For those of you who don’t like the idea of using chemically synthesized insect repellent on your skin to protect you from mosquito bites, repellents based on certain essential oils may provide a solution. Consider exploring these more natural options for use in areas where the risk of disease contraction through mosquitoes is low.
Essential oils can be a less artificial, more eco-friendly way to repel mosquitoes because they work to block the insects’ sense of smell, camouflaging the scent of your body. When using essential oil mosquito repellents, it’s important to know how to apply or disperse them.
Essential oils can be diffused to the air in a diffuser, or a topical spray can be made by diluting the essential oil in water combined with witch hazel astringent or vodka. Before considering this type of homemade mosquito repellent, however, it’s important to do some research regarding the quality and effectiveness of various oils on the market.
Some of the essential oils reported to be effective in repelling mosquitoes are:
Citronella – This essential oil, used at concentrations of 5 to 10%, is one of the most popular natural repellents available. Study results on citronella shave shown that its topical application at 100% concentration can provide complete protection against three types of mosquitoes for up to two hours in a laboratory setting. However, too high concentrations of citronella can cause skin sensitivity in humans.
Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (OLE) – This oil is extracted from the gum eucalyptus tree, found in Australia. The chemical extract is called PMD and has a demonstrated effect as an insect repellent against several species of mosquitoes that spread malaria, as well as the yellow fever mosquito.
OLE should not be confused with lemon eucalyptus oil, due to the similarity in their names. Lemon eucalyptus oil is distilled from the leaves and twigs of the lemon eucalyptus tree. The distillate contains a number of botanical compounds, including citronella and a very low and variable amount of PMD. Lemon eucalyptus oil has significantly less efficacy than OLE as a mosquito repellent.
Clove – Clove essential oil is actually one of the active ingredients in many commercial insect spray repellents. But diffusing the pure oil or spraying it on your body will also help keep mosquitoes at bay. Plus, planting cloves around the perimeter of your yard will reduce the local insect traffic.
Peppermint – It has been found that mosquitoes find peppermint oil majorly offensive. One study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine showed that the application of peppermint oil on the arm of a study participant protected both that individual’s arms from mosquito bites for up to two-and-a-half hours. Another research study found peppermint oil to be significantly effective in repelling insects that carry diseases like yellow fever.
Other essential oils reported to be successful as mosquito repellents include lemongrass, basil, neem, eucalyptus, catnip and thyme.
While the idea of a more natural alternative to chemical insect repellents is appealing, keep in mind that the Environmental Protection Agency’s testing or involvement with essential oil repellents is minimal, so there is little data to rely upon in determining the safety or effectiveness of their use, whether in a DIY essential oil mosquito repellent recipe or in prepared formulations.
If traveling to a location known to be higher risk for disease transmittal through insect vectors, it may be more prudent to opt for a documented and proven, synthetic repellent.
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