Mosquitoes pose serious health problems in tropical and subtropical countries. Malaria, Japanese encephalitis, dengue, you name any deadly viral fever, there is a good chance that it is spread via mosquito bites. What can be done about the increasing menace of mosquitoes?
Chemicals like DEET have long been proven as effective in keeping these pesky bugs at bay, finding its way into pretty much all the repellents available in the market. But chemical repellents are harmful to human health, especially to the nervous system,1 in the long run. Can we avoid that? The answer, perhaps, lies in using “green pesticides”. The “green pesticide” is a term collectively used for all types of nature-oriented and beneficial pest control materials that can contribute to reducing the pest population. They are safe, eco-friendly and are more compatible with the environmental components than synthetic pesticides.
One kind of green pesticide is essential oils. Essential oils are volatile, complex compounds with strong odor occurring naturally and are extracted from aromatic plants. In its natural state, essential oils play an important role in the protection of the plants as antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal, insecticides and also against herbivores by reducing their appetite for such plants.2
Here’s a list of mosquito repellent essential oils you can give a try.
1. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint is a hybrid species of spearmint and watermint. Having natural cooling property like other mint varieties, the essential oil of peppermint is often used to soothe aches and pains. It has a strong odor and is much sought after in repelling various bugs including mosquitoes. In a study done to assess its efficiency in repelling three different types of mosquitoes, it was found that application of peppermint oil at 3ml/m2 of water surface area resulted in almost 100 percent mortality of all three types of mosquitoes within 24 hours.3
2. Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
Lemon eucalyptus oil is obtained from the lemon-scented gum eucalyptus plant. Lemon eucalyptus is a tall tree with smooth bark that can grow to a height of 50 m. Also called Eucalyptus citriodora or Corymbia citriodora, the Latin term citriodorus means “lemon-scented”.4
Lemon eucalyptus oil is known for its insect-repellent properties. The principal repellent component in lemon eucalyptus extract is PMD, the main by-product of lemon eucalyptus hydrodistillation. Studies have shown that PMD is as effective in repelling mosquitoes as DEET. Considering it is completely natural, it is time to shift to lemon eucalyptus oil to protect yourself from mosquito bites.5
3. Basil Oil
As the name clearly suggests, basil oil is extracted from basil which is a medicinal herb with many health properties attributed to it. Used widely in Italian cuisines like pasta and in salads, basil does a very clever job of enhancing the flavor of any dish it is garnished with. While it is believed to strengthen the digestive, immune and nervous systems, another lesser known property of basil oil is its ability to repel insects. Studies have proved the oil’s abilities to keep mosquitoes at a safe distance.6
4. Fennel Essential Oil
Fennel is used widely in cooking and is known for its many health benefits. Fennel essential oil too is popular for its health properties like antibacterial7 and antioxidant8 properties. In a study conducted to assess the effect of six different Mediterranean plant oils including fennel oil in eliminating mosquitoes, fennel essential oil was found to have the maximum effect at the highest dosage of 300 ppm (parts per million).9
5. Sage Oil
Mosquitoes are annoying, no doubt. Perhaps the deadliest of them all is Aedes albopictus for its day-biting habits and ability to spread many viruses including that of dengue. A study on various sage oils showed that peach sage oil worked best against dengue mosquitoes. At two higher dosages, the oil gave complete protection against these mosquitoes. It was also found that peach sage oil gave the longest protection time at over 90 minutes.10
6. Thyme And Clove Oil
A wonderful combination of essential oils that work against mosquitoes is thyme and clove oils in equal portions. In a study done to determine the effect of topical application of essential oils in preventing mosquito bites, 50 percent clove oil in combination with 50 percent thyme oil was found to give protection against mosquitoes for a maximum of 3.5 hours.11 Isn’t that great news? Moreover, another study has found undiluted clove oil to be excellent against mosquito bites and can protect you for about 2 hours.12
Here’s a hitch though. While clove oil is often applied directly to an affected tooth for relief from toothaches, undiluted clove oil could cause skin irritation like itches, rashes, etc.
7. Citronella Oil
Citronella or lemongrass essential oil is by far the most popular bug repellent. It is also easily available, one of the reasons why it is so popular. It was used by the Indian Army to repel mosquitoes at the beginning of the 20th century.13Often used at concentrations of 5-10 percent, citronella is one of the most widely used natural repellents in the market. This, concentration, however is not found to be effective. Studies show undiluted citronella essential oil gives maximum repellency.14 Citronella-based repellents, however, protect from host-seeking mosquitoes for about 2 hours since it evaporates fast.
8. Patchouli Oil
Patchouli or Pogostemon cablin is a popular herb mostly used in traditional Asian medicine. Many health benefits like anti cancer15 properties have been attributed to this herb. Extracted from the leaves of the herb, patchouli essential oil has been proven to be a mosquito repellent.16
9. Catnip Oil
Catnip or Nepeta cateria essential oil is one of the very effective mosquito repelling oils. Not just mosquitoes, it is also good at keeping bees and other flying insects at a safe distance. Nepetalactone, an active constituent in catnip, has been found to have a repelling effect on the flies.
