Written and photos by Karan Rawlins, a member of the Georgia Native Plant Society and on the board of the Coastal Plain Chapter. Karan began learning about native plants from Suzanne Tuttle when she worked at the Fort Worth Nature Center and Wildlife Refuge. A Georgia native, she lived in Texas for 20 years and loved her time here.
Callicarpa americana, American beautyberry.
You can get a full description and list of requirements for this beautiful and useful native shrub at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower website URL: https://www.wildflower.org/plants/result.php?id_plant=CAAM2. It is also attractive to wildlife, both for the nectar and the fruit.
A disclaimer first: Although I have used this plant extract as a topical application successfully for several years will no ill effects and I have not heard of anyone being allergic to American beautyberry or the extracts from it, it is possible that someone out there will turn out to be. So as with anything else you try for the first time, test a small area to be sure you are not allergic to it beforehand.
In this article we will talk about the insect repelling properties of American beautyberry and how to easily extract the essence to create your own all natural insect repellent. The active ingredients are oil or alcohol soluble.
Collect enough leaves to half fill your crockpot. Then clean the leaves (no chopping); shake off excess water; place them in a crock pot;
(a) 4 Cups solid coconut oil for a solid result OR
(b) just cover leaves with fractionated coconut oil for a liquid final product; and turn crockpot on to Warm (Not low).
The solid coconut oil I use to make insect repelling candles or wax melts. I have used soy wax melts very successfully. The candles will be a beautiful pale green.
*Or you can add bees wax and whip or blend it to make a creamy topical application.
*Or add beeswax, allow it to melt in the crockpot, stir until well blended, and then turn off the heat. It will cool to a salve consistency.
- The fractionated coconut oil version gives you a topical application, to which I add some ethyl alcohol to help preserve it longer. I pour some of this mixture into a small spray bottle (fill to about one third of bottle capacity) and top up with purified water. This is easy to carry with you in case you need to reapply after swimming or heavy exercise. The beautyberry in fractionated coconut oil turns out to be a beautiful emerald green because of the chlorophyll.
The last method I have used is to clean the leaves and stuff them into a quart canning jar. Top up the jar with ethyl alcohol and put the lid on it. Within a couple of days it will change color and you can remove the leaves. This can be green or a greenish brown color. You will probably want to strain this before use to remove any solid leaf particles.
- I generally add fill a quart jar about ¾ full of the liquid fractionated coconut oil beautyberry extract and finish filling the jar with the ethyl alcohol based extract. I feel this gives me the best range of oils and preserves it longer.
- If you are making a huge batch of the liquid topical application, you can store it in the freezer to preserve it longer.
- I have heard of people chopping and boiling the leaves and they says that works well. I feel that using lower temperatures retains more of the essential oils in the final product.
Articles on American beautyberry: https://agresearchmag.ars.usda.gov/2006/feb/mosquito