The scourge of mosquitoes is an inevitable accompaniment to the onset of a warm summer. For most people, mosquito bites are merely an annoyance: a few itchy, red spots, but not too much cause for concern.
However, with the rise of mosquito-borne illnesses such as the Zika virus and West Nile, people are becoming more and more concerned about being bitten by these pesky critters, and for good reason. The threat of these illnesses has many people turning to DEET-infused aerosol bug sprays, and other chemical means of repelling mosquitoes.
While these sprays may be effective at deterring the bugs, they also come with potentially serious health risks. DEET, for example, has been linked to a number of potential side effects, especially for children. These include skin irritation, nausea, headaches, and even possible behavior changes.
Fortunately, there is a better way, a natural way that is just about as effective as insect repellents containing DEET: lemon eucalyptus essential oil.
Lemon eucalyptus essential oil is derived from the lemon eucalyptus tree (Eucalyptus citriodora), native to Australia. Recent research, as well as recent announcements by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) give merit to lemon eucalyptus oil as a potent mosquito repellent.
On its website, the CDC states:
“CDC recommends the use of products containing active ingredients which have been registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use as repellents applied to skin and clothing. Of the products registered with the EPA, those containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide longer-lasting protection.”
Providing more detail, Sebrina Zerkus Smith, reporting for Mattermore, writes:
“In two recent CDC publications, when oil of lemon eucalyptus was tested against mosquitoes found in the US, it provided protection similar to repellents containing DEET, (N,N-diethyl meta-toluamide). Until now, DEET was the only repellent recommended by the CDC, and approved for individual use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).”
For just one example of research on lemon eucalyptus oil, a 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association compared the effectiveness of a repellent containing DEET with a repellent containing lemon eucalyptus oil against mosquitoes in Queensland, Australia. On their results, the study authors wrote:
“The 40% deet formulation provided 100% protection against mosquitoes for 7 h [hours], while the 32% LEO [lemon eucalyptus oil] provided >95% protection for 3 h [hours].”
That’s over 95 percent protection for three hours, without the dangers of DEET. Not bad at all.
If you’re interested in trying lemon eucalyptus oil for insect protection this summer, your first step is to find a high-quality oil. Always buy from a reputable company: check the company’s ratings, ask around, and make sure the oil is pure and without additives. You may have to do a little digging, but it’s worth it to find a quality product.
To use, simply mix a few drops of the oil with about a teaspoon of a base oil, such as organic coconut oil, and apply to your skin, avoiding your eyes. The mixture should be about 10 percent lemon eucalyptus oil, and 90 percent carrier oil. Alternately, you can mix the essential oil with alcohol, and put in a spray bottle.
If you have a health condition, or are pregnant or breastfeeding, check with a health professional you trust before using this oil. Essential oils are natural, but they’re potent, and you always want to be safe.
Mosquito bites are no laughing matter, but it’s worth it to your health to try a natural option whenever possible.