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.
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.