Rosemary (Rosemary officinalis) photo courtesy of wikimediacommons/Thor.

Rosemary (Rosemary officinalis) photo courtesy of wikimediacommons/Thor.

Rosemary is for remembrance and also . . .

. . . To keep fleas and ticks at bay. Contrary to popular misconception, fleas and ticks do not, unfortunately, disappear with the onset of cooler weather. Ticks can survive through the winter by burrowing into warm and protective leaves or other debris, while fleas can find their way into the warmth of your home in any number of ways. Fortunately, you don't have to resort to harsh chemicals to rid your pets of these pesky critters. A simple (and super-fragrant) solution of rosemary, oregano, lemon verbena, lavender, spearmint, and calendula in a spray or shampoo works wonders at repelling and removing fleas and ticks.

Gather any combination of the following herbs per your preference, 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 heat-proof bowl. Cover with 2 cups boiling water and let them steep until the tea has cooled. Strain out the herbs.

For 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 start of flea and tick season, and repeat several times each week, including during the fall or winter if your pet is outside.

For shampoo: In a jar or empty shampoo bottle, combine the baby shampoo or liquid castile soap with the above 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.

The above recipe was originally published in Organic Gardening magazine, February/March 2014 and excerpted from the 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).

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