Being outdoors is lovely, except for one thing: bugs! Ticks, mosquitoes, gnats, flies, and other insects can get in the way of your outdoor time – or make it downright unpleasant. If you’re searching for a non-chemical bug repellent solution, here are five essential oils that can be used as natural bug repellents.
Note: These oils would be applied topically but should not be applied at full strength. Read through this post and then refer to the instructions at the bottom about proper application of essential oils on the skin.
Citronella Essential Oil
This natural insect repellent is probably the most well-known and is derived from the distillation of the Asian grass plant in the Cymbopogon genus. Citronella oil is an effective mosquito repellent and in a National Institutes of Health 2011 study it was concluded that citronella oil combined with vanillin (the main chemical compound of vanilla) is likely to give you longer protection. Citronella has a unique lemon-grassy scent that is pleasant to most people.
Citronella essential oil may repel: mosquitos, gnats, lice, moths, ticks, fleas
Peppermint Essential Oil
The peppermint essential oil is taken from the flowering parts and leaves of the peppermint plant.This versatile oil is also a popular ingredient in over-the-counter natural bug repellents, and is known to primarily target mosquitos but can also repel other insects and bugs. A 2011 study published by Science Direct found that topically applied peppermint oil offered 100% protection against mosquito bites for up to 150 minutes. Peppermint oil has a refreshing, minty smell.
Peppermint essential oil may repel: mosquitos, gnats, spiders, ants, roaches, lice, bed bugs, fruit flies, wasps, ticks
Clove Essential Oil
The flower buds of the Eugenia caryophyllata tree is where clove essential oil is derived from. This essential oil is a known as a natural anesthetic and antiseptic for pain or discomfort. A 2013 study published in Science Direct indicated that it was also an effective bug repellent for up to 90 minutes, which was longer than both citronella and lemongrass oils in that study. Clove oil has a spicy, woody medicinal smell that may not be for everyone.
Clove essential oil may repel: mosquitos, insects, spiders, ants, bees
Lavender Essential Oil
One of the gentlest essential oils, lavender is derived from the Lavandula angustifolia plant. This essential oil is a multi-purpose oil that is kid-friendly. Lavender oil contains up to 25% linalool – naturally-occurring terpene alcohol found in many flowers and spice plants – which has a powerful active that has a similar effect as DEET on mosquitos. Lavender essential oil can be used as a bug repellent and for a treatment for bug bites. It is gentle enough to be applied at full strength on the bite. Most people find the mild lavender scent refreshing and tolerable, while bugs hate the smell! (Lavender also induces relaxation and restful sleep – learn more about incorporating lavender into your bedtime routine here.)
Lavender essential oil may repel: mosquitos, gnats, fruit flies, lice, spiders, ants, bed bugs, ticks, moths
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea tree oil comes from steaming the leaves of the Australian tea tree. This is another multi-purpose oil that is known to be anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-fungal. It also can be used to soothe bug bites and stop itching. Tea tree essential oil can repel mosquitos and other bugs/insects, but is highly effective in repelling flies. Tea tree essential oil has a camphor-like, slightly medicinal odor.
Tea tree essential oil may repel: flies, mosquitos, ticks, fire ants, spiders, bees, bed bugs, head lice, dust mites, fleas
DIY Homemade Natural Bug Repellent Using Essential Oils
To make a batch of natural bug repellent using essential oils, you will need:
· Small glass spray bottle (can be purchased online or at your local grocery store that carries essential oils)
· Essential oil of your choice
· Witch hazel
- Mix a 1:10 ratio of oil to witch hazel into your spray bottle. For example, for 1 drop of essential oil, add 10 drops of witch hazel.
- Shake gently to mix.
- Spray to apply on pulse points (side of neck, wrists, elbow, behind the knee, ankle).
Always try a “test spot” on yourself or your family member to see if the skin reacts adversely to it. If you are outdoors for a long amount of time, aim to reapply every 60-75 minutes.