Tag Archives: Essential Oils

Staying Well: A Little Sanity About the Ebola Virus – and Other Epidemics




Ebola virus structure.  (Source: microbeonline.com)
Ebola virus structure. (Source:


As my chiropractor and main health care provider, Denice Hilty, DC, has always stressed, catching a virus, bacterial disease or other illness can generally be avoided by keeping your immune system balanced and strong. This means the whole immune system  – especially the gut microbiome, which bears 70-80% of the responsibility for keeping the whole body running smoothly and protecting us from pathogenic invaders.


(Source: www.utsouthwestern.edu)
(Source: www.utsouthwestern.edu)
Hearing about viral or bacterial infectious diseases that have turned into epidemics or pandemics is of course quite frightening. An epidemic describes a disease affecting a large number of people in a single area. A pandemic is an epidemic that spreads to a much wider area, across geographic areas.


(Source: rethinksurvival.com)
(Source: rethinksurvival.com)










OUTBREAK: Deadliest Pandemics in History is a  collaboration between GOOD magazine & Column Five Media. (Source: www.coolinfographics.com)
OUTBREAK: Deadliest Pandemics in History is a collaboration between GOOD magazine & Column Five Media. (Source: www.coolinfographics.com)





Smallpox is caused by a moderately contagious virus called Variola major. Initial symptoms began 12 days after exposure. (Fenn, 2003)
In the old world, smallpox was an ancient scourge dating back to prehistory.   Scientists have found DNA evidence that the virus originated 10,500 years ago. Some 3,000 year old Egyptian mummies show evidence of having been afflicted by the disease.
The conquest of the New World was achieved by disease, not by guns or ships, during the decades following Columbus’ arrival in 1492.  The mass deaths during the great smallpox plague in the New World was a profoundly significant, history-changing event. The indigenous people living in the Americas, unlike Europeans, Africans and Asians,  had not had the benefit of co-evolving with the smallpox virus for millenia and these people died in droves from it: perhaps 80-95% of the 50-100 million native people living on this side of the world – approximately the same number as had lived in all of Europe in the late 1400’s.  (Wayne, 2012)


When the Vikings landed in American 500 years before Columbus, they found groups of resilient indigenous people. Fortunately, the Vikings didn’t carry any terrible infectious diseases with them. But then Columbus’ second voyage to the New World (1493-96) brought 1,000 Spanish to settle in Hispaniola. These colonists introduced European epidemic diseases – such as influenza, smallpox, measles and typhus, which spread through the local people in the Caribbean, drastically reducing their population over the next 50 years.
The Spanish conquistador Cortes and his men inadvertently brought smallpox with them into the sophisticated Aztec empire in what is now central Mexico. A Spanish priest traveling with Cortes described the destruction he encountered in the Aztec’s capitol city of Tenochtitlán in 1520.  (Wayne, 2012):

“As the Indians did not know the remedy of the disease…they died in heaps, like bedbugs. In many places it happened that everyone in a house died and, as it was impossible to bury the great number of dead, they pulled down the houses over them so that their homes become their tombs.”

The drawing below depicts Nahuas of central Mexico suffering from smallpox transmitted to them by the Spanish conquistadors:


Drawing accompanying text in Book XII of the 16th-century Florentine Codex, compiled in 1540. (Source: www.historytoday.com)
Drawing accompanying text in Book XII of the 16th-century Florentine Codex, compiled in 1540. (Source: www.historytoday.com)


About 30% of smallpox cases ended in death, usually during the second week of the disease. Most who survived the illness bore some degree of permanent scarring. Lip, nose and ear tissue could be eaten away by the virus.  Blindness could result from corneal scarring.
The smallpox virus was spread through close contact with the sores or respiratory droplets of an infected person or through contact with contaminated bedding or clothing. A sufferer remained infectious until the last scab fell from the skin. (College of Physicians of Philadelphia, 2014)
See this interesting timeline of information about smallpox, from 1000, in China, through 2010, prepared by the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The last identified naturally occurring case of smallpox was in Somalia in 1977.
Throughout history, about 70% of  people who contracted smallpox survived – and apparently not everyone who was ever exposed to the virus became ill. Why?





MEASLES (World Health Organization, 2014)

(Source: www.cbsnews.com)
(Source: www.cbsnews.com)
Measles is a serious, highly contagious disease caused by a virus in the paramyxovirus family. The virus normally grows in the cells lining the back of the throat and lungs. Measles remains one of the leading causes of death among young children worldwide. In 2012, approximately 122,000 people died from measles. This amounts to about 330 deaths/day, or 14 deaths/hour – mostly children under the age of five. People who recover from measles have lifetime immunity to it.


(Source: luckylosing.com)
(Source: luckylosing.com)
The measles virus is highly contagious and spread by coughing and sneezing, close personal contact or direct contact with infected nasal or throat secretions.
(Source: www.channel4.com)
(Source: www.channel4.com)


Being malnourished and otherwise unhealthy increases the risk of contracting measles when exposed to the virus. A strong clue to how to avoid contracting measles in the first place?




