Essential oils for itchy bug bites - do they work? Can essential oil really soothe away the annoying itching and redness? And keep bugs from biting in the first place?
The answer is yes! Essential oils are amazing remedies to use for bug bite itch relief, and bite prevention - but you have to know which oils to use and the safe and proper way to use them.
Each essential oil is made up of hundreds of different kinds of molecules. Plants naturally manufacture these molecules so that they can stay healthy as they grow. And some of these molecules are specifically created by the plant to actually ward off insects and pathogens that could damage and hurt its growth.
So when we use these remarkably potent essential oils on ourselves to keep bugs away and help soothe the irritation of getting bitten, they can really work!
Here is a list of our favorite essential oils to use for bug bite itch relief, and prevention.
Cedarwood - (Cedrus atlantica) this essential oil is steam distilled from the wood of the strong majestic tree. It has components that are very antimicrobial and have been shown to ward off all different kinds of insects like moths and fleas. Along with having these preventative properties, Cedarwood essential oil is also known to be very soothing for the skin, especially when the skin is red and irritated. It offers a feeling of calm and relief.
Cinnamon -(Cinnamomum cassia) this essential oil is steam distilled from the bark of the cinnamon tree. Although it’s not ever recommended to use on the skin because it has some molecules that have been known to burn. Its use as a repellent - to keep bugs away – is well known. In fact, cinnamon essential oil is one of the most effective essential oils to stop ants in their tracks, and keep away all sorts of other insects like bed bugs, moths, mosquitos, roaches and many more! Since on its own it can cause further irritation to the skin, it’s not recommended to use to soothe the itchiness of a bug bite, but rather, prevent bug bites from even happening.
Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) - this essential oil is steam distilled from the leaves of a tree that is native to Australia and had been used by the indegenious people there for thousands of years. It has many therapeutic properties, but one of the best ways to use it is to help keep bugs from biting. It also offers a cooling feeling that can be welcomed when a bug bite feels red, itchy and inflamed.
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) is steam distilled from the leaves of this large herbaceous bush. Although it smells very floral and grass-like, it has molecules that are super potent against bugs, especially mosquitoes, flies, fleas, bed bugs and ticks. Plus it calms down the redness and swelling from bug bites, and helps the skin get back to its normal condition.
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is steam distilled from the flowering tops of the large bushy herb-like plant. The many beneficial properties of lavender essential oil are well known across the centuries and across cultures. And everyone can agree that it is one of the best essential oils to choose to help soothe away skin irritation and redness. Lavender has a remarkable ability to make the itchiness of a bug bite feel less intense, and help the skin feel healthy again.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) is steam distilled from the long grass-like leaves of the swampy plant. The essential oil has molecules that have been shown to effectively ward off insects, fight microbes and bacteria and keep our space and environment clean. Although it has strong antimicrobial properties, and can help prevent bug bites, it's not recommended to apply directly to the skin as it can be irritating. However, if it is blended properly with other essential oils and carrier oils, it can be a great choice to prevent the bug bite from getting worse, and support our skin to get better faster.
Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini) is steam distilled from the long grass-like leaves of this swampy plant that is a close relative of lemongrass. It shares all of the antimicrobial properties with lemongrass, and has even been shown to be a great choice to help ward off insects and keep them from biting more. But unlike lemongrass, Palmarosa is very soothing to skin and can help offer relief from the itchiness and swelling from bug bites - and it can encourage the skin to get better faster. Plus it’s cleansing and clearing, making sure the skin keeps healthy and strong.
Patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) is steam distilled from the partially dried leaves of this herbaceous plant that is a relative of lavender and peppermint. It has a really unique collection of molecules that have a powerful action of keeping all sorts of insects from troubling us. It’s great to use to keep away moths, bed bugs, ants and roaches – and mosquitoes. Plus it has many molecules that have been shown to be soothing and calming to the skin, while also keeping it clean and protected from unwanted pathogens and microbes.
Peppermint (Mentha piperita) is steam distilled from the leaves of the common peppermint plant. It’s known to be very cooling and pain relieving and also has properties that are antimicrobial and cleansing. It is a powerful soothing action that can lessen the experience of swelling and discomfort. But it is never recommended to use directly on the skin. This oil should always be blended into a carrier oil before applying to the skin to avoid any further irritation.
Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is steam distilled from the fragrant leaves of the tall trees that is native to Australia. Like eucalyptus the indigenous people have been using the leaves for hundreds of years to soothe all sorts of conditions, from breathing issues, to muscle aches and pains and most importantly skin issues. The molecules found in Tea Tree oil have a remarkably versatile use for skincare, from offering a cleansing and purifying feeling, to promoting healthy looking skin, to reducing irritation, redness and swelling from acne prone skin and bug bites. These same molecules have also been found to be strong combatants against insects like ticks, ants, roaches and mosquitoes.
What are the best ways to use these essential oils?
First of all, whether you are using essential oils to prevent bug bites or soothe away the itchiness from getting bitten, it’s really important to use them carefully so you don’t cause further irritation and discomfort.
If you plan to apply essential oils directly to an already irritated bug bite, we strongly recommend that you first dilute the essential oil down into a carrier oil like our Tamanu Oil. By adding only 3-6 drops of essential oil to one TBSP of Tamanu you will avoid the possibility of further irritation, plus you will more effectively deliver the soothing and calming effects to the affected area. We prefer Tamanu Oil because it has some antibacterial, antimicrobial and pain relieving properties - and has been shown to help reduce swelling and redness.
And if you wanted to use any of the essential oils we mentioned above to help prevent bugs from biting - all you would need to do is add about 15 -20 drops to 1 ounce of water in a spray bottle, and spray down your clothes and hair before you decide to spend time outside - to prevent getting bitten. Just make sure not to use it on your face, or spray near your eyes. See recipe below.
Here are 2 DIY recipes to help keep bugs away and to help soothe the itchiness if you end up getting bitten:
Bug Away Spray
What you will need:
2 oz glass spray bottle
Small measuring cup with a spout for easy pouring
Metal spoon for mixing
2 oz distilled water
1 TBSP of vodka, or isopropyl alcohol (at last 90%)
3 drops of Peppermint
10 drops of Patchouli
3 drops of Lemongrass
9 drops of Geranium
2 drops of Cinnamon
Measuring out alcohol into measuring cup
Add all essential oils
Add distilled water
Our into spray bottle
Shake before each use. Keep away from children. Avoid eyes and face, and spray on clothes and hair to keep bugs from biting
Bug Bite Balm
What you will need:
Double boiler or ban-marie bowl and pot to melt the beeswax
Kitchen scale that can weigh small amounts
5 two ounce glass jars or aluminum salve tins
1 ounce of beeswax
1 cup of carrier oil of your choice, can be Jojoba, Tamanu or Argan (we don’t recommend Castor for this recipe)
35 drops of Lavender essential oil
15 drops of Geranium
25 drops of Palmarosa
25 drops of Patchouli
15 drops of Tea Tree
Measure out beeswax and carrier oil
Add to the double boiler and melt slowly over a gentle flame until everything is melted.
Take off heat, and mix is all the essential oils
Pour carefully into jars or tins and cap quickly
Let sit on the counter for at least 6 hours before using.
Apply to itchy and irritated skin to soothe away discomfort from bug bites. Use as often as possible.Please let us know if you have any questions using essential oils for bug bite itch relief!