Herbs that harry fleas
A number of plants carry this name, and are traditionally used to help prevent flea infestation.
Chrysanthemum cinerariifolium (Pyrethrum) – The flowers contain pyrethrins, an insecticide still used in many over-the-counter flea products.
Helichrysum odoratissmum (Imphepho) – Indigenous to South Africa, this plant is traditionally used as bedding to repel insects.
Tagetes minuata (Khakibos) – Native to South America, but now common in South Africa, this plant is used in certain flea shampoos.
Lavandula spp (Lavender) –This is a popular and safe herb to use as a flea repellent.
Azadirachta indica (Neem) – Native to India, the seeds and oil of this tree are used as an insect repellent.
Mentha pulegium (Pennyroyal) – This potent mint is potentially toxic, so use it with care.
Rosmarinus officinalis (Rosemary) – This is another popular and safe herb to use as a flea repellent. Rosemary has the added reputation of giving a shine to dull coats. (Tansy)
Tanacetum vulgare – This herb is also potentially toxic, so do use it with care.
As modern research begins to support traditional herbal knowledge it’s time to get to know these herbs again and explore how to use them safely to help reduce and prevent flea-related problems in our animals. Although fleas and other parasites may offend us, they play an important role in the Earth’s ecosystem and in Life’s processes. While there may be a time and place for chemical treatments, flea control strategies in nature typically aim at a balance and harmony without trying to ‘eliminate the enemy’.
Grow a variety of insect-repelling plants in your garden. Plant some in pots and, where possible, bring them into your living areas. Encourage birds in your garden especially insect-eaters that can help you keep the numbers of ticks and fleas in check.
Use a selection of safe herbs to create simple flea-repellent powders. Harvest the herbs from your garden, dry them thoroughly and grind them into a fine powder using a coffee grinder or an empty spice grinder. Sprinkle the powder around the home, on bedding, or anywhere that your animals spend a lot time. These aromatic herb powders can also be used directly on your pet’s coat and combed through.
Herb sprays and washes
A simple herb spray can be made using fresh or dried herbs. Add a cup of warm water to two teaspoons of herbs. Cover to prevent evaporation of the oils and let the tea stand to cool. When cool, strain out the herbs. The herbal tea can be used as a final rinse after shampooing, or to fill a spray bottle and use in the same way as the herbal powder. The spray can also be sprayed onto legs and paws before going for walks.
Fresh or dried herbs can be used to help repel fleas from the sleeping areas of animals. Fill an old sock or pillowcase with a selection of the flea-repellent herbs and place it in or near the area where your animals sleep. Remember always to give animals a choice and provide sleeping places without herbal pillows if they prefer.
The flea repelling effects of herbs used as a powder, spray or wash do not last very long. The volatile essential oils exert their effects for a couple of hours or perhaps a day or two. Herbal pillows may be useful for days or even weeks if filled with fresh, whole herbs. The beneficial effects of living herbs in an animal’s environment in pots or in the garden are ongoing.