Many people are familiar with essential oils such as citronella (Cymbopogon nardus) and lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) as an insect repellent. However, if the aroma of these particular essential oils is not appealing to you, here are a few alternative suggestions to repel insects this summer.
Cape May Essential Oil for Insects
Cape May (Coleonema album) essential oil is extracted from the leaves and stems of the the South African white confetti bush. It has a green, herbal aroma with a peppery note. The bush has pink-tinged white flowers with needle-like leaves and you can see the essential oil gland on the underside of the leaves. Cape May belongs to the Rutaceae plant family.
The leaves have traditionally been used as an insect repellent, among other uses, and the essential oil can be used for the same purpose.
Geranium Essential Oil for Insects
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) is one of my favorite essential oils, both for its aroma and for its many uses. Geranium essential oil is extracted from the leaves and flowers of the plant and it has a rosy-sweet scent.
Geranium belongs to the Geraniaceae plant family. It is a perennial, hairy shrub with green, serrated leaves and pink flowers. Note that there are many species and cultivars of geranium available.
Geranium essential oil can be used as an insect repellent and it is an essential oil that I have also used to calm insect bites.
Bergamot Essential Oil for Insects
Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) is a member of the Rutaceae plant family. It is a small tree that has oval, green leaves and a small fruit which resembles an orange. However, the fruit ripens from green to yellow, not orange.
Bergamot essential oil has a number of uses and can be used both as insect repellent and for insect bites. It has a pleasing citrus aroma. However, bergamot essential oil is photo-toxic, so do not use it prior to going out in sunlight.
Eucalyptus Essential Oil for Insects
There are a few varieties of eucalyptus essential oil that can be used as an insect repellent including blue gum eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) and lemon-scented eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora). Eucalyptus is native to Australