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A healthier alternative to DEET is essential oils
Mix up a recipe for you and your children to ward off insects

Lingerfelt’s personal recipe from oils by Young Living

  • 2 ounces distilled water
  • 2 ounces witch hazel
  • 10 drops Purification (blend of citronella, rosemary, lemongrass, tea tree, lavandin, myrtle)
  • 10 drops Thieves (blend of clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus radiata, rosemary)
  • 10 drops Peppermint

Essential oils with insect-repelling properties: Citronella, lemongrass, peppermint, clove, cinnamon, rosemary, thyme, lavender, geranium, eucalyptus, jade, lemon, basil, patchouli, cedarwood

Essential oil recipe to help repel insects:

  • 2 ounces distilled water
  • 2 ounces witch hazel
  • 10 drops citronella
  • 10 drops lemongrass
  • 10 drops peppermint

Variation for children ages 6 months to 3 years old:

  • 2 ounces distilled water
  • 2 ounces witch hazel
  • 15 drops citronella
  • 15 drops lavender

Sarah Lingerfelt has a poor history of health, personally and genetically.

She has survived a rare form of cancer, and her family has a history of melanoma.

And that’s not all. Her family has a history of high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

So the mother of six advocates a healthy lifestyle for herself and her family.

“I’m continually trying to be more aware of what I’m putting in my body,” she said, indicating she looks for toxins in the food, clothing and beauty and health products she and her family use.

To steer clear of those, Lingerfelt buys organic food and other products. This proactive stance and her sister’s urging, led her to trying essential oils.

“I thought it was hokey,” she said. “I didn’t understand what all the hubbub was about.”

She then fell in love with them and now uses them for her general health.

She also plans to use the natural products on her children to fend off ticks, ants and even mosquitoes.

“There is not just one oil that repels bugs,” the Flowery Branch woman said.

But many are familiar with one essential oil: citronella. The lemon-scented grass of southern Asia yields an oil used in perfumery and as an insect repellent.

Many people buy citronella candles or products with citronella in them to ward off mosquitoes and other insects. But there is a catch to the store-bought version, Lingerfelt said.

“What people might not realize is that citronella is not the only ingredient,” she said. “The products in the store may have many chemicals and additives. So why not use the pure thing?”

Pure citronella and other essential oils will repel bugs. They include peppermint, lemongrass, lavender, clove, cinnamon  and many others, Lingerfelt said.

So, she uses the pure essential oil to not only protect herself and her children but to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

“Bottom line, I use them to better my health and the health of my family,” she said.

Before using an essential oil, she recommends people educate themselves on particular products. For example, she uses the brand of essential oils, Young Living.

Founded in 1994, Young Living started when D. Gary and Mary Young cultivated lavender, peppermint, clary sage and many other herbs in Utah and Idaho for essential oils, according to the Young Living website ( Now headquartered in Lehi, Utah, and fueled by a growing demand for top-quality essential oils, Young Living is the largest essential oil distillery in North America that sells therapeutic-grade oils for a natural lifestyle, its website said.

“Therapeutic-grade” is key when selecting your essential oils, Lingerfelt said.

She advises people to be careful of essential oil products claiming 100 percent pure essential oil.

“What this can really mean is that the product may have a small percentage of ‘100 percent pure essential oil’ and a greater percentage of additives and fillers,” she said.

She also urges people to see if the company grows its own supply. And finally research how many times the essential oil is distilled.

She explained Young Living will distill a plant one time, while other companies will distill the plant two and three times.

“After you distill a plant more than once, the potency of the oil that plant produces is reduced,” she said.

Once a person is confident with a brand, he or she may start using the product.

Lingerfelt said essential oils may be applied in a few ways. They may be inhaled, sprayed on or applied like a lotion.

For an insect repellant, she uses the spray method.

However, a person should follow certain steps when applying essential oils.

First, conduct a patch test.

“See if you have a sensitivity to it,” she said, adding it needs to be diluted with a carrier oil such as coconut oil or olive oil.

A carrier oil is any vegetable-based oil that helps spread the essential oil, Lingerfelt said.

Second, use the proper amount.

Lingerfelt said in her 4-ounce spray bottle — always a glass bottle — she uses 2 ounces of distilled water and 2 ounces of witch hazel and 30 drops of essential oil.

“For every half-cup of liquid, you put 30 drops total,” she said.

Third, she mixes different essential oils to create a personal blend for herself and her children.

To ward off insects, she said 10 drops of citronella, 10 drops of lemon grass and 10 drops of peppermint mixed with distilled water and add witch hazel is a great combination.

“Citronella and lavender in equal parts are good for the little ones or

toddlers,” Lingerfelt said.

For topical application (like a lotion), adults can use a 1-to-1 ratio. For example, one drop of citronella to 1 drop of fractionated coconut oil.

“This allows the oils to be spread more liberally and to conserve your oils,” Lingerfelt said. “They are potent enough to be diluted.”

Lingerfelt said she has a few recipes for herself and noted Pinterest has more.

The only downside of using essential oil is “you have to make your own,” instead of buying a concoction off the shelf, she said.

“As far as financially though, you are not spending more,” she said. “When you buy a little bottle, it might seem like you are spending a lot. But you can make several bottles of bug spray or other products from that one bottle of essential oil.”

For more information on essential oils, email Lingerfelt at

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