Catnip essential oil is surely the go-to oil for mosquitoes since it has been proved that it can repel mosquitoes 10 times more effectively than even DEET. It is particularly effective against yellow fever spreading mosquito, Aedes aegypti.17
How To Use Essential Oils To Repel Mosquitoes?
Now that we know the essential oils most effective against mosquitoes, naturally, the next question would be: how do we use them? While there aren’t many studies done to understand what methods work best against mosquitoes, anecdotal evidence point to a few effective ways.
You can use a combination of a few or all of these oils in a diffuser. The resulting smell in the room should do the trick.
You can even put a few drops of one or more of these oils in the water while having a bath. Make sure the oil stays on your skin and not washed away completely.
Another method is to diffuse your preferred oil in water and rub it on the body. The problem with this method could be that the effect may not last long.
Direct application of the oil on the body is an option but certain oils could cause skin irritation. Consult a dermatologist before trying it.
|↑1||Sharma, V. P. “Health hazards of mosquito repellents and safe alternatives.” Current Science 80, no. 3 (2001): 341-343.|
|↑2||Kalita, Bhupen, Somi Bora, and Anil Kumar Sharma. “Plant essential oils as mosquito repellent-a review.” (2013).|
|↑3||Ansari, M. A., Padma Vasudevan, Mamta Tandon, and R. K. Razdan. “Larvicidal and mosquito repellent action of peppermint (Mentha piperita) oil.” Bioresource Technology 71, no. 3 (2000): 267-271.|
|↑4||Lemon-scented gum, spotted gum. EUCLID.|
|↑5||Goodyer, Larry I., Ashley M. Croft, Steve P. Frances, Nigel Hill, Sarah J. Moore, Sangoro P. Onyango, and Mustapha Debboun. “Expert review of the evidence base for arthropod bite avoidance.” Journal of travel medicine 17, no. 3 (2010): 182-192.|
|↑6||Chokechaijaroenporn, O., N. Bunyapraphatsara, and S. Kongchuensin. “Mosquito repellent activities of Ocimum volatile oils.” Phytomedicine 1, no. 2 (1994): 135-139.|
|↑7||Fratini, Filippo, Sergio Casella, Michele Leonardi, Francesca Pisseri, Valentina Virginia Ebani, Laura Pistelli, and Luisa Pistelli. “Antibacterial activity of essential oils, their blends and mixtures of their main constituents against some strains supporting livestock mastitis.” Fitoterapia 96 (2014): 1-7.|
|↑8||Anwar, Farooq, Muhammad Ali, Abdullah Ijaz Hussain, and Muhammad Shahid. “Antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of essential oil and extracts of fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) seeds from Pakistan.” Flavour and Fragrance Journal 24, no. 4 (2009): 170-176.|
|↑9||Conti, Barbara, Angelo Canale, Alessandra Bertoli, Francesca Gozzini, and Luisa Pistelli. “Essential oil composition and larvicidal activity of six Mediterranean aromatic plants against the mosquito Aedes albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae).” Parasitology research 107, no. 6 (2010): 1455-1461.|
|↑10||Conti, Barbara, Giovanni Benelli, Michele Leonardi, Fatma U. Afifi, Claudio Cervelli, Raffaele Profeti, Luisa Pistelli, and Angelo Canale. “Repellent effect of Salvia dorisiana, S. longifolia, and S. sclarea (Lamiaceae) essential oils against the mosquito Aedes albopictus Skuse (Diptera: Culicidae).” Parasitology research 111, no. 1 (2012): 291-299.|
|↑11||Barnard, Donald R. “Repellency of essential oils to mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae).” Journal of medical entomology 36, no. 5 (1999): 625-629.|
|↑12, ↑14||Trongtokit, Yuwadee, Yupha Rongsriyam, Narumon Komalamisra, and Chamnarn Apiwathnasorn. “Comparative repellency of 38 essential oils against mosquito bites.” Phytotherapy Research 19, no. 4 (2005): 303-309.|
|↑13||Maia, Marta Ferreira, and Sarah J. Moore. “Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing.” Malaria Journal 10, no. 1 (2011): S11.|
|↑15||Jeong, Jin Boo, Jieun Choi, Zhiyuan Lou, Xiaojing Jiang, and Seong-Ho Lee. “Patchouli alcohol, an essential oil of Pogostemon cablin, exhibits anti-tumorigenic activity in human colorectal cancer cells.” International immunopharmacology 16, no. 2 (2013): 184-190.|
|↑16||Autran, E. S., I. A. Neves, C. S. B. Da Silva, G. K. N. Santos, C. A. G. Da Câmara, and D. M. A. F. Navarro. “Chemical composition, oviposition deterrent and larvicidal activities against Aedes aegypti of essential oils from Piper marginatum Jacq.(Piperaceae).” Bioresource Technology 100, no. 7 (2009): 2284-2288.|
|↑17||Koul, Opender, Suresh Walia, and G. S. Dhaliwal. “Essential oils as green pesticides: potential and constraints.” Biopestic Int 4, no. 1 (2008): 63-84.|