A practical guide for nutritional and traditional health care.
Natural Insect Repellents
Around the world millions of people spend a lot of money on buying insect repellents for domestic use. This is a very important investment for families as insects and various arthropod pests spread dangerous diseases, killing or sickening millions of people each year. In fact, the health of a family may sometimes depend even on the choice of insect repellent being used at home. Insects and other disease spreading pests can threaten the health and lives of families and individuals in a community, many lethal diseases such as Lyme disease, bubonic plague, dengue fever and malaria, for example, are spread by biting or stinging pests. The pests include all insects, example, the mosquito is responsible for spreading malaria, as well as ticks which spread Lyme disease. The citizens of first world countries typically tend to become infected through the bite or sting of insects and bugs while they are abroad. Indeed, travelers to exotic locales are often affected by nasty diseases transmitted by insects or bugs and bring such disease home with them. The greatest dangers lurk closer home and one need not travel across the world to face tiny pests. Many local insects and bugs in North America can cause serious diseases. Therefore, protecting the entire family through the prudent use of good quality insect and bug repellents is a necessity.
Insects and bugs as vectors
Each year, millions of people die from diseases transmitted by insects and other pests acting as vectors - an organism that acts as a host or carrier of some minute pathogenic organism that it transfers or transmits to a human host. In the case of malaria, for example, the mosquito is a vector, while malaria is actually caused by the protozoan parasite plasmodium. The human being is the final host. Not all diseases passed on by biting or stinging pest results in deaths, however, the issue is a serious one and protection from stinging or biting insects and bugs has been a major human concern down the centuries.
The most familiar insect pest is the mosquito. These flying insects acting as major vectors have been responsible for much of the lethal diseases that are felt worldwide and are regarded as a global health problem. The most dangerous mosquito borne disease is no doubt, malaria, which annually claims up to five million people across the world. Insects like mosquitoes have killed millions of people down the ages by acting as vectors to transmit dangerous pathogens including those that cause dengue fever, Japanese encephalitis, filariasis and many others. The mosquito transmitted West Nile Virus is one example of a mosquito borne disease which infects mainly birds but has successfully infected humans as well. This disease is now a major threat in North America, for example, according to the data released by the center for disease control, in the last five years; this mosquito borne virus has claimed one thousand lives in the US and Canada. Therefore, biting or stinging bugs and insects are serious causes of major diseases and protection from them is an important issue.
The most common insect or bug repellents have synthetic chemical compounds that affect the response of the biting or stinging, insects or bugs. Different compounds may affect various physiological parameters in the body of the pest - the result is that the pest is stopped from biting or stinging the person and this ensures that the possibility of transmission of disease carried by the pest does not occur. However, in recent years, it has been suggested that some of these chemical agents may themselves be unsafe for human use. Indeed, the most common bug sprays and the many brands of insect repellents used in so many homes may even be toxic and capable of producing health problems in people.
Across the world, millions of people use chemical repellents to deal with insects and other pests. In North America it is estimated that about twelve million Canadians make use of some type of insect repellents annually, much more so in the US. Most mosquito repellents used in North America contain the chemical DEET as the principal compound - DEET is the shortened name of the chemical compound, N, N-diethyl-meta-toluamide. The principal compound is the active ingredient responsible for repelling the insects. In some places, DEET based products are sold at a hundred percent concentration. Caution is required, however, as DEET has been linked to health problems in humans according to clinical reports.
Chemical repellents and risks
Individuals have different tolerances to chemicals in the environment. As far as insect repellents are concerned, children are the most susceptible group. The developing brains of children in general and young children in particular are susceptible to changes in brain chemistry as a result of exposure to chemicals - this is due to the fact that the skin of children tends to absorbs more chemicals. Needless to say, this can severely affect the development of the nervous system and result in impaired growth. Even adults are not immune to constant exposure to chemicals such as DEET and the other complex compounds used in so many insecticides on the market. The results of a clinical study carried out at the Duke University Medical Center showed that the chemical DEET induces brain cell death and causes strong observable behavioral changes in tested rats, especially after the animals were exposed frequently for prolonged periods of time to the chemical. These results have come from studies on rats and some have suggested that the same may not occur with humans. However, in the light of these findings, the general public must be made aware of the potential dangers. The public must also be aware of the types of research carried out on pesticides and their potential dangers for human beings.
