) you do not have to use it in the essential oil form!

Other Herbs to Try:

You can prevent mosquito bites by playing with plants! YAY!. Cook/Play/Eat/Use herbs and flowers! The best herbs for mosquito control (besides whats listed above) include: lemon balm, geranium, rosemary, anise, mint, marigold, catnip, wormwood, cedar, cloves.

5 Helpful Anti-Mosquito Tips:

  1. Avoid peak mosquito times… dusk to dawn. (*of note, some types of mosquitos bite during the day so this might not prevent all of them)
  2. Sweat less… this can be difficult to do in the hot months of summer, but mosquitos are attracted to sweat
  3. Do not drink alcohol! Mosquitos are little alcoholics… so if you imbibe, stay inside!
  4. Wear light clothing. You essentially ‘camouflage’ yourself by blending in more.
  5. Don’t hang out by standing water. That is the mosquitos breeding ground.

There are plenty more ideas out there that others have come up with including many home recipes! If you have a favorite homemade mosquito repellent leave a comment or message me directly and I will add it to the list! 🙂

13428543_647230825416146_1983903022237101822_nMy name is Emma Petshow and I am a 4th year Naturopathic medical student at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR. For more about myself, check out my bio. This blog is intended for information about preventive health and lifestyle improvement. The information contained on this blog is not to be used as medical advice. For specific medical advice you should consult your physician.


Nicaragua Mission Trip – Travel Vaccines

As many of you already know I am planning on traveling to Leon, Nicaragua this August for a medical mission trip. While there are many things I have been doing to prepare both physically, mentally, spiritually, and medically… what I want to discuss tonight is travel vaccinations.

On the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website, there is a handy little travel guide to whatever country you are traveling to (see image below). When I looked up Nicaragua there were several recommended vaccines and other medical tips… one visit to the travel clinic and $500 later I have received a vaccine for Hepatitis A, Tetanus, Diptheria, Pertusis, and I am currently taking an oral Typhus vaccine. I start my chemoprophylaxis for Malaria on Saturday… there is something to look forward to. :-/

Some of you might be thinking to yourselves, but Emma getting vaccines is such an un-Naturopathic thing to do! To that I would say on the contrary… MANY Naturopathic physicians not only believe that vaccines do work, we practice/prescribe/stick to the same vaccination schedule that is recommended to the public by the CDC. Now do all Naturopathic Doctors (NDs) follow this same thought process, absolutely not! In fact some are probably offended right now, but I do (with a small caveat) and I will briefly explain using some principles of Naturopathic Medicine why, without getting into a heavy discussion on Herd Immunity and/or Immunology.

1. First Do No Harm

One of the oldest tenants of all medical practice is to do no harm. We are very lucky to live in a society not plagued with horrible debilitating diseases such as Polio or even Measles. To jeopardize my patients’ and the communities health by not vaccinating due to personal convictions or personal choice, would be against my duties as a physician.

  • That being said… As a Naturopathic physician I completely understand and respect patient’s choice and their decision to NOT vaccinate. My patient’s have a right to their own personal choice and I will work with them to come up with a vaccination schedule that works both for their wishes and my own duties as a physician or help them find another doctor that can do so. 

2. Prevention

Another principle of Naturopathic medicine is to prevent illness if at all possible, both acute and chronic. Vaccines do this! Let’s use technology we already have to continue to strive for better health. I would rather help my patient’s improve their overall health, decrease risk and symptoms and progression of chronic disease, and become the healthiest versions of themselves than treating a disease that already has a cure.

3. Doctor as Teacher

One place where I differ directly from Allopathic medicine is on the delivery and discussion regarding vaccines with my patient’s. I want to help educate my patient’s on the pros and cons of all vaccines (and medicines, supplements, etc. for that matter) that they are subjecting their body to so they can make an informed and comfortable decision that is best for them. Doctors and patients are a team!

virus cartoon

Thyphoid cartoon

Those are my raw thoughts that I was contemplating while taking my live capsule of Thyphoid today. Science is great, we should use it in our favor, as long as it is safe and in our best interest.

If you are interested in these topics or others… stay tuned. More pre-mission trip info to come


My name is Emma Petshow and I am a 4th year naturopathic medical student at the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, OR. For more about myself, check out my bio. This blog is intended for information about preventive health and lifestyle improvement. The information contained on this blog is not to be used as medical advice. For specific medical advice you should consult your physician.