Mosquito Repellents Recommended by Robert Tisserand - Tisserand Institute

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Robert Tisserand

In our recent trawl for questions we had several about insect repellents, especially in relation to Zika. Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito (A. aegypti and A. albopictus). Read more about Zika here Most of the research on essential oils and mosquitoes used A. egypti, but there’s also some on A. albopticus. Turmeric oil does repel both for sure.

There are many possibilities for essential oils that repel mosquitoes.

You may have heard that lemon-scented eucalyptus oil is especially effective, as effective as DEET, but this is not exactly true. The product that is in fact very effective is not a natural essential oil. Research showed that the most active repellent in Eucalyptus citriodora is p-menthane 3,8-diol (PMD), which is a very minor constituent. The product being used in insect repellents has about 60% PMD, which has been artificially boosted. I’m not saying you should not use it, but what I don’t want you to do is to buy a natural E. citriodora oil and think you’re getting something super-effective. It does work reasonably well, but so do many other oils.

Catnip oil is especially effective and relatively long-lasting, but it is rather pricey. Lemongrass, Cinnamon bark, Cassia and Clove are all pretty effective, but be extremely careful about using any of these directly on your skin. Peppermint, Turmeric and Citronella are safer for skin and about as effective. Some oils work better in combination than they do singly, for example Citronella and Eucalyptus globulus, Sweet Basil and Eucalyptus globulus, Cinnamon bark and Lemongrass.

Here are two formulations I would personally use to fend off unwanted Aedes. The first one would be safe to use on the skin or clothes and is safe in pregnancy. For toddlers substitute the peppermint with ginger oil. The other is recommended only to be sprayed in the air or vaporized. Avoid contact with skin.

You can use any type of base. In one study Olive oil was compared with Coconut oil as a base for essential oils, and Coconut oil was very much more effective.

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  1. Lori Nova Endres March 17, 2017 at 7:57 pm - Reply

    Thanks Robert. Much needed info for the upcoming summer here in Louisiana… it’s the combination of the humidity and the mosquitoes that kills me. Any essential oils to cure humidity? LOL.

  2. Muna May 20, 2017 at 1:05 am - Reply

    Thanks from Argentina!!! I was living in Brazil in 2015 when I got pregnant and I was so scared about the epidemic…I used citronella but not really trusting on it very much. Nice to know that it actually worked and now, with my twins, I need a repellent just in case the invasion of mosquitos we are having here brings that awful disease.

  3. Travis September 4, 2017 at 1:52 pm - Reply

    Hi Robert, I have two types of citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus & Cymbopogon nardus). May I know which one is better for mosquito repellent? Thank you.

    • Robert Tisserand September 22, 2017 at 3:57 pm - Reply

      Hi Travis, you really can use either – no meaningful difference.

  4. Maryclaire Mayes September 5, 2017 at 8:29 pm - Reply

    Thank you Robert, I have a question about the coconut oil. Did it specify what kind of coconut oil, refined or unrefined? Or does it not make a difference?

  5. Karen April 7, 2019 at 10:56 am - Reply

    Hi Robert, thank you for the article. May I know if Eucalyptus Radiata can be used as a substitute for Eucalyptus Gobulus? Thank you

    • Robert Tisserand April 7, 2019 at 11:37 am - Reply

      Yes, they would work equally well.

      • Karen April 8, 2019 at 3:10 pm - Reply

        Thank you for your reply

  6. Kathy Wilcox May 24, 2019 at 8:59 am - Reply

    We are having a tick epidemic in northern NY along with mosquitoes…. what is your recommendation for oils that repel ticks? I’ve read some research regarding yellow Cedarwood that looked promising (Nootka tree).

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