Herbal Pet Care

Taking a holistic approach to caring for your pets

By Michael J. Balick, Ph.D.


Fleas-Be-Gone Herbal Spray or Shampoo

Rosemary, oregano, lemon verbena, lavender, and spearmint all contain a variety of insect-repelling compounds and are generally considered safe. Use several or all of them to make a flea and tick repellent spray or shampoo. Include calendula to soothe irritated skin. —M.J.B.

Any Combination of the following herbs totaling 2 tablespoons fresh or 1 tablespoon dried:

  • Rosemary leaves (Rosmarinus officinalis), oregano leaves (Origanum vulgare), lemon verbena leaves (Aloysia citriodora), lavender buds (Lavandula angustifolia), spearmint leaves (Mentha spicata), calendula petals (Calendula officinalis)
  • 1 tablespoon baby shampoo or liquid castile soap (if making shampoo)

Place the herbs in a medium pot or heatproof bowl. Cover the herbs with 2 cups boiling water and let them steep until the tea has cooled. Strain out the herbs.

For a repellent spray: Fill a spray bottle with the herbal liquid. Spray your pet, rubbing the liquid into her fur. Begin using this spray at the beginning of flea and tick season, and repeat several times each week.

For a shampoo: In a jar or empty shampoo bottle, combine the baby shampoo or liquid castile soap with the herbal liquid. In a bathtub or large basin filled with warm water, massage the shampoo into your pet’s damp fur and lather well. (Add more shampoo if necessary.) Wait 10 minutes, then rinse with water. The shampoo will cause fleas to jump off and drown in the water. Reapply once or twice each week until the fleas are gone.

Originally published in Organic Gardening magazine, February/March 2014

Excerpted from the forthcoming book Rodale’s 21st Century Herbal: A Practical Guide for Healthy Living Using Nature’s Most Powerful Plants, by Michael J. Balick, Ph.D. (Rodale, April 2014). Hardcover and e-book versions will be available through bookstores and online retailers in April.