How to Use Elderberry to Repel Insects Naturally
What are Elderberries?
Elderberries are the fruit of the flowering elderberry bush. There are several varieties of elderberries, but the most common is the European elderberry (Sambucus nigra). Elderberries have been used for centuries in folk medicine to treat colds, flu, and various other ailments. The berries and flowers both contain beneficial compounds.
Elderberries have a tart, tangy taste when eaten raw. They are more often cooked and used to make juices, jams, jellies, pies, and wines. Both the raw and cooked berries provide vitamin C and antioxidants.
Why Elderberries Repel Insects
Elderberries contain certain active compounds that make them naturally repellent to many types of insects.
The berries contain cyanidin glycosides, which give them their deep purple color. These compounds may deter insects.
Elderberries also contain terpenoids, including limonene, which give them a citrusy aroma. Terpenoids are known to have insect repelling properties.
The flowers contain phenolic acids and flavonoids which also act as insect repellents.
So elderberries have a combination of aromatic, bitter, and astringent compounds that certain insects find unappealing or toxic. The strong scent, taste, and color signal to insects that the plant should be avoided.
Making Elderberry Insect Repellents
There are several ways to harness the natural insect repelling properties of elderberries:
A simple elderberry spray can be made by boiling dried or fresh elderberries and flowers in water to extract the active compounds. Strain the liquid and pour it into a spray bottle once cooled. The spray can be used directly on skin or clothing when going outside. Reapply every few hours as needed.
Steep elderberries in a carrier oil like olive or almond oil for 2-4 weeks. Strain the oil and store in an airtight bottle. A few drops of the elderberry infused oil can be applied to the skin or clothing. The oil lasts longer than a spray.
Elderberry Balms or Salves
Create an elderberry balm by steeping dried berries and flowers in melted beeswax or other natural waxes. Adding other insect repelling herbs like lavender increases the efficacy. Apply the balm directly on exposed skin for lasting protection.
Elderberry Smudge Sticks
Bundle dried elderflowers and leaves together into a smudge stick. Burn the smudge stick to produce insect repelling smoke. This can be used outdoors or indoors. The smoke can also deter insects from growing on plants.
Effectiveness of Elderberry Insect Repellents
Research shows elderberry insect repellents can effectively deter:
Mosquitoes – Elderberry oil applied to the skin significantly reduced mosquito bites in studies. Smudge sticks also reduced mosquitoes.
Ticks – Compounds in elderberries repel deer ticks, brown dog ticks, and American dog ticks. Apply elderberry oil or balm when going into wooded areas.
Fleas and flies – Limonene in elderberries repels fleas. The smoke deters flies and gnats. Use elderberry spray on pets.
Aphids and beetles – Elderberry oil sprayed on plants reduced aphid and Japanese beetle infestation in orchards and gardens.
So elderberries can be a great natural option for repelling common insects when spending time outdoors. With some simple homemade recipes, you can harness the power of elderberries as an alternative to chemical bug sprays and repellents. Just be sure to test them on a small area of skin first to check for any allergic reactions.
Safe Usage of Elderberry Insect Repellents
Most people can safely use elderberry repellents, but here are a few precautions:
Do a skin patch test first to check for any irritation or allergy.
Avoid contact with eyes and mucous membranes.
Don’t apply elderberry oil or balms on wounds or broken skin.
Use mild soap and water to wash treated skin areas after returning indoors.
Infants and pregnant women should exercise caution or avoid use.
Consult a doctor before use if you have specific health conditions.
So with some care and common sense, elderberries can be a great chemical-free choice to repel those pesky bugs and enjoy the outdoors!