Essential Oils, a Natural Alternative to Insect Repellant

by Dr. Ellen Simone, Naturopath


Summertime brings sunshine, flowers and mosquitoes!  Insect repellent spray is commonly used to ward off those pesky critters and the itching, allergic reactions and possible exposure to West Nile Virus that can come along with a mosquito bite.

Although it is important to protect against the potential harmful effects of mosquito bites, it is also important to protect ourselves from unnecessary exposure to harmful chemicals.

What is DEET?

A common chemical found in insect repellents N,N-diethyl-m-toluamide, also known as DEET. DEET affects a mosquito by dulling its senses which inhibits their instinct to bite.

When DEET is applied directly onto the skin it can be absorbed into the body.  Potential reactions to DEET include skin rashes, lethargy, muscle spasms, nausea, irritability, insomnia and seizures.  These DEET toxicity symptoms can be avoided by using essential oils as an alternative.

7 Tips to avoid toxic side effects from DEET containing insect repellents:

  1. Keep spray off of the face and out of the eyes.
  2. Do not spray repellent on children’s hands because they are likely to rub their eyes and put their hands in their mouths.
  3. Wear long-sleeved clothing and apply repellent on the fabric rather than on the skin.
  4. Use a product with a lower concentration of DEET on small children and if you are pregnant.
  5. Avoid inhaling and ingesting repellents.
  6. Children age two and younger should not have insect repellent applied to their skin more than once in a 24-hour period.
  7. Wash repellent off your skin after the risk of being bitten by an insect is gone.

What is an essential oil?            

An essential oil is extracted from a plant and highly concentrated.  They must be diluted before used topically because they are toxic if ingested.  If ingestion occurs, call your doctor immediately.

Essential oil insect repellents may not last as long and may need to be reapplied more frequently than DEET containing insect repellents especially after exercise and swimming.

How to make your own essential oil insect repellent


10-25 drops total of essential oil combination

2 tablespoons of a carrier substance

Small, dark glass spray bottle

List of insect repellent essential oils:

  • Citronella
  • Clove oil
  • Geranium oil
  • Lemon eucalyptus oil
  • Lemongrass oil
  • Neem oil
  • Peppermint oil
  • Tea tree oil
  • Thyme oil

List of carrier substances:

  • Olive oil
  • Sunflower oil
  • Vodka
  • Witch hazel

Comment 1

  1. Cheryl
    May 28, 2017

    Thanks for this information I am allergic to insect bites esp.bee stings, black flies,mosquitoes,
    And bugs in a bed or a nest of them anywhere. Cheryl S.

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