INFLUENZA PANDEMIC 1918-1919 (Wikipedia, 10/8/2014)

Another viral pandemic, the co-called Spanish Flu or La Grippe,  was unusually deadly. Between January 1918 and December 1920 it infected 500 million people world wide, including on remote Pacific islands and the Arctic, killing 50-100 million of them. This represented 3-5% of the world’s population at the time. It was one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history and, occurring during World War I, greatly interfered with the war effort in participating countries. The Spanish Flu was the first of two pandemics caused by the H1N1 virus.



The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic .(Source:  en.wikipedia.org)
The 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic. (Source: en.wikipedia.org)


Unlike other influenzas, it tended to strike young adults who were thought to be healthy. Modern research, using virus samples taken from the bodies of frozen victims, concluded that the virus kills through a cytokine storm, an overreaction of the body’s immune system. The scientists believe the  strong immune reactions of young adults overcame their bodies while the weaker immune systems of children and middle-aged adults resulted in fewer deaths among those groups.



Influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, DC, during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918–1919.(Source: en.wikipedia.org)
Influenza ward at Walter Reed Hospital, Washington, DC, during the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918–1919.(Source: en.wikipedia.org)


Again, not every ‘healthy’ young adult who was exposed to this influenza virus succumbed to it. Why?








Black Death researchers extracted plague DNA from 14th century skulls recently unearthed in London. (Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA)
Black Death researchers extracted plague DNA from 14th century skulls recently unearthed in London. (Photograph: Philip Toscano/PA)
DNA evidence taken from human remains found in a 14th century mass burial site of Black Death victims and unearthed during recent excavations in London found evidence that the epidemic was caused by a contagious airborne bacterium called Yersinia pestis, not by rat fleas as had long been believed. Plague researchers extracted DNA of the Black Death bacterium from the largest teeth in some of the skulls and compared it to the DNA responsible for an outbreak of a pneumonic plague that killed 60 people in Madagascar in 2012. The DNA codes were an almost perfect match.
Public Health England scientists say a plague that moved through the population at the rapid pace of the Black Plague couldn’t possibly have been spread by rat fleas biting a diseased person and then biting other people. The speed of transmission could only have been spread by bacteria from the lungs of victims expelled by coughs and sneezes, making Bubonic* Plague a pneumonic  plague. The infection could only have been spread directly from human to human. The bacterial strain responsible for the Black Plague in the Middle Ages was no more virulent than today’s disease. It spread so quickly because its victims were malnourished and ill, with weak immune systems. (Thorpe, 3/29/2014)
* Buboes are inflammatory swellings of  lymphatic glands, especially in the groins or armpits. The Bubonic Plague derived its name from this symptom.



“Black Death” derives from the disease’s symptom of death of  tissue, often  in the extremities. The dead, gangrenous tissue turns black.


(Source: blackdeathfd.blogspot.com)
(Source: blackdeathfd.blogspot.com)


The Bubonic Plague pandemic in Central Asia and Europe killed an estimated 75 to 200 million people during the Middle Ages. Yet a significant percentage of people who were exposed to the plague bacteria either didn’t become ill or actually became ill from it but then survived. The Black Death arrived in Britain in the autumn of 1348. By late spring of 1349 it had killed 6 out of every 10 Londoners.
This means 4 in 10 Londoners were able to survive the plague. The interesting question is why the many survivors were able to resist catching this plague or didn’t succumb if they did become ill with it.






Here’s a list of some of the more recent viral epidemics and their death toll numbers (Wikipedia, 10/9/2014):
  • Asian Flu of 1957–1958. Death toll: 2,000,000
  • Hong Kong Flu of 1968-69. Death toll: 1,000,000
  • HIV/Aids Pandemic in the Congo Basin 1960-present. Death toll: >30,000
  • Smallpox Epidemic of 1974 in India. Death Toll: 15,000
  • SARS Coronavirus Epidemic of 2002-3 in Asia. Death toll: 775
  • Worldwide Flu Pandemic of 2009-10. Death toll: 14,286
  • Ebola Virus Epidemic of 2013-present in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, US, Spain. Death toll: 3866 (as of October 2014)



(Source: libertybalance2014.blogspot.com)
(Source: libertybalance2014.blogspot.com)
Again, many people who were exposed to these viruses, including Ebola, either didn’t become ill or caught the virus and survived. Why?





Current information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (10/22/2014) on how Ebola Virus is transmitted:

Ebola is spread through direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes in, for example, the eyes, nose, or mouth) with

  • blood or body fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
  • objects (like needles and syringes) that have been contaminated with the virus
  • infected fruit bats or primates (apes and monkeys)

Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. There is no evidence that mosquitoes or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. Only a few species of mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.

Healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients and the family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may come in contact with infected blood or body fluids of sick patients.

During outbreaks of Ebola, the disease can spread quickly within healthcare settings (such as a clinic or hospital). Exposure to Ebola can occur in healthcare settings where hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, including masks, gowns, and gloves and eye protection.

