Herbs are God’s gift to supporting life on this planet, however, science has decided that it knows more than Nature and makes toxic chemicals to replace herbs in this case as a bug repellant.  Unfortunately even though the toxic chemical works really well, it can and does cause some major health issues in many people.  So for major bug issues like flies at the Eastern beaches or in the humid climates, try this homemade solution instead.

Herbalist extraordinaire Susun Weed of the Wise Woman Herbal series of books says that the United States Army studied yarrow and found a herbal tincture of this herb outperforms DEET in repelling ticks and mosquitoes. The one drawback is that it did not remain effective as long, so it needed to be reapplied often. I was unable to find a source for this study, so you will have to try it and see if you agree.

Ms. Weed suggests spraying yourself every 20-30 minutes if the insects are heavy. If not, every couple of hours should be sufficient. Yarrow works for repelling horse flies and other insects that are bothering your horse when you are riding too.

Yarrow Made into a Tincture

The best tinctures are made with freshly picked plants. Buying a commercially prepared tincture from the store made with dried plants is not as potent.

Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) is a common plant that grows wild all around the world in temperate regions.  It has lovely, long lasting flowers that may be white, yellow, red, or pink.  Susun Weed suggests the white or pink yarrow varieties as the best ones to tincture. She picks the flowers, flower buds, seeds, stalk, and leaves from the top third of the plant.

Preparing the yarrow tincture is performed as follows:

  1. Discard any damaged yarrow plant material
  2. Do not wash any of the yarrow with the exception of the roots and only with water and if necessary.
  3. Coarsely chop the yarrow plant parts except the flower and buds.
  4. Fill a jar to the top with the chopped yarrow. You don’t leave an inch like when you are fermenting food and drinks.
  5. Pour in 100 proof vodka or vinegar. I would suggest vodka as a better choice because a tincture made with a vinegar base will make you pretty smelly if you spray yourself with it. Also, use potato vodka if there is a gluten sensitivity in your home.
  6. Cap the jar.
  7. Label the jar with the date and type of plant used (yarrow).
  8. The next day, top up the liquid as the level will go down slightly as the plant material absorbs the liquid.
  9. Leave for a minimum of 6 weeks.
  10. Strain the tincture into a spray bottle and it is ready to use.

How to Use Dried Yarrow for a Tincture

If you absolutely cannot source fresh yarrow to make this insect repellent tincture, you can use dried yarrow. Just know that it will not be as potent and you will most likely have to respray yourself more often to achieve satisfactory results.

Note that powdered yarrow is not suitable for tincturing. You can only use the dried yarrow root, as the dried flowers, buds, stems, and leaves will not retain enough potency after drying.

Place two ounces of the dried yarrow root in a pint jar.  Add 10 ounces of 100 proof vodka.

Cap and label as described above.

Top up with more vodka over the next week as necessary.

Leave for 6 weeks and then strain it for use.

Note that a properly made yarrow tincture is appropriate as a broad spectrum insect repellent, but especially for mosquitoes, ticks, horse flies and deer flies.