‘Itching to Get Out of Here‘ has a question for us
I enjoy being out in nature and I love gardening. Unfortunately nasty mosquitoes are out in nature and they love gardeners! Can you help a girl out? Does Aromatherapy have a natural solution for me?
And of course, the fabulous Barbara has an answer!
I received a similar question this time last year (Ask the Aromatherapist, July 2010) but I believe it’s important to respond again. And I’ll keep this one shorter.
So, let’s start with some info. This Spring, most of Canada and the Northern USA had cooler and wetter weather than usual. Accordingly, this has led to an increase in the mosquito population.
Mosquito Control and National Geographic write that female mosquitoes are the ‘biters’. Bet you didn’t know that! Anyway, they locate their blood hosts by scent, sight, heat and movement. They can smell us from 100 feet away (30 meters). And are especially drawn to the carbon dioxide (CO2) we exhale.
Also, they respond to higher-than-normal concentrations, especially when the CO2 is mixed with host-odor. Which means we’re extra tasty following exercise or when we are hot. Also, they follow scent upwind and can see us at a distance of about 30 feet (10 meters). (i, ii)
Good things to know about Mosquito
Most mosquito species prefer dark, cool places like trees, grass and shrubs. And are more drawn to persons wearing dark coloured clothing. They have a ‘fondness’ for the slightly cooler body temperatures of the extremities, like arms and lower legs. In addition, it seems that they are drawn to the chemicals released in our perspiration.
Wearing scents? Because floral and fruity fragrances are a big draw. Including perfumes, colognes, hair products and scented sunscreens. So, if you use aromatic clothes detergent, fabric softeners or dryer sheets you are a walking invitation! (iii)
Aromatherapy and the Pesky Mosquito
The most common essential oils used for their mosquito repellent properties are cedarwood, citronella, geranium + lavender. Along with lemon balm, lemon eucalyptus, lemongrass, peppermint, red thyme + tea tree.
Catnip or catmint essential oil is not commonly used in aromatherapy but is achieving much attention as a successful mosquito repellent. (By the way, I’ve listed the botanical names of essential oils for you at the end of the page.)
Meanwhile, it is important to note that pennyroyal e/o is often cited as an effective mosquito repellent. BUT it is highly toxic to humans and animals. In even minute amounts. Accordingly, I do not recommend using pennyroyal essential oil!
Always dilute essential oils in a base or carrier oil
Pretty much any vegetable oil can be used but there is one in particular that is wonderful for your skin. And it contains its own mosquito repelling properties. It is cold pressed Neem oil (Neem seed oil, Neem tree oil) from India’s native Neem tree, Azadirachta indica.
Neem oil is thick and tends to ‘sit’ on the skin for a while so use it sparingly. I’m told that Neem oil alone is effective against mosquitoes for up to 12 hours!
Another great carrier for your essential oils is fractionated coconut oil. It’s colourless, odourless, does not turn rancid, absorbs quickly into the skin and easily washes out of fabrics. Particularly good to know!
It is also light enough to spray from a bottle. Which may be a preferred way of applying your mosquito repelling blend.
Olive oil and grape seed oil are also good carrier oils, but are generally too thick to spray through a bottle.
One of my favourite recipes is adapted from a wonderful synergistic blend found in Valerie Ann Worwood’s The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy (1991):
Into 2 tablespoons (30 ml) of your chosen carrier oil blend 5 drops red thyme essential oil, 10 drops lemongrass essential oil, 5 drops lavender essential oil and 5 drops peppermint essential oil. Also I suggest adding 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of aloe vera gel to insect repellent blends to take advantage of its cooling effect.
Lavender and the Mosquito
Short of time? If you don’t have time to make a blend, rub a few drops of lavender essential oil onto your feet and ankles before slipping on your sandals.
Spritz your clothing with a lovely lavender hydrosol.
And don’t forget that a dab of lavender essential oil on a mosquito bite helps to relieve itchiness and jump start healing. Tea tree essential oil is great for bites too!
Most essential oil based mosquito repellents evaporate or absorb quickly. Your blend will require reapplication every 30 minutes to remain effective. And if you are wearing sunscreen, get caught in the rain, are perspiring or have gone swimming reapply accordingly.
My personal preference for repelling mosquitoes is the topical application of the above recipe using Neem oil as a carrier. I also like to have on hand a 30 ml (1 fluid oz) spray bottle of fractionated coconut oil into which I have added 30 drops of lavender essential oil. It is simple, portable and easy to apply.
I would love to know how well these work for you. I look forward to your next message signed, ‘The Happy Gardener’!
Common and Botanical Names of Essential Oils
Catnip – Nepeta cataria,
Cedarwood Cedrus atlantica
Citronella – Cymbopogon nardus,
Geranium – Pelargonium graveolens
Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia,
Lemon balm –Melissa officinalis
Lemon eucalyptus – Eucalyptus citriodora
Lemongrass – Cymbopogon citratus
Peppermint – Mentha piperita
Tea tree – Melaleuca alternifolia.