What if you could make your own insect repellent out of all natural ingredients that is just as effective as commercial sprays that contain DEET?
And what if it was super easy and used a plant that is very common?
That’s exactly what you will find here with these Beautyberry insect repellent recipes.
Many experienced outdoors enthusiasts and survival experts use the leaves of the Beautyberry shrub as an insect repellent instead of commercial sprays containing DEET.
In fact, Beautyberry has been used for hundreds of years by farmers and Native American tribes as an insect repellent (among other uses!). Farmers in the south during the 19th century would commonly stuff the leaves into the harnesses of their horses and mules for this purpose.
The best part is that you can simply rub the leaves on your skin or you can easily extract the insect repellent compounds from the leaves to make a spray or cream.
Below you can find five effective Beautyberry insect repellent recipes, for both sprays and creams.
Why not use DEET?
DEET was developed in World War II to help soldiers fighting in the jungles of the Pacific theater. It is very effective at deterring many different kinds of insects and pests.
DEET appears to be pretty safe, considering it’s been in widespread use commercially since 1957.
There are cautions, however, about using solutions that contain more than 30% DEET or simply over-using or misusing DEET (like ingesting it…don’t do that). Furthermore, there are some sketchy warnings – like don’t use it on infants under 2 months (if it’s so safe, why can’t I put it on my baby?).
There is mounting evidence that DEET may have harmful effects on your nervous system. It is well established that DEET can be found in your body several hours after applying it to your skin, which doesn’t sit well with a lot of people (understandably).
It is for these reasons that some people may prefer a natural alternative such as some good Beautyberry insect repellent recipes.
What is Beautyberry and Where Can I Get It?
American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana) is common to the southern United Stated so I will focus on that species. It has attractive berries (hence the name) that last well into the winter and feed several bird species as well as deer.
Beautyberry can be used for a number of purposes. You can make tea from the roots to treat diarrhea and stomach aches. The berries can used to make purple dye and recently the leaves have been shown to treat acne!
American Beautyberry berries are edible, although not known to be that tasty. Many people make jam from them, using sugar to give it some flavor, or add them to tea for a little unique flavor.
Here is a map of the United States showing roughly where Beautyberry grows wild, from the USDA website:
Other species exist, such as Japanese Beautyberry (Callicarpa japonica), and these species are native to Australia, Madagascar, east and southeast Asia, and South America.
Identifying Beautyberry in the Wild
Beautyberry can grow in a variety of microclimates (moist, dry, open, shady) but it does especially well under open stands of pines. It’s a pioneer species meaning it encroaches on recently disturbed forest (e.g. after a forest fire). It also grows along forest margins and along fencerows.
The leaves are 6 to 10 inches long, opposite, deciduous, ovat to broadly lanceolate. The margins are coarsely serrate to crenate except near the base.
The berries grow in purple clumps and are especially attractive in September and October but can be seen further into the winter.
Here is a picture of American Beautyberry:
If you still need help with identification, you can find more detailed information here. As always when using or consuming wild plants, if you aren’t sure about your identification, DO NOT USE IT.
If you do not live in the south, you can buy Beautyberry plants online and try to grow it yourself. American Beautyberry can be grown as far north as zone 6 but Japanese Beautyberry is hardy to zone 5 (both work as insect repellents).
If growing your own Beautyberry is not an option either, you can try replacing it with mint or other aromatic plants in the mint family. Mint, and similar plants, have been known to have insect repellent properties but have not been tested as thoroughly for effectiveness as Beautyberry.
Is Beautyberry Effective at Repelling Insects?
The 5 Absolute Best Beautyberry Insect Repellent Recipes:
Some people prefer sprays and some prefer something to rub onto their skin like a salve or cream. Here we provide recipes for both and both are effective so make whichever you choose. Sprays tend to be more simple but making a salve or cream gives more options for extras like scents or even Vitamin E (see recipe #5).
One note – whichever recipe you choose, make sure you use fresh Beautyberry leaves. The insect repellent compounds are volatile and can be lost when the leaves are dried.
Recipe #1 – Spray Using Rubbing Alcohol
Originally posted in Prepper Gardens, this recipe is first because alcohol is effective at extracting the necessary compounds from the Beautyberry leaves. Once sprayed, the alcohol evaporates from your skin faster than water, leaving behind the bug deterrent.
- 1 cup fresh Beautyberry leaves, crushed
- 4 ounces of rubbing alcohol (isopropanol)
- 2 drops scented body wash or spray (optional)
- Small spray bottle
Cover the crushed leaves with the rubbing alcohol in a mason jar. Cap and let stand for two days. Strain out the leaves and add your scent of choice.
Recipe #2 – Salve Using Vodka
For whatever reason, you might prefer using some other kind of alcohol besides rubbing alcohol. This recipe is from The Grow Network and uses vodka (or any other hard alcohol around 100 proof) blended with oil to make an insect repellent cream.
- Fresh Beautyberry leaves
- Vodka or other Hard alcohol
- Coconut oil
This recipe is based on proportions so don’t worry about measuring the exact amounts. Pack the fresh leaves tightly into a jar and add alcohol to about half as high as the leaves. Screw a lid on tight, shake for a minute, and then let sit overnight. Pour the leaf and alcohol mixture into a blender and add about 7 times as much coconut oil. Blend well for about 3 minutes. Strain the resulting oil mixture through a jelly straining bag or other mesh container.
The resulting oil mixture can be used as is but to make a salve: pour the oil mixture into a double boiler and add 1 ounce (by weight) of beeswax for every cup of oil mixture. Mix continuously until beeswax is melted and well mixed. Pour into a container and let cool.
Recipe #3 – Spray with Witch Hazel
This recipe is from Basmati and is fairly simple, provided you have some Witch Hazel. Witch Hazel is good for sensitive skin so it’s great to use if you have it. But I get the feeling you could still make this recipe without it (although I haven’t tried).
- 2 cups Beautyberry leaves, chopped
- Boiling water
- Witch Hazel
- 1 ounce Cococut Oil
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable glycerin (optional)
- 20-40 drops of your favorite essential oil (optional)
- Small spray bottle
Place chopped leaves in a jar and add enough boiling water to cover them. Cover the jar and let stand 4-6 hours. Strain out the leaves and add to the spray bottle until the spray bottle is half full. Add witch hazel until the spray bottle is about 3/4 full then add coconut oil. If using essential oils, add those now along with the vegetable glycerin. Let sit for a few hours before use to allow the Witch Hazel to infuse into the mixture. Shake well before use.
Recipe #4 – Cream that Includes Beautyberry Bark
Another recipe from Prepper Gardens, this recipe includes some of the Beautyberry Bark to give it an earthy, woody musk.
- Beautyberry Bark from the roots, chopped
- Fresh Beautyberry leaves, chopped
- 2 cups of boiling water
- 1 cup of neem oil
- 1 ounce of beeswax
Add chopped Beautyberry bark and leaves to the boiling water. Cover and simmer gently for 10 minutes. Meanwhile in a different pot, warm neem oil. Slowly mix in beeswax until melted and mixed. Strain the boiled water into a blender and add the neem oil/beeswax mixture. Blend slowly until it forms a well-mixed cream.
Recipe #5 – Cream with Essential Oils and Vitamin E
This is by far the most complicated recipe but the result may be worth it. Vitamin E is great for your skin and citronella has insect repellent properties of it’s own so this cream is likely more effective than using Beautyberry alone.
- 3 cups boiling water
- 1 cup Beautyberry leaves, chopped
- 2 tablespoons beeswax or emulsifying wax
- 1/3 cup Grapeseed Oil
- 1 teaspoon Vitamin E Oil
- 10 drops Lemongrass essential oil
- 10 drops Citronella essential oil
Gently simmer chopped leaves for 20 minutes, covered. Pour the water into a jar while straining out the leaves. Melt the bees wax and the grapeseed oil by putting them in a glass canning jar and place the jar in a pot of water on medium heat. As soon as the wax is melted, remove the jar and add Vitamin E oil. Add 1/2 a cup strained water (make sure it is still warm) to the wax/oil and mix well until it becomes creamy. Add the citronella and lemongrass essential oils, cover and shake well. If you see any separation between the water and oil as it cools, shake more until it is well emulsified.
If you can get your hands on some Beautyberry, making all natural bug spray is really easy. The recipes range from simple to complex and you can make a spray, cream, or salve. Also, the recipes are quite flexible and personalizable. Feel free to experiment with scents and other ingredients that you think would improve any of these recipes and let me know how it came out in the comments! What are your favorite Beautyberry insect repellent recipes?
If you enjoy making your own natural products, check out my article on treating chigger bites: 17 Amazing Treatments for Chigger Bites (including Home Remedies)
You might also enjoy reading about the importance of Vitamin D: Vitamin D is Way More Important Than Previously Thought