Mosquitoes must be one of the top five annoying things on the planet. We all know what it's like to have a relaxing picnic interrupted by incessantly itching bites, or to lay awake all night listening to the whining of the little insects flying around our heads, looking for their dinner. There are many ways to ward off biting bugs, from using Vicks VapoRub to eating garlic, and there is one thing these all have in common: to produce an odor that mosquitoes simply don't like.
Fortunately, there is one common vitamin that, when ingested, produces an odor on our skin that is repellent to mosquitoes but undetectable by humans. Read on for this and other great tips for a mosquito-free summer.
1. Take a B1 supplement
That one vitamin is vitamin B1, otherwise known as thiamine. Although not scientifically proven, many people attest to the effectiveness of vitamin B1 as a mosquito repellent. It also has a plethora of other fantastic health benefits, so why not give it a try?
The recommended dosage is 25 to 50 mg, three times a day. Concentrated supplements are available from the pharmacy, but some common foods are also high in vitamin B1, and adding these delicious foods to your diet could make you less appealing to mosquitoes! Sunflower seeds, beans, whole grains and yeast make the list, as well as kale, cauliflower and broccoli.
Editor’s Deep Dive
7-30-2021 Update: We love to hear all your feedback, and we hope you’re fending off those mosquitoes! As we head into summer, we’ve received a number of questions on vitamin B-1 and its role as a mosquito repellent.
"People swear by it, but will it work for me?" The answer is not a simple “yes” or “no”, and we found the origins of the controversy fascinating. Here’s a quick dive into the data behind what has people talking about vitamin B-1 and mosquitoes.
The driving force behind interest in vitamin B-1 as a mosquito repellent is the myriad of anecdotal stories told by people who have tried the supplement.
Mark, a reader of The Guardian, commented on vitamin B-1, “I spend alot of time in Indonesia and have tried it for 5 weeks... I was bitten less but... still bitten. On the other hand my grandfather tried it too and 100mg worked for him... So my conclusion is that it works for some people. So try it out.”
Ronnie, a reader of People’s Pharmacy, noted after moving to a new house, “That first summer I amassed thirty bites. The second summer I got it down to twenty. It has declined since, and it’s because I take vitamin B1 everyday from the start of summer to the fall.”
However for every story in support, there are others who did not find vitamin B-1 effective as a repellent. So where did all this excitement over vitamin B-1 and mosquitoes originate from?
A Controversy Spanning Decades
In a 1972 article from The New York Times, Dr. Harry Mueller of Harvard, chairman of the insect allergy committee of the American Academy of Allergy, suggested taking vitamin B-1 on the day you’re likely to be exposed to many insects. Despite the lack of published studies supporting it, he noted “It can't do any harm, and about 70 per cent of those who take it the day of exposure report that insects stay away from thein [sic].”
So where do we stand today? The tales of vitamin B-1’s effectiveness continue, and so researchers continue in pursuit of an answer.
The Research Continues
In 2005, a study published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association found vitamin B supplements were not effective in repelling Anopheles stephensi, a species of mosquito found in Africa, and a known malaria vector.
Yet another study, published in a 2013 issue of Acta Tropica, studied a variety of commercial products sold to repel mosquitoes. Volunteers tried essential oil wristbands and diffusers, Vitamin-B1 patches, and even a sonic insect repeller keychain. All were tested against controlled swarms of Aedes albopictus and Cules pipiens, mosquito species found in the Middle East. Unfortunately for the volunteers, only the diffusers were found to reduce biting pressure!
Does this mean the people who claim mosquito free days after taking vitamin B-1 just got lucky? With over 200 species of mosquitoes inhabiting the US alone, and with incredible individual variability amongst people it’s really hard to say. It may only be effective for some people, or only repel certain species of mosquitoes. Or maybe it's just one heck of a placebo effect. One thing is for certain though, if you discover something that actually does work for you, enjoy it! And, of course, always consult your doctor before beginning any new supplement.
Have a happy, mosquito-free summer! Read on for more about vitamin B-1 and repelling mosquitoes! - RemedyDaily Staff Editors
And why is B1 so good for us? Here's what we found:
According to Organic Facts, the vitamin plays an important role in maintaining a healthy nervous system, as well as healthy skin, hair, eyes, mouth and liver. It also helps our bodies withstand stress, which we can all use a little help with sometimes!
B1 is a key player in converting sugar into usable energy, and it works as a powerful antioxidant that can slow down the aging process. It is even good for our mental health.
2. Be prepared
Got a holiday coming up? Start taking those B1 supplements two weeks in advance. Love to Know advises that this is roughly how long it takes for the vitamin levels to build up in your body. And on that note, vitamin B1 is water-soluble, meaning it flushes from your body quickly. Keep up your stores of B1 by continuously taking it in supplement form and by snacking on the vitamin-rich foods listed above.
3. Use less bug spray
Most bug sprays contain neurotoxic chemicals such as permethrin and DEET. Love to Know explains that we absorb a lot through our skin, and those chemicals go straight into our bloodstream, so do we really want those harsh chemicals pumping through our bodies? There are some occasions when those bug sprays are the safest option, but for places where mosquitoes don't carry serious diseases, it could be worthwhile trying natural alternatives, such as vitamin B1.
4. Supplement with a natural repellent
If the mosquitoes are out in force, you can add another layer of protection by making your own repellent. Try this recipe, by David Wolfe; it uses only two ingredients! He recommends crushing fresh parsley with apple cider vinegar and leaving it to sit for a few hours. Or you can try these recipes that use a simple mixture of olive oil and essential oils, the scent of which is known to deter bugs. Be sure to dilute the essential oils so that they're safe to use on your skin, and follow the usage instructions carefully; essential oils are not right for everyone.
5. Stop giving mosquitoes a home
Pediatric Insider explains that mosquitoes breed in standing water, so empty any flowerpots, birdbaths or gutters that might be providing an ideal breeding place. Mosquitoes don't venture too far from their homes, so if they can't breed in your backyard, chances are you'll see fewer of them.
To summarize, there are many ways to repel mosquitoes, and you don't always have to put harsh chemicals on your skin to do it. Try using natural bug sprays and being aware of where mosquitoes are breeding around your home, and of course, dose up on that vitamin B1! It is a safe and naturally occurring part of a healthy diet, so you'll notice other great health benefits too.
Note that if you are traveling somewhere with risk of malaria, yellow fever, Zika or other serious diseases carried by mosquitoes, you should consult your doctor to discuss more stringent ways to deter contact. However, if you're looking for a healthy, toxin-free way of deterring mosquitoes and it is safe to risk an occasional bite, stock up on vitamin B1; it's a healthy alternative.