Everything and the kitchen shrink: What's bugging you this summer?

My flesh and blood are an all-you-can-eat buffet for a menagerie of pests, including mosquitoes, gnats, fleas and other flying stingers.

I am on a mission to stamp out these pesky health hazards using herbs and other natural repellents. As I was scratching, I uncovered several remedies to help me escape from being eaten alive.




On the home front, fresh basil is one of the best defenses against pest invasions. A basil barrier at the doorstep or flourishing plants on outside patios or balconies will stop them cold. The pungent aroma is repulsive to the olfactory organs of mosquitoes, flies and ants.

Rosemary is another hearty ally in the bug war. Plant this bush in your garden or throw some sprigs into the hot coals when you're having a barbeque so the scented mesquite aroma will repel those pests, especially mosquitoes. Lavender, lemon balm, lemon thyme and santolina planted in your garden will turn-off the appetites of mosquitoes and gnats. Coriander is abhorred by spider mites, and mint will chase away ants.




Make a potpourri of vanilla, bay, clove, sassafras and cedar or an arrangement of eucalyptus leaves, and scatter these liberally on window sills or other entry areas. You can put them in cheesecloth to create fragrant sachets to protect your delicates, cashmeres and other luxury clothes that bugs love to snack on.

Nothing attracts mosquitoes more than a hot and sweaty person fresh out of the gym. The big bug turn-on is the carbon dioxide that overheated bodies emit. To prevent them from making a beeline to your CO2 emissions, do a fake-out with a lighted carbon dioxide spewing candle - a decoy that will lure them away from you. Lactic acid oozing out of your pores after eating salty and potassium-rich foods also attracts those little buggers. But that doesn't mean you should lay off the bananas and pretzels - just lather up with an insect repelling plant oil.

To protect your body systemically, make it stink in the insect world. A daily dose of vitamin B-1 (aka thiamine) will make you secrete odors that are highly offensive to mosquitoes. Since the vitamin is water soluble, you can't OD on the stuff. You may even want to take an extra dose before going on a long hike. Eating fresh garlic or taking garlic capsules also helps ward off mosquitoes, perhaps even vampires. This wonderful multi-purpose herb is a natural insect repellent, although it's a no-no for people who are on blood thinners since garlic is also a blood thinner.

Brew up a pot of tea with a blend of mint and rosemary leaves and stems. Let them steep in boiling water for several minutes. Cheerio.



For topical repellents, give your skin a quick wash down with apple cider vinegar or a rub with parsley or basil. A juicy garlic clove works just as well, but you'll be repelling more than just the insects. Plant oils such as citronella, lemon eucalyptus, cinnamon, rosemary, lemon grass, cedar, peppermint, clove and tea tree are quite effective as repellents. Rubbing vanilla pods - slit open to expose the beans - all over your body may fend off bugs, although kids might mistake you for an ice cream cone. Finally, as a unique fashion accessory/bug repellent, wear a bandana rolled with crushed mint and basil.



If all else fails, get a nest full of mosquito-loving bats - Halloween's just around the corner.

Here's one of my favorite tomato, garlic, basil bruschetta toppings that you can pile on garlic toast for a double dose of protection. It has quite a bite to it and a lingering aroma. Not to worry - just chew on a sprig of parsley and you'll be good to go. The Kitchen Shrink's Killer Bruschetta (Use organic ingredients where possible)
  • 1 1/2 cups of fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 fistful of fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and cracked pepper to taste
For the bread:
  • 1 baguette sliced 3/4 inch thick
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
Combine the topping ingredients in a glass bowl. Refrigerate for 2 hours. In a fry pan, melt the butter on medium heat, add the oil and saute the garlic until tender. Brush on both sides of the bread and toast.

Arrange the garlic rounds on a serving platter and top with the chilled tomato mixture. Serve immediately.
   
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