Treat and prevent bug bites with essential oils

November 3, 2015

Essential oils 101: treating and preventing bug bites

Essential oils have long been used to improve mood and enhance relaxation. Since many of these oils can also be used as therapeutic remedies for bug bites and other maladies, take a look at the following handy guide to get you started.

Treat and prevent bug bites with essential oils

Treating existing bites

The most common symptoms of an insect bite are itching and slight swelling or redness around the bite or sting site. Essential oils with calming, cooling and cleansing properties are the best choice.

  • Lavender is a popular essential oil with a myriad of uses and benefits. It is most often used for its calming effect on both the skin and the mind. Lavender oil is also an anti-inflammatory and can be applied to the bite several times a day.
  • Peppermint has an instantly recognizable scent and is used in many foods. Its cooling properties provide almost instant relief to the itching and burning associated with bug bites.
  • Melaleuca, commonly known as tea tree oil, is regularly used as a topical antiseptic for the skin. It can be very strong in both scent and potency, so use just a dab, or dilute with a carrier oil (such as grapeseed or fractionated coconut oil) if necessary.

Preventing bites and repelling insects

Many of the essential oils used to treat bug bites can also be used to repel insects, but some oils have especially repellent properties.

  • Thyme is an herb used regularly in cooking, and many people grow the plant in their kitchens. The essential oil formula, however, is quite strong and should only be used topically when diluted in a carrier oil. It will repel most insects, but it is particularly repugnant to ticks.
  • Lemongrass has antibacterial and antiviral properties and is generally light enough in scent to use directly on skin as a bug repellent. Growing some plants around your garden can also help ward off six-legged pests.
  • Citronella has a very strong, unique scent that most people associate with bonfires and summer nights because of the popularity of citronella candles. It is especially effective on mosquitoes, but is a solid addition to any blend of bug repellent oils.

Application and use

Depending on the oil, you may be able to apply it directly to the skin -- known as neat application -- or it may need to be diluted in a carrier oil to minimize skin sensitivity and irritation. A roller ball bottle is especially convenient for topical applications.

For those with sensitive skin, using a diffuser is an option, as is diluting the oils in water and using a spray bottle. Mist the solution on yourself like a regular bug spray, or spray patio furniture and the outside gathering area.

While essential oils are plant based and considered a safe, natural remedy, some people do experience negative side effects or allergic reactions. Remember to talk to your doctor, homoeopathic doctor or naturopath before using.

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