Pepper spray is must have for any prepper and a great self-defense in urban environments, as any police officer will attest, but that’s not its only use.

If your pepper spray has enough capsaicin (the chemical that makes peppers spicy), it can also be used to fend off bears and other predators. Often, this version of pepper spray is called mace. Its third use is not for self-defense, but for plant defense.

Peppers originally developed capsaicin to stop for mammals and fungi from eating and infecting them.  While capsaicin hurts fungi and burns the mouths of mammals, (and the skin and eyes, if that’s where it ends up), birds are immune to it.

Applying pepper spray to your garden plants can keep rabbits and deer at bay as well as helping to protect your plants from fungus infections. But, if your problem in the garden is birds, you will need a different solution.

Because this is a natural product, you won’t need anything fancy to harness its power for yourself. You will, however, need the hottest varieties of peppers you can find. The ghost pepper is, for now, one of the hottest available peppers, but there are some much hotter peppers hitting the market, such as the Carolina Reaper.

If you are having a problem locating those, just hit your grocery store for habanero or jalapeno peppers to get you started.

Making Your Own Pepper Spray

  • Gloves
  • Eye goggles (seriously)
  • Mortar and pestle (or bowl and spoon)
  • Knife
  • Frying pan
  • Fine strainer
  • 2 cup water
  • Spray bottle
  • Twenty hot peppers

Step 1: Put on gloves and eye goggles. Even if you have made this before and found it wasn’t so bad, the concentration of capsaicin in peppers can vary, and there’s always the chance you’ll spill it on yourself.

Step 2: Cut the stems off the peppers. Grind the rest, especially the seeds, in the mortar and pestle. The seeds actually contain most of the capsaicin of the peppers, which is handy knowledge for when you’re cooking with them.

Step 3: Put the crushed pepper into the saucepan, with two cups of water. Boil for 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent burning.

Step 4: Let cool. Then run the pepper mush through the strainer. Squeeze out every drop you can from the leftover pepper solids.

Step 5: Put the pepper juice into a spray bottle.

When you use the spray, you want to make sure the bottle doesn’t mist, but shoots the concoction in a direct spray away from you. Be careful to note which way the wind is blowing, because you definitely do not want to have the spray blow back in your direction.

If you’re using the spray in the garden, you’ll need to re-apply after rain or after a week. If you’re using it to dissuade bears, makes sure you read up on other elements of bear safety, the spray alone will not save your life.

If you do end up getting the spray in your eyes, get ready for some pain, but it can be treated rather quickly. Treat the area immediately with milk to absorb some of the burning sensation. Blink quickly as you do this to flush the eyes with tears. As it calms, wash the area thoroughly with soap and water, then use a saline solution to rinse clean.