According to the herbalist Susun S. Weed of the Wise Woman Herbal series of books, the United States Army studied yarrow and found that a tincture of this herb outperforms DEET in repelling ticks and mosquitoes. The only negative aspect is that its effect does not last as long as DEET, so it needs to be reapplied more often.
You should do your best to avoid DEET as an insect repellent, especially on yourself or your children, since it is highly toxic. It has been known to cause seizures in young children even at low potency. Furthermore, there have been 17 cases of DEET-induced toxic encephalopathy in children.
How Often Should Yarrow be Used to Repel Insects
According to Susun S. Weed, spraying yourself with yarrow tincture every 20-30 minutes will do the job for heavy insects. If they are not heavy, spray every couple of hours.
Yarrow is also helpful for repelling horse flies and other insects that are bothering horses, which is useful if you are riding.
Yarrow Made into a Tincture
To make an effective tincture, it is best to use freshly picked plants. A commercially prepared tincture bought from the store and made with dried plants is not as powerful.
Fortunately, fresh yarrow ‘Achillea millefolium’ is a common plant that grows wild all around the world in temperate regions and is not hard to find. It has pretty, long lasting flowers that may be white, yellow, red, or pink. Susun S. Weed suggests the white or pink yarrow varieties as the best ones for the tincture. She recommends picking the flowers, flower buds, seeds, stalk, and leaves from the top third of the plant.
Preparation of the yarrow tincture:
– Discard any damaged yarrow plant material
– Do not wash any of the plant, except the roots and only with water and if necessary.
– Chop the parts of the yarrow plants roughly, except for the flower and buds.
– Fill a jar to the top with the chopped yarrow. Don’t leave an inch like when you are fermenting food and drinks.
– Then pour in 100 proof vodka or vinegar. Vodka might be the better choice since a tincture made with a vinegar base will make you smell of it if you spray yourself with it. Also, use potato vodka if there is a gluten sensitivity in your home.
– Cap the jar.
– Label it with the date and type of plant used yarrow.
– The following day, top up the liquid as the level will go down slightly as the plant material absorbs the liquid.
– Leave it to sit for a minimum of 6 weeks.
– Strain the tincture into a spray bottle and it is ready to use.
Using Dried Yarrow for a Tincture
You can use dried yarrow if you absolutely cannot find fresh yarrow to make this insect repellent tincture. However, this tincture will not be as potent and you will most likely have to spray yourself more often to achieve results.
Don’t use powdered yarrow as it 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.
Put two ounces of the dried yarrow root in a pint jar and add 10 ounces of 100 proof vodka.
Cap and label just as described above.
Add more vodka over the next week as necessary.
Leave for 6 weeks and then strain it for use.
A properly made yarrow tincture is appropriate to use for a broad spectrum of insects, but especially for mosquitoes, ticks, horse flies and deer flies.