Dedicated medical equipment (preferable disposable, when possible) should be used by healthcare personnel providing patient care. Proper cleaning and disposal of instruments, such as needles and syringes, is also important. If instruments are not disposable, they must be sterilized before being used again. Without adequate sterilization of the instruments, virus transmission can continue and amplify an outbreak.

Once someone recovers from Ebola, they can no longer spread the virus. However, Ebola virus has been found in semen for up to 3 months. Abstinence from sex (including oral sex) is recommended for at least 3 months. If abstinence is not possible, condoms may help prevent the spread of disease.







Also, Ebola is apparently difficult to catch. Read this – the information is from an article on Nature.com called Largest ever Ebola outbreak is not a global threat: Although the virus is exerting a heavy toll in West Africa, it does not spread easily. (Butler, 2014). I’ve seen similar information about the difficulty of catching Ebola cited in many other places as well.

Wait, Ebola is hard to catch?

Though the strain of Ebola in the current outbreak appears to kill 56% of the people it infects, to become infected in the first place, a person’s mucous membranes, or an area of broken skin, must come into contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, such as blood, urine, saliva, semen or stools, or materials contaminated with these fluids such as soiled clothing or bed linen. By contrast, respiratory pathogens such as those that cause the common cold or flu are coughed and sneezed into the air and can be contracted just by breathing or touching contaminated surfaces, such as door knobs. A pandemic flu virus can spread around the world in days or weeks and may be unstoppable whereas Ebola only causes sporadic localised outbreaks that can usually be stamped out.


Some reasons there has been a higher rate of transmission in West Africa – also from the Butler article cited above (Butler, 2014):

Local health authorities and international organisations such as WHO and Médecins Sans Frontières (also known as Doctors Without Borders) are struggling to control the spread in these areas because of a lack of trust and cooperation among the affected populations. Doctors and health workers have sometimes been blocked from accessing affected places because of opposition from villagers who fear the medics will bring the disease. According to the WHO, not all people who are infected are getting or seeking care, and so are passing the virus on to family and other close contacts. Another major driver of new infections is that families are often continuing to perform traditional burial rites that involve mourners having direct contact with the bodies of the dead – and unfortunately all too often Ebola.

I hope this information will put your worry about contracting Ebola in perspective and reassure you.





(Source: www.build-your-immune-system.com)
(Source: www.build-your-immune-system.com)









(Source: www.balancedhealthtoday.com)
(Source: www.balancedhealthtoday.com)









Can you identify who is malnourished in the three photos below?


(Source: www.news.com.au)
(Source: www.news.com.au)



(Source: www.ffl.org)
(Source: www.ffl.org)


Source: www.betterchoicesbetterbody.com)
Source: www.betterchoicesbetterbody.com)



It’s obvious in the children who are all skin and bones. We expect them to have an impaired immune system from lack of nutrition. But what about the overweight children and man? And the normal picture of health man? The  overweight, so-called well-fed ones are also malnourished. And the normal-weight man may be suffering from malnourishment and a weakened immune system too – it depends on what kind of foods he’s consuming.



THE NEW MALNUTRITION (Turner, 2014) (Jeff & Dee, 2012)

Even people who appear quite healthy – at a reasonable body weight – can be malnourished and have unbalanced, weak gut immunity. Doctors tend to take our blood pressure, get our weight, listen to our hearts, and look at our blood test results. If those all look okay to them, they tell us we’re in good health.  If they were to investigate the state of our gut microbiomes, they would likely often come to contrary conclusions.
From Paul Rodney Turner’s article Malnutrition – the great killer behind the curtain. Turner is the International Director of Food for Life Global:

“Malnutrition is a far greater problem than world hunger. Why? Because even if a person gets sufficient quantities of food, they can still be undernourished and thus subject to chronic disease, if the food they consume does not provide the proper amounts of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) to meet their daily nutritional requirements.

“In other words, being overweight does not necessarily mean being well nourished. According to the UN Hunger Report, nearly 870 million people, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012.  The vast majority of the hungry, 852 million, live in developing countries — around 15 percent of their population — while 16 million people are undernourished in developed countries. The FAO states that the world is increasingly faced with a double burden of malnutrition, with chronic undernourishment and micronutrient malnutrition co-existing with obesity, overweight and related non-communicable diseases (affecting more than 1.4 billion people worldwide).

“Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year. However, with much of the imagery related to these reports showing emaciated children in Africa and India, most people fail to realize that obesity is another form of this same chronic problem.

“According to the United Nations Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN) malnutrition is the largest single contributor to worldwide disease.”


(Source: www.fnih.org)
(Source: www.fnih.org)



Without adequate nutrition, our cells don’t receive the nutrients they need to stay healthy. They become weak and unable to repair themselves. They start to malfunction and die prematurely.  Or they fail to die when they should and we develop cancers.
Without proper nutrition, our bodies suffer from chronic inflammation. Our immune systems become seriously compromised. We develop chronic autoimmune diseases. A virus comes along and we are unable to repel it.
If you’re eating the  Standard American Diet of fast and processed foods (aptly abbreviated as SAD), you’re probably consuming an abundance of calories. Your stomach may feel nicely full but what you’re consuming is typically nutrient-poor.  The empty calories you eat provide some macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates and fats) while robbing your body of micronutrients. You’re eating dead food that has a long shelf-life instead of foods that are alive with nutrients.