Constant exposure to such chemicals can bring on loss of memory, persistent headaches, generalized physical weakness, constant fatigue, as well as pain in the muscles and the joints. People typically develop tremors and shortness of breath when overexposed to strong chemicals in insecticides. In general, physically obvious symptoms such as these are never immediately evident in an affected person, most manifesting themselves months or years after the initial exposure to the substance. This long hibernation period of the symptoms is what makes the cause and effect relationship between the chemical agent and the symptoms unclear and difficult to confirm. Some scientific studies have proven that the popular insecticide compound DEET does indeed induce symptoms in a person, especially when it is used in conjunction with other chemical compounds. The results of a clinical study from the University of Manitoba warns against using any of the many marketed DEET containing mosquito repellents in conjunction with sun block - apparently, the chemicals used in sun block can aggravate the negative effects of the insecticide. In this clinical study, it was discovered that the human skin absorbed more DEET, when a 2.5 percent solution of insect-repelling DEET was mixed with the compound oxybenzone - which is the most common sun blocking compound used in commercial sun block creams. When the chemical compounds were used in combination, the absorption of DEET into the skin spiked sharply from about 9.6 percent to 30.2 percent, during the tests. This is a very significant finding and serves as a warning again about the dangerous chemicals that are in common use around the world.
Protection for the family
Since there are so many potential threats from bugs and flying insects, it is a good idea to take the greatest precaution against the risk of infection. However, these risks from disease bearing bugs and insects are compounded by the fact that many of the insecticides used these days, contain extremely dangerous chemicals that have their own particular effects on humans. Clearly, choosing good quality insect repellents that are not harmful to humans should be a top priority for everyone who uses these synthetic products. Choosing a chemical insect repellent for a family, that is also safe for use on small children as well as on adults may be hard as the choices are rather limited. The best option may be go in for herbal insect repellents.
Natural plant based repellents
The ideal way to completely avoid all chemicals used in insecticides is by using natural plant based insect repellents. This can be easily done as many of the essential oils found in various plants can provide sufficient, natural and utterly safe protection from most biting or stinging pests in the house. Many health conscious customers have been choosing to use only such natural plant oils as repellents; indeed, these natural insecticide plant oils have gained tremendous popularity with the majority of health conscious consumers in North America.
Plants and insects: benefits for humans
Plants and animals have evolved over time, through the process of natural selection. Most plants have developed effective weapons against animal predators in what is known as the evolutionary arms race. Therefore, most of the insect repelling essential oils found in plants are quite possibly the way that plants' protect themselves against insect predators. The essential oils found in many species of plants are used as natural insect repellents. However, the most common plants used as a source for oils include the lemongrass, the neem, citronella, cedarwood, the pennyroyal, the peppermint and the eucalyptus. At the same time, it is important to remember that the different plant based essential oil insect repellents tend to have variable efficiency. It is of vital importance to choose the proper insect repellent for the job, as all such natural repellents may not be equally effective - different species of insects may also be affected in different ways by the same natural repellent used. The effectiveness of different natural plant based repellents has been studied, and the research results show that some of the natural essential oil repellents are clearly more effective than others, with some being effective over certain insect pests, while others being ineffective over the same pests. Some research on the part of the conscious consumer is required in order to find an effective natural repellent, this can be a difficult task as there are so many alternative natural insect repellents in the market. The best thing to do is to check up a little on the contents of such natural repellents before buying them. A little investigation may also help; results of clinical studies through independent testing carried out by researchers at universities could yield good pointers about the best natural pest repellents. The efficiency of many natural insect repellents, for example, was confirmed through field studies conducted at the University of Guelph, Canada. In these studies, the researchers discovered that many of the natural plant based repellents were just as effective as synthesized DEET containing products sold in the market. During one particular research, it was discovered that a particular plant based natural repellent which used citronella oils along with four other essential oils were equally effective as the popular Off! Skintastic, which is a top selling DEET based synthetic repellent marketed by a major brand in North America. The principal point is that all plant based insect repellents are very safe for humans and effective as well; in addition, they are environmentally friendly. When using any product sold in the market, common sense is always the best guide for the conscientious consumer. When applying repellents on the body, one should not rub on sensitive areas of the skin or on places near the eyes; the plant oil based repellents must also be rubbed on the skin as often as necessary, to gain complete protection and to maintain effectiveness.