Yarrow Bug Spray for Summer Camping

Yarrow is an abundant summer flower that has a long history of medicinal use and mythological folklore surrounding it, as its name, Achillea millefolium suggests. The great Greek warrior Achilles, who learned healing craft from the god Chiron, was said to have used it to help treat the wounds of his soldiers in the battle at Troy and it definitely makes a great addition to a wound healing salve. It also has a long use as a herb of protection and I love to include it in magical blends for this purpose. However, one of my favourite summer uses is for a homemade bug spray.
I spend a lot of time in the woods gathering plants, walking my dogs, and hiking, so bugs are my constant companions. Yarrow has been shown to be incredibly effective at warding off bugs and it is my go-to herb for this purpose.  I’ve included a recipe here for the spray I use when I am out camping, hiking, or gardening and want to keep the mosquitoes at bay. It does not smell pretty, but it really works.
To make it you will first need to gather some fresh yarrow.
Yarrow is pretty easy to find as it is a common roadside weed. It is a member of the Asteraceae (or daisy) family, so if you have allergies to this family you will need to give Yarrow a miss. You will know Yarrow by its feathery leaves, and its many-headed white flowers. Where I live I sometimes find pale pink yarrow, and there are other colorful cultivars that can be grown in the garden, but the classical white flower of Achillea millefolium is the one whose flowers and leaves I gather for medicinal use. It has a bitter smell that I find refreshing and if dried well can be stored in your herbal medicine cabinet for up to one year.

Making Your Yarrow Tincture

  • Harvest 2 cups of yarrow flowers and leaves. Spread them out on paper towels or a drying rack and let wilt for 24 hours to remove some of the moisture.
  • Chop fine and fill a large jar.
  • Cover with pure witch hazel extract, label and seal jar.
  • Steep for 2 weeks, shaking once each day.
  • Strain off when ready and save liquid for bug spray. This also makes a great facial toner for oily skin! You can compost the spent flowers once you are done.

Bug Spray Recipe

Pour your yarrow tincture into a clean empty spray bottle, leaving an inch or two of space at the top for additional ingredients. For each cup of yarrow tincture add the following:

  • 10 drops lemon eucalyptus essential oil
  • 10 drops cedarwood essential oil
  • 6 drops lemongrass essential oil
  • 6 drops clove essential oil
  • 8 drops yarrow essential oil
  • 8 drops geranium essential oil

I buy all of these essential oils from Canadian company Zayat Aroma as they are great quality. I am not an affiliate, just a happy customer who likes to support Canadian companies.

Special Ingredient: 1 TBSP neem oil. This is not an essential oil but rather an infused oil or neem extract. It does not smell good – but it works!

Shake well before each use and apply as needed. Please know that some people find lemongrass oil irritating to their skin so make this in a small batch at first to see how it works for you or leave it out.