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Top 5 Essential Oils as Natural Insect Repellents 

Insects and bugs can be both irritating and potentially disease-carrying, making it essential to keep them from invading our space. Most chemical-based insect repellents are filled with harmful toxins that not only damage the environment but are also harmful to humans. Essential oils provide a clean and healthy way to keep those pesky insects at bay naturally! 

What are Essential Oils? 

Essential oils are concentrated plant extracts. 

“Plants are made of structural materials and phytochemicals. These chemicals have properties that not only benefit the plant but benefit people, too,” explains Dr. Lin. 

It takes a tremendous amount of plant material to make essential oils, which can make some of them expensive. For example: 

  • About 250 pounds of lavender flower make 1 pound of lavender essential oil. 
  • About 5,000 pounds of rose petals or lemon balm make 1 pound of rose or lemon balm essential oil. 

“Because it takes so much of the plant to make an essential oil, it’s a powerful botanical medicine,” Dr. Lin says. 

Top 5 Essential Oils as Natural Insect Repellents 

Citronella Oil 

Origin and Composition: Citronella oil is a natural ingredient that originates from Sri Lanka. It’s extracted from the hardy grass found in the South Asiatic region. This grass usually grows around 1 meter in length and is a popular ingredient in wax candles, soaps, lotions, and insect repellents. 

The main chemical components in citronella include: citronellic acid, citronellol, citronellal, borneol, camphene, dipentene, limonene, geraniol, nerol, citral. 

Efficacy of Citronella Oil as a Mosquito Repellent: Citronella oil is a potent natural mosquito repellent, with research indicating its ability to offer complete protection from mosquito bites for durations extending up to 11.5 hours. Its extended effectiveness, combined with its natural derivation, makes citronella oil an environmentally sustainable and preferred option in the fight against mosquito-borne diseases. Citronella does not harm or kill insects but rather distracts them with appealing scents, making it difficult for insects to stay focused on their targets. 

Citronella oil is also effective against insects like fleas, moths, and bed bugs. If you’re allergic to cats, citronella oil is also good at keeping our feline friends at bay. 

Application and Safety Tips: Citronella oil is generally safe to use as a natural insect repellent. As with all essential oils for the skin, citronella oil should only be applied directly when diluted. There are various ways to apply citronella oil: 

  • Spray: Add a few drops of citronella oil into a spray bottle filled with water and apply to the skin. 
  • Diffuser: Use a diffuser to spread the scent throughout a room or outdoor area. 

Check out our Products with Citronella Oil 

Lavender Oil 

Origin and Composition Lavender oil is extracted from beautiful woody shrubs with purple-hued leaves. Lavender grows worldwide but originates from the Mediterranean regions. Lavender is well known for its pleasant and sweet aroma. 

The main chemical components of lavender oil include a-pinene, linalyl acetate, caryophyllene, limonene, 1,8-cineole, cis-ocimene, trans-ocimene, 3-octanone, camphor, linalool, terpinen-4-ol and lavandulyl acetate. 

Efficacy as an Insect Repellent Lavender oil has been used throughout human history as an insect repellent. It has proven to be one of the most versatile and effective plants to naturally keep insects and bugs at bay. 

Lavender oil is especially effective against spiders, cockroaches, mosquitoes, fleas, flies, and head lice. When children get head lice at school, one of the first things the school nurse will suggest is some lavender oil. 

According to studies published in the Journal of the South African Veterinary Association, lavender oil has a high repellency rate (70–100) against lice and similar bugs. 

Application and Safety Tips Lavender oil is safe for direct skin application but must be diluted in a bottle of water before being applied. 

  • Spray: Mix a few drops of lavender oil with water in a spray bottle and apply to skin or clothing. 
  • Topical: Dilute with a carrier oil and apply directly to the skin. 

Check out our Products with Lavender Oil 

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil 

Origin and Composition: Lemon eucalyptus oil, as the name suggests, is extracted from the lemon eucalyptus tree, which is originally from Australia but is now also grown in India. This evergreen tree can grow to around 35 meters in length and is highly aromatic and perfumed. 

The main chemical components of lemon eucalyptus oil are a-pinene, camphene, b-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, a-terpinene, linalool, b-bisabolene, limonene, trans-a-bergamotene, nerol, and neral. 

Efficacy as an Insect Repellent: While most of the other essential oils on this list are used for various purposes, lemon eucalyptus oil is mainly used as an insect repellent, due to its high efficacy in keeping insects away. Essential oil experts even suggest that eucalyptus oil is as effective as DEET when it comes to repelling bugs. 

Application and Safety Tips: According to Healthline, lemon eucalyptus oil can cause allergic skin reactions and must be used sparingly. Instead of direct skin application, it may be better to place this essential oil in a diffuser to prevent harmful and irritating skin conditions from arising. 

Check out our Products with Eucalyptus Oil 

Tea Tree Oil 

Origin and Composition: Tea tree oil originates from the swampy southern Australian coast and is extracted from the Melaleuca alternifolia tree. It was originally used by 18th-century sailors to help kill bacteria, fungi, and mites. 

The main chemical components of tea tree oil include: a-pinene, b-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, a-phellandrene, a-terpinene, limonene, 1,8-cineole, y-terpinene, p-cymene, terpinolene, linalool, terpinen-4-ol and a-terpineol. 

Efficacy as an Insect Repellent: Tea tree oil has mainly been used as an antibacterial medicine throughout history to help treat conditions like athlete’s foot and measles. There are a few indications that it could also be an effective insect repellent. 

Tea tree oil is mainly used to repel spiders, ants, bed bugs, and cockroaches. This study on insecticidal and repellent effects of tea tree and andiroba oils on flies associated with livestock showcases the high efficacy of tea tree oil specifically against flies. 

Application and Safety Tips: Like other essential oils, tea tree oil is generally quite safe to use topically when diluted. This means that you can apply it to your skin when diluted with water or a carrier oil, such as coconut oil. You can also place tea tree oil in a diffuser to help repel the insects noted above. 

Geranium Oil 

Origin and Composition Geranium oil is native to the Southern African regions of the world. It is extracted via a process of distillation of the leaves of the Pelargonium graveolens plants. 

The main chemical components of geranium oil include various alcohols, esters, aldehydes, and ketones. 

Efficacy as an Insect Repellent Geranium oil is one of the most widely used essential oils to treat inflammatory skin conditions like acne and oedema. It has also been used as a treatment for anxiety and depression. However, geranium oil also contains citronellol and geraniol compounds, which both help to repel insects effectively. 

Geranium oil is mostly effective against ticks, mosquitoes, moths, and head lice. 

Application and Safety Tips Geranium oil can be topically applied but must first be diluted with a carrier oil like sesame or olive oil. This is a great way to treat your skin and prevent irritation while also repelling the insects listed above. 

The Bottom Line

Using essential oils as natural insect repellents offers a safe and environmentally friendly alternative to chemical-based products. Whether you prefer citronella for mosquitoes, lavender for spiders, lemon eucalyptus for its DEET-like properties, tea tree for flies, or geranium for ticks and moths, there is an essential oil to suit your needs. Always remember to dilute essential oils properly before applying them to your skin to avoid irritation. 

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