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 http://www.cdc.gov/zika/transmission/ 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.
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.
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.
Hi Robert, I have two types of citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus & Cymbopogon nardus). May I know which one is better for mosquito repellent? Thank you.
Hi Travis, you really can use either – no meaningful difference.
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?
Hi Maryclaire, good question, and it may make a difference but the researchers did not specify. Here is a link to the article https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4027311/pdf/apjtd-03-04-271.pdf
Hi Robert, thank you for the article. May I know if Eucalyptus Radiata can be used as a substitute for Eucalyptus Gobulus? Thank you
Yes, they would work equally well.
Thank you for your 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).
Kathy – Alaskan Cedarwood, Vetiver, and cold-pressed Grapefruit essential oil contain the component Nootkatone, which effectively repels ticks. The Tisserand Institute has a great article with a tick repellent recipe.
In case there is any confusion about the various names used, Wikipedia states, “Cupressus nootkatensis is a species of trees in the cypress family native to the coastal regions of northwestern North America. This species goes by many common names including: Nootka cypress, yellow cypress, Alaska cypress, Nootka cedar, yellow cedar, Alaska cedar, and Alaska yellow cedar.”
Am I reading this wrong? Wouldn’t this be 10% essential oil in the FORMULAtion for your body?
Hi Caron, yes that’s 10% essential oil.
Hi Robert, thanks for this great information. I have a question about the dilution rate for children. 10% is quite high. Would I use a lower rate for children and toddlers?
Hi Nicole, You can definitely adjust the dilution to make the blend appropriate for a different age group. 🙂 ~Shane (email@example.com)
Is there an effective recipe that would be safe for children?
Hi Jenny, the Graphic at the top of the article gives a recommended recipe. 🙂 ~Shane (firstname.lastname@example.org)