Using Essential Oils for Bug Bites
Apart from causing itching and swelling, bug bites can be dangerous. Keeping spiders, ticks, and mosquitos at bay is crucial to avoid insect-borne diseases. And if you do sustain a mild infection, having something on hand to curb the itching can prevent scarring after it’s healed. While most commercial insect repellents and itch-soothing gels contain synthetic ingredients, essential oils may be a viable natural alternative.
Soothing Insect Bites With Essential Oils
When a mosquito or other insect bites a human, it typically injects a small amount of saliva into the skin. Your body recognizes the saliva as a foreign substance, which activates the histamine response. It sends chemicals called histamines to the site of the attack to expel potential allergens from the body. This reaction is often inflammatory, causing itching, redness, and swelling.
Research shows that some essential oils may have anti-inflammatory properties that could soothe such insect bites. The best essential oils to use for bug bites are:
- Tea tree oil
- Peppermint oil
- Basil oil
- Camphor oil
- Lavender oil
- Rosemary oil
These oils can be applied topically; however, one should always conduct a skin test first to make sure they do not cause irritation. Many commercial insect bite creams and gels contain essential oils and hydrocortisone, miming the anti-inflammatory effects of naturally occurring cortisol.
Using Essential Oils as Insect Repellents
You can also use essential oils to prevent bug bites by applying them as insect repellent. Most commercial insect repellent sprays and lotions contain DEET – a chemical compound that prevents mosquitos and other biting insects from identifying humans by scent. The EPA approved DEET as safe and effective for topical use in 1980 and has since conducted two reviews to confirm its safety.
However, many people prefer all-natural formulations with essential oils as active ingredients. Various studies1 have shown how essential oils’ terpenes (scent molecules) can prevent insects from detecting odors. These terpenes include linalool, a-pinene, citronellol, limonene, and eucalyptol, all of which come from plants.
Some of the most popular essential oils found in organic/natural bug sprays include:
- Citronella oil
- Clove oil
- Petitgrain oil (derived from the bitter orange tree)
- Patchouli oil
- Coriander oil
- Peppermint oil
Bug sprays also typically contain carrier oils to dilute essential oils and help them bind with your skin for longer, increasing their efficacy. Common carrier oils include soybean, grapeseed, and jojoba oil.
Does the EPA regulate Essential-Oil-Based Insect Repellents?
While the EPA includes citronella, lemon, and eucalyptus oil on its list of low-risk pesticides, it has not tested the efficacy of most essential oils as insect repellents. Essential oils are not generally considered pesticides and seen as safe enough to use without testing. For this reason, the EPA has not yet invested in its regulation.
While some studies have proven how various essential oils can protect against bug bites, no general efficacy standard exists in the market. This leaves much room for untested products that may give consumers a false sense of security. Most experts agree that combining essential oils with DEET- or picaridin-based formulas will offer the best protection against insect bites.
Craft Well-Rounded Insect Repellents With ABT’s Essential Oils
Advanced Biotech supplies a range of superior-quality essential oils, isolates, and extracts for the cosmetics and personal care industries. Our premium molecules can help you create a long-lasting, natural insect-repellent or itch-soothing cream with an appealing scent. Contact us to learn more about our unique product offering.