This is very important information. It explains why only some people become ill or succumb in an epidemic or pandemic.




Large contagions bring society to a stand still. A large number of people are too ill to work or they die, preventing society from functioning. (Source: contagions.wordpress.com) (Source: contagions.wordpress.com)
Large contagions bring society to a stand still. A large number of people are too ill to work or they die, preventing society from functioning.
(Source: contagions.wordpress.com)
(Source: contagions.wordpress.com)



Famine, malnutrition and suppressed immunity (from whatever cause) go hand in hand with epidemics and pandemics.




(Source: www.thehealingfrequency.com)
(Source: www.thehealingfrequency.com)



Turner’s article also points out:

The three greatest killers of the modern world are:

  1. Cardiovascular disease
  2. Cancer
  3. Diabetes

All are directly related to our food choices. According to WHO (UN World Health Organization) more than 30 million people a year die as a result of those three diseases. That means just changing our food choices alone can potentially save 30 million lives a year!

While these diseases aren’t the result of a bacterium or a virus, 30 million deaths per year certainly qualifies them nonetheless to be designated as worldwide pandemics.




(Source: naturalcuresnotmedicine.blogspot.com)
(Source: naturalcuresnotmedicine.blogspot.com)






Butler, D. (2014). Largest ever Ebola outbreak is not a global threat: Although the virus is exerting a heavy toll in West Africa, it does not spread easily. Nature.com. See: http://www.nature.com/news/largest-ever-ebola-outbreak-is-not-a-global-threat-1.15640

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ebola (Ebola Virus Disease) – Transmission. 10/22/2014. See: http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/transmission/index.html?s_cid=cs_3923

College of Physicians of Philadelphia. (2014). History of Smallpox. The History of Vaccines. See: http://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/timelines/smallpox

Fenn, E. (2003). The Great Smallpox Epidemic. History Today, 53:8. See: http://www.historytoday.com/elizabeth-fenn/great-smallpox-epidemic

Horowitz, L. &  Devita, S. (2002).  Essential Oils for Biological Warfare Preparedness.  See:  http://www.tetrahedron.org/articles/apocalypse/essential_oils.html

Jeff & Dee. (2012). Can we be well fed but malnourished? Better Choices, Better Body. See: http://www.betterchoicesbetterbody.com/2012/10/08/can-we-be-well-fed-but-malnourished/

Thorpe, V. (3/29/2014). Black death skeletons reveal pitiful life of 14th-century Londoners: DNA from emaciated London Black Death skeletons matches modern plague bacteria and supports airborne theory of spread. The Observer.  See:  http://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/mar/29/black-death-not-spread-rat-fleas-london-plague

Turner, P.R. ((2014). Malnutrition – the great killer behind the curtain. Food For Life Global. See: http://www.ffl.org/2014/malnutrition-the-great-killer-behind-the-curtain/

Wayne. (2012). The Smallpox Plague. See:  http://ferrebeekeeper.wordpress.com/2012/10/08/the-smallpox-plague/

Wikipedia. (10/8/2014). 1918 flu pandemic. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1918_flu_pandemic

Wikipedia. (19/9/2014). List of epidemics. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_epidemics

World Health Organization. (2014). Measles: Fact Sheet no. 286. See: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs286/en/


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

© Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.

How To Make Yourself Less Attractive to Mosquitoes

Last updated 6/17/2014.

Are you one of those people who attract every mosquito in the neighborhood while others around you don’t get a single bite?





Mosquitoes have been around for about 170 million years – considerably longer than modern man. Archeological and fossil evidence says Homo Sapiens evolved around 276,000 years ago. So it seems modern humans have been dealing with mosquito bites from the very beginning.


A mosquito and a fly in this Baltic amber necklace are between 40 and 60 million years old
A mosquito and a fly in this Baltic amber necklace are between 40 and 60 million years old
There are about 2,500 to 3,000 different species of mosquitoes found around the world. (Mosquito Magnet, 2014) More than 175 species have been  identified in the US alone. (Heubeck, 2005-2014)
Makes you itch just to think about all those mosquitoes, doesn’t it?





The most common – and most dangerous – are the various species in the Culex, Anopheles, and Aedes genera. Culex pipiens, known as the northern house mosquito, is the principal  carrier of West Nile virus. Anopheles  carries the parasite that causes malaria. The parasite gets transmitted through the mosquitoes’ saliva when they bite us. Anopheles‘ bites are responsible for over one million deaths per year. Two species of Aedes are carriers of other dangerous diseases: Aedes albopictus, the Asian tiger mosquito, transmits dengue fever and eastern equine encephalitis while Aedes aegypti, the yellow fever mosquito, transmits dengue and yellow fever. (Mosquito World, undated)



Mosquitoes cause more human suffering worldwide than any other organism – killing over one million people every year. They also transmit serious diseases and parasites to dogs and horses.


Malaria kills children


The National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), publishes a list of some of the diseases transmitted by mosquitoes. (NCID, 2007)  The American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA) also publishes information on mosquito-borne diseases affecting humans, horses and dogs. (AMCA, 2013) Below is a combination of both lists:
  • Malaria
  • Dengue Fever
  • Yellow Fever
  • Rift Valley Fever
  • Japanese encephalitis
  • La Crosse encephalitis
  • St Louis encephalitis
  • Chikungunya – rarely fatal but causing excruciating joint pain that is debilitating and may persist for several weeks
  • Dog Heartworm (Dirofilaria immitis)
  • Eastern equine encephalitis – affects both horses and humans
  • Western equine encephalitis




Mosquitoes’ sensory organs seek sources of carbon dioxide and lactic acid – because these substances lead them to humans and other warm blooded animals. Chemical repellents like OFF! work because the DEET in them is highly effective at masking the smell of both carbon dioxide and lactic acid, not because mosquitoes don’t like the smell of the repellents themselves. (Reinagel, 2010)
A common misconception is that mosquitoes are attracted to humans and some other warm blooded animals who have sweet or pleasant tasting blood. Mosquitoes aren’t particularly interested in our blood – although people who have Type O blood are known to get more bites than people with other blood types.  What they ARE very attracted to is the scents emitted by various bacteria and other micro-organisms living on our skin. These can differ from person to person and on us at different times.




Mosquitoes can detect plumes of carbon dioxide in our exhaled breath at a distance of several hundred feet.  At under 100 feet they smell the odors of the bacteria and micro-organisms living in our skin microbiota. (Mosquito World, undated)




It’s only the female mosquito that bites – and what she does isn’t actually a bite. She lands on your skin and uses heat sensors on her antennae and around her mouth to detect a capillary near the surface of the skin. When she finds one, she inserts her proboscis (a long, needle-like mouth part containing two tubes) into the vessel and draws some blood out through one tube. Through the proboscis’ second tube, she inserts a little of her saliva, which contains enzymes that keep the blood from coagulating so she can feed freely. These enzymes also act as a mild painkiller so we don’t notice that our skin has been punctured. The female mosquito needs a protein in human blood to make her eggs fertile. (Ferris, 2013)



The mosquito's proboscis piercing the skin
The mosquito’s proboscis piercing the skin


Our body’s immune system recognizes these enzymes as foreign. Antibodies prompt our mast cells to release histamines, which arrive at the scene and start to do their work of healing the breach and neutralizing the foreign enzymes by binding to receptors, causing the blood vessels there to dilate. The increased blood flow attracts more white blood cells to help vanquish the invading antigens. The histamines cause the spot to swell and become itchy. (Mosquito World, undated)


Mast cells containing histamines
Mast cells containing histamines
Mast cells are a clever and  important part of our immune systems and pretty interesting in their own right. To read more about how they work, see The Role of Mast Cells and My Own Struggle with Mast Cells Gone Wild.





High magnification reveals a host of bacteria underneath a human toenail. A new analysis has shown that the billions of bacteria that inhabit human skin are not only highly diverse but also change their composition over time.  (Image Credit: Darlyne A. Murawski/NGS) (Text Credit: resident-alien.blogspot.com)
High magnification reveals a host of bacteria underneath a human toenail. A new analysis has shown that the billions of bacteria that inhabit human skin are not only highly diverse but also change their composition over time.
(Image Credit: Darlyne A. Murawski/NGS) (Text Credit: resident-alien.blogspot.com)


A 100 trillion or so micro-organisms live on and inside our bodies. One percent of these, about a trillion, live in and on our skin and determine our unique body odor. Without these bacteria, human sweat would be odorless. And these microbes, our skin’s microbiome, produce a variety of chemicals – some of which smell more attractive to mosquitoes and some of which don’t interest them at all. The composition of these trillion microbes varies greatly from person to person: We share 99.9% of our DNA with other humans but share only about 10% of our microbes. (Loria, 2014)
Interesting tidbit: It’s not the smell of our blood but the unique odors given off by our skin microbiota that  so-called blood hounds can pick up. We’re constantly shedding a cloud of minute skin flakes. Bloodhounds are particularly adept at following a trail of these flakes, sniffing their odors.  (Black, 2012)




Dutch researchers demonstrated that it is certain types of micro-organisms living on our skin that attract mosquitoes. For the study, they asked 48 adult male volunteers to avoid consuming alcohol, garlic, onions, and spicy foods, and not to shower or wear scented cosmetics for two days prior to the sampling event. The men were also instructed not to use soap the last time they showered before the experiment.  All 48 volunteers were free from chronic illnesses and not taking any medications on a regular basis. (Verhulst, 2011) (Loria, 2014)
The men were given nylon socks to wear for 24 hours to build up a collection of their unique skin microbes.  For the testing, researchers rubbed glass beads against the soles of the men’s feet to collect their scent as mosquito bait.


Our feet have approximately 250,000 sweat glands each and can excrete as much as a pint of moisture every day.  (Source: Young Living Essential Oils)
Our feet have approximately 250,000 sweat glands each and can excrete as much as a pint of moisture every day. (Source: Young Living Essential Oils)


The sweat from 9 of the 48 men in the sample proved to be especially attractive to mosquitoes. Mosquitoes largely ignored the odors of  the sweat from 7 of the men. The ‘highly attractive’ group’s sweat contained a 2.62 times higher concentration of one common skin microbe (Staphylococcus spp.) and 3.11 times higher concentration of another common microbe (Pseudomonas spp.) compared to the 7 in the ‘poorly attractive’ group. There was no significant difference between the amounts of Brevibacterium spp. and Cornynebacterium spp. in the ‘highly attractive’ and ‘poorly attractive’ groups. The ‘poorly attractive’ group also had a significantly more diverse bacterial colony living on their skins. (Loria, 2014) (Verhulst, 2011)
The microbial ecology of human skin is highly complex but science is still in the early stages of studying it.  At this point, little is known about its species composition and only a small fraction of the micro-organisms living on – and in – us is culturable now – many species have not even been identified yet. The same is true for the microbes living in our gut microbiomes.
Nonetheless, the findings from this study are leading to the development of new mosquito attractants and repellents.






Mosquitoes are attracted to beer drinkers
Mosquitoes are attracted to beer drinkers – the reason why isn’t yet known


Another study, this one conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, found that mosquitoes and biting insects are also attracted to beer drinkers. Even one beer was found to increase the number of times  subjects were bitten.
The researchers hypothesized that the attraction was due to increases in the amount of ethanol in sweat or because alcohol raises body temperature, but neither was found to correlate with mosquito landings.
This study also found that exercise, metabolism, clothing color, and pregnancy affected vulnerability to mosquitoes. (Salaky, 2013)








(Reinagel, 2010), (Thompson, 2014), (Joseph, 2010), (Stromberg, 2013) and (Hadley, 2014)




Standing water can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes
Standing water can become a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Covering it with a screen is a deterrent.


  • Wearing solid, dark clothing and dark, flowery prints
  • Using beauty products and lotions such as hair spray, perfume, and suntan lotion
  • Having standing water around – such as in backyard pools and in undisturbed  pails or buckets
  • Working up a sweat. When you exercise, you give off more lactic acid and more carbon dioxide.
  • Being outside early in the day or at twilight, when mosquitoes bite the most
  • Eating sweet, sugary foods
  • Eating salty foods or ones high in potassium: Salt and potassium increase the amount of lactic acid you off-gas. Unfortunately, fruits and vegetables are the foods richest in potassium. Cabbage, green peppers, cucumbers, blueberries, apples, and watermelon are relatively low in potassium. Potatoes, lima beans, acorn squash, spinach, prunes, raisins, bananas are high in potassium.
  • Eating limburger cheese: It’s made with the same bacteria that cause our feet to smell.
  • Drinking beer: Consuming even one bottle of beer makes you bait for mosquitoes. I’ve been unable to find what it is about beer that is so attractive to them but only learned that it’s not due to an increased amount of ethanol excreted in sweat or because alcohol increases body temperature. If you find out what the connection is between beer consumption and attraction to mosquitoes, please let me know.
  • Being pregnant: Pregnant women attract roughly twice as many mosquitoes as non-pregnant people. Pregnant women exhale about 21% more carbon dioxide and run about 1.26 degrees Fahrenheit warmer. Mosquitoes are attracted to both the carbon dioxide breathed out and the heat given off by warm blooded animals.
  • Using alpha hydroxy products on your skin: Many skin care lotions and creams contain lactic acid, which is highly attractive to mosquitoes.





Some herbs mosquitoes don't like
Some herbs mosquitoes don’t like


  • Wearing plain, light-colored clothing
  • Spraying your skin with a diluted mixture of essential oils that are known to repel mosquitoes – such as tea tree oil, geranium oil, oil of cedar, peppermint oil,  lemon grass oil, and citronella
  • Dabbing small amounts of the above essential oils on your skin is also effective against mosquitoes. A good choice is TerraShield, made by doTerra – a blend of 15 essential oils, it repels mosquitoes and ticks for up to six hours. It has a pleasant citrus smell and can be dabbed directly on your skin.
  • Diffusing one of these essential oils or oil blends (such as TerraShield) into the air
  • Placing a few drops of these essential oils or oil blends on ribbons and strings and hanging them near air vents, windows or openings where bugs might come in
  • Applying crushed herbs directly on your skin. Crushed catnip, citronella, vanilla leaf, tea tree, lemon balm, clove, lavender, eucalyptus, sagebrush and pineapple weed are safe to use in this way.
  • Spraying your skin with an infusion of herbs and plants that mosquitoes don’t like – such as calendula, catnip, lavender, pennyroyal, rosemary, basil, lime basil, peppermint, horsemint, lemon balm, lemon thyme, lemon grass, chamomile and goldenseal
  • Planting fragrant herbs from the list above, plus aromatic plants – such as ageratum, citronella grass, citrosa, marigolds*, common lantana, fever tea,  myrrh, stone root and pennyroyal – in your garden or in pots outside. They’re all natural mosquito repellents.
  • Using a garlic spray in your garden or a garlic-scented lotion on your skin
  • Eating garlic provides mild protection – both from the scent of your breath and the sulfurous compounds you’ll emit through your skin. Of course, eating garlic or smearing its scent on your skin will probably keep away more than mosquitoes!
  • Eating foods high in vitamin B – such as fish, brown rice, molasses, brewers yeast and wheat germ. Mosquitoes don’t like vitamin B.
TerraShield (by doTerra) - a blend of 15 essential oils that repel mosquitoes and ticks
TerraShield, made by doTerra  is a blend of 15 essential oils that repels mosquitoes and ticks for up to 6 hours
See here for a list of pest-repelling plants and here for another useful list with details on which plants to use and where to plant them, plus more on applying crushed herbs to your skin as a mosquito deterrent.
Here’s a good article containing recipes for making your own natural mosquito repellent using essential oils. Non-chemical mosquito repellents contain a diluted mixture of essential oils that mosquitoes find distasteful or which confuse their ability to detect your own odors so they can’t find you and therefore won’t bite you.



A recipe for a homemade, chemical free mosquito repellent
A recipe for a homemade, chemical-free mosquito repellent



* WARNING:   Never keep marigolds in areas close to windows, patio tables and other outdoor areas where you spend time as the flowers’ bright colors often attract wasps. (wikiHow, undated)


I would have included Avon’s Skin So Soft in the list of mosquito repellents except that they contain some not so nice chemicals – including methylparaben and proplyparaben.
Parabens are used as preservatives to increase shelf life in many cosmetic products (lotions, underarm deodorants and antiperspirants, hair care products, moisturizers, shaving products and make up), medicines and foods. Some of the major parabens we absorb or ingest in these products are benzylparaben, butylparaben, ethylparaben, isobutylparaben, methylparaben and propylparaben.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that parabens have hormone-disrupting qualities that mimick estrogen interfering with the body’s endocrine system. The EPA has linked methylparabens in particular to metabolic, developmental, hormonal and neurological disorders, as well as to various cancers.
Companies like Burt’s Bees, Botanical Skin Works and Barefoot Botanicals do not use parabens in their products. For more information on products containing parabens visit www.thinkbeforeyoupink.org
For more information on the parabens-breast cancer link and some paraben-free alternatives, see here (Johnson, 2011) and here (Mercola, 2012).












Artist Sonja Bäumel explores the skin microbiome in her project Cartography of the Human Body
Artist Sonja Bäumel explores the skin microbiome in her Cartography of the Human Body project


In doing the research for the post just before this one, Living Bacterial Skin Tonic – Instead of Soap?!, I came across this about a living bacteria skin tonic being developed by a Massachusetts start up called AOBiome – I’ve highlighted the last two sentences:

The company’s scientists think that this product will be good for us because it could refill our bodies with microflora that do us good. In this way, it could actually be better for us than the antibacterial hygiene products that we are accustomed to using. Although these kill off bacteria, they can harm us due to the chemicals they contain (such as triclosan) which have been linked to various health problems.

If you’re still not convinced that you would want bacteria on your skin, consider this: bacteria can assist in treating various skin conditions, such as eczema and acne. It helps to heal wounds that are resistant to antibiotics. It can also change body odour so that it keeps mosquitos at bay.  This is especially good if one considers illnesses like malaria that can run rampant and affect many people. (Simolo, 2014)
Our usual approach to the bacteria and other micro-organisms living on our skins – and everywhere else we can get to them – is to KILL THEM DEAD. We generally regard bacteria and their relatives as dangerous and just plain nasty. So this is an entirely new approach – a U turn in how to think about the bacteria living in and on our skin: This new spray contains billions of cultivated Nitrosomonas eutropha, an ammonia-oxidizing bacteria (AOB)
It’s to be used in lieu of – or as an adjunct to – taking showers. Bathing with most soaps and shampoos KILLS ALL THE HEALTHY ELEMENTS OF OUR SKIN MICROBIOME.  This new living bacterial skin tonic REPLENISHES the biome of microscopic organisms living on our skin.
If you recall the Dutch experiment described above, in the OUR SKIN MICROBIOME section, one of the findings was that the group of men who were the least attractive to mosquitoes had a significantly more diverse bacterial colony living on their skins.
So it makes sense to me that we would want to reverse our ill-considered search and destroy approach to bacteria and begin valuing and supporting our skin microbiomes, the trillion  bacteria and other micro-organisms that dwell in and on our skin – for many reasons, not making ourselves so attractive to disease and parasite spreading mosquitoes being only one.






American Mosquito Control Association (AMCA). 2013. Mosquito-Borne Diseases. See:  http://www.mosquito.org/mosquito-borne-diseases

Black, J.G. (2012) Microbiology: Principles and Explorations, 8th edition. Wiley, p. 403.  See: http://books.google.com/books?id=pnVMAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA403&lpg=PA403&dq=odors+skin+microorganisms+blood+hound&source=bl&ots=rjhDyvguWv&sig=qVThuBz4sVzeq-Mi4q2Rdr5ij9E&hl=en&sa=X&ei=BaaXU-7hNcvesASCl4CgBg&ved=0CDgQ6AEwBA#v=onepage&q=odors%20skin%20microorganisms%20blood%20hound&f=false

Davis, L. (2014). Parabens Linked to Breast Cancer? Beauty News NYC – Skin Care. See:  http://www.beautynewsnyc.com/skin-care/parabens-linked-to-breast-cancer/

Ferris, R. (2013). How to Deal With and Prevent Mosquito Bites. Business Insider – Science. See:  http://www.businessinsider.com/a-few-tips-on-mosquito-bites-2013-7

Hadley, D. (2014). 10 Ways to Guarantee You’ll Get Mosquito Bites. About.com – Insects. See:  http://insects.about.com/od/flies/a/how-to-get-mosquito-bites.htm

Hardin, J.R. (2014). Living Bacterial Skin Tonic – Instead of Soap?!  AllergiesAndYourGut.com. See:  http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2014/06/07/living-bacterial-skin-tonic-instead-bathing/

Hardin, J.R. (2014). My Own Struggle with Mast Cells Gone Wild. AllergiesAndYourGut.com. See:  http://allergiesandyourgut.com/about-me/my-own-struggle-with-mast-cells-gone-wild/

Hardin, J.R. (2014). The Role of Mast Cells. AllergiesAndYourGut.com. See:  http://allergiesandyourgut.com/symbiosis-versus-dysbiosis/the-role-of-mast-cells/

Helmenstine, A.M. (20). Natural Mosquito Repellent Recipe. About.com – Chemistry. See:  http://chemistry.about.com/od/healthbeautyprojects/a/naturalmosquitorepellent.htm

Heubeck, E. (2005-2014). Are You a Mosquito Magnet? WebMD – Allergies Health Center. See:  http://www.webmd.com/allergies/features/are-you-mosquito-magnet

Johnson, C. (2011). Are Parabens Really Harmful? Are There Alternatives? HappyMothering.com. See:   http://www.happy-mothering.com/06/beauty/skincare-cosmetics/are-parabens-really-harmful-are-there-alternatives/

Joseph, S. (2010). Naturally Repel Mosquitoes and Ticks: doTerra Essential Oils. Dr. Mom Essentials. See:  http://drmomessentials.com/naturally-repel-mosquitoes-and-ticks-doterra-essential-oils/

Loria, K. (2014).  Some People Don’t Get Bitten By Mosquitoes — Why That’s True Will Surprise You. Business Insider- Science. See:  http://www.businessinsider.com/skin-bacteria-attracts-mosquito-bites-2014-3

Mercola, R. (2012). 40 Women With Breast Cancer Had This “Cosmetic Ingredient” in Their Tissues. The Mercola Newsletter, Mercola.com. See:  http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/04/02/toxic-parabens-on-breast-cancer-patients.aspx

Mosquito Magnet. (2014). FAQs – Mosquitoes. See:  http://www.mosquitomagnet.com/resources/faqs

Mosquito World. (undated). Mosquito Bites. Mosquito World: Your guide to effective mosquito control.  See:  http://www.mosquitoworld.net/mosquitobites.php and http://www.mosquitoworld.net/mosquitospecies.php

National Center for Infectious Diseases (NCID). 2007. Infectious Disease Information – Mosquito-Borne Diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). See:  http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/list_mosquitoborne.htm

Reinagel, M. (2010). What to Eat to Avoid Mosquito Bites. QuickAndDirtyTips.com.  See: http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/trends-fads/what-to-eat-to-avoid-mosquito-bites

Salaky, K. (2013). Beer Drinkers Attract More Mosquitoes, Study Finds. The Daily Meal. See:  http://www.thedailymeal.com/beer-drinkers-attract-more-mosquitos-study-finds

Simolo, G. (2014). How a Company is Using Bacteria to Replace Soap. Wind.org. See: http://www.wind.org/view-post/How-A-Company-is-Using-Bacteria-to-Replace-Soap

Stromberg, J. (2013). Why Do Mosquitoes Bite Some People More Than Others? Smithsonian.com. See:  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/why-do-mosquitoes-bite-some-people-more-than-others-10255934/?no-ist

Thinkbeforeyoupink. Think Before You Pink – A Project of Breast Cancer Action. See: http://thinkbeforeyoupink.org/

Thompson, K. (2014). How to Control Mosquitoes. Pest Control – About.com. See:  http://www.answers.com/guides/how-to-control-mosquitoes

Verhulst, V. O. et al. (2011). Composition of Human Skin Microbiota Affects Attractiveness to Malaria Mosquitoes. PLoS One, 6:12. See:  http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0028991

wikiHow. (undated). How to Use Plants to Keep Mosquitoes Away. See: http://www.wikihow.com/Use-Plants-to-Keep-Mosquitoes-Away

Wikipedia. (May 29 2014).  List of Pest-repelling Plants. See:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pest-repelling_plants



© Copyright 2014 Joan Rothchild Hardin. All Rights Reserved.


DISCLAIMER:  Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.