"Night night! Sleep tight! Don't let the bedbugs bite!"
Or travel home with you, for that matter.
During this the single most heavily traveled holiday time of year, it's safe to say that a whole lot of us will be packing up and heading somewhere else all in order to spend some quality time with sacred family and beloved friends. As such, that might also mean staying in spaces such as hotels and motels or even renting some real estate on highways and byways all along the "are we there yet" way.
Besides that age-old pesky question, there is always the potential of running into other unforeseen and off-putting experiences in foreign sleep spaces, as well. One of these same concerning circumstances that could come under the "Yikes!" umbrella is the possibility of encountering bedbugs, a situation that is more common of late than at any other time that I can remember. And I'm old.
In fact, as a health and wellness expert on DoctorOz.com and a holistic writer/practitioner of some renown, I've had an exponential increase in inquiries lately regarding the efficacy of using all-natural substances in efforts to repel and/or avoid the scourge (and bite!) of this insidious insect. So, let's go ahead and take a look at some herbs, essential oils and other holistic repellents that ameliorate the problem before we take a hop on any planes, trains or homeward-bound, packed-with-presents-only automobiles.
Before we begin the aforementioned investigation, though, let me just share some personal observations of my own. I know that substances deemed all-natural are appealing, especially during these days when being green isn't always all about Kermit. Whether it's easy being green or not, if you are one of the millions of us putting effort into creating an environmentally friendly living space, or, if you simply prefer natural alternatives over manufactured/synthetic chemicals, then the following suggestions are for you.
However, as a holistic and alternative expert and practitioner, it is incumbent upon me to share that just because something is called "all-natural" doesn't always necessarily mean that it is 100-percent safe or environmentally friendly, even. It's up to you to make sure that you are familiar with the agent you choose to use and know how to employ it correctly. As in everything, ignorance isn't always bliss and can even be downright dangerous where some all-natural substances are concerned.
Okay, now that I'm down off the soap box, let's go inside and see how to use what's there for best-end user results.
1) Soap and Water: Good old-fashioned soap and water, as well as a fair amount of steam, will repel and kill bed bugs, as will wrapping your mattress in plastic should an infestation actually occur. But, is this really adequate advice for those taking to the road? Nah, not really. So, let's take a more proactive and in-depth look at what the savvy traveler can pack alongside the soap, sensible shoes and the Spanx in order to guarantee bedbug-free journeys.
2) Essential Oils: Any one of these 100-percent true or pure essential oils that I am going to talk about next can be added to a spray or atomizer bottle filled with spring or distilled water and sprayed all around the sleeping space that you'll be snoozing in while away from home. Remember, even if you do come across this insect while out and about in the big, wide world, the last thing you want to do is bring an unexpected companion (or hundreds of them) home with you. So, be sure to spray away on the inside of your luggage and any other bags, buttons or bows that might be exposed during your travels, as well. And here's a secret shortcut that could save you many, many sleepless nights: spray the inside your luggage before you pack. Okay, so, six to 10 drops of any of the following pure essential oils added to an atomizer (either alone or all together, depending on how the scent strikes you) will bring sweet relief to your worries about encountering this bitty, biting bug.
Effectively repellent essential oils include cinnamon oil, lemongrass oil, clove oil, peppermint oil, lavender oil, thyme oil, tea tree oil, and, finally, eucalyptus oil. In my experience, all or any of these oils have laid claim to both killing as well as repelling bed bugs. My own personal blend, the one that I carry as current companion on my New York hotel stays (bed bug central these days!) is a blend of ten drops of lavender essential oil added to six drops of lemongrass essential oil, six drops of tea tree and ten of thyme.
You can also add this same blend to a quarter of a cup of any base or carrier oil, such as almond, jojoba or grapeseed oil, for personal protection. Adding 10 drops each of lavender, tea tree, lemongrass and thyme to a quarter of a cup of the carrier and then worn as a body oil will keep the critters from crawling anywhere near you once the lights go down. In fact, a blend of these specific essential oils alone (without the carrier oil) can also be used to treat any existing bites while also disinfecting any previously bitten areas. One quick reminder, though: tea tree essential oil can be toxic to both humans and pets if used in an incorrect or inappropriate dosage. And none of these oils should ever be ingested for any reason at all.
3) Petroleum Jelly: I had to add this piece of advice not so much because of the holistic nature of the antidote, but because I personally know a few people who have used this particular piece of information to great success. One other observation regards this same advice: the petroleum jelly that all my friends and family used is Vaseline. I don't know if that's relevant, but felt I had to add it here. They applied Vaseline, the most commonly recognized brand of petroleum jelly, to the legs of the bed they were sleeping in and lubed up other common surfaces to catch these critters, as well. Although some say it's the smell that repels these bugs, there is no supportive evidence to validate that claim. I might just think that they get caught in the goo and can't keep traveling to you, but, no matter, this tactic does seem to do the bedbug disappearing trick.
4) Alcohol: Instead of taking to drink to make any bedbug infestation easier to swallow, why not rub alcohol in this wound instead? Rubbing alcohol combined in an atomizer with two parts spring or distilled water and sprayed around the bedbuggy space has been known to kill these creepy crawlers on contact. It is not, however, considered any sort of effective repellent. It does dry immediately and carries no residual effect once it has dried. So, if you can't get to the steamer or don't have an opportunity to steam or iron the seams and the corners of the bed you are sleeping in, why not try spraying the mattress and sheets in order to ensure and stay on the (bug-free) safe side!
5) Neem Oil: Another all-natural insect repellent and pesticide is neem oil, a derivative made from the seeds and/or the leaves of the neem tree. Neem is reportedly the most heavily researched and widely used herbal remedy in all of India, the country from which this tree hails. Studies indicate that the bark, leaves and oil of the neem tree have been used in the East for several thousand years in efforts at treating all sorts of accidents, illnesses and injuries.
Almost 75 percent of Ayurvedic (an Indian holistic medicinal platform) cures contain some form of neem. The Indians consider this tree sacred and actually even refer to it as "the village pharmacy." Now, all that said, although neem oil has been shown effective in repelling both mosquitoes and lice, it doesn't seem to have a 100-percent efficacy in fighting off bedbugs. So I wouldn't use this as the only repellent in my arsenal. But I would be sure to slather it on my body before getting under any covers that weren't my own, while additionally spraying the sheets with either the aforementioned alcohol or essential oil remedies.
6) Diatomaceous Earth: Yet another substance that purports to kill pesky pests in an all natural way. This non-toxic powder is made from a ground-up rock called diatomite that is mined in very few places in the world. This "earth" itself forms from the shells of freshwater diatoms found in ancient lake deposits that are millions of years old.
The beauty of diatomaceous earth is that because it is a mineral, it won't evaporate or even break down over time. So, just to be clear, once you put it down, it stays down while continuously working to repel and kill bedbugs. And what that means is that you'll be leaving any sleeping space in better bug and bite-free shape than you may have even found it -- good karma now coming right back at you!
Okay, so, after all that, the bottom line looks like there's no top-ten, surefire methods for killing or keeping bedbugs at bay. However, using one or even all seven of these preventative techniques while traveling might just make your holidays blissfully bug- and bite-free, and, well, isn't that a nifty little gift to give yourself in the present?
Happy holidays to all, and have a good night, sleep tight, and... well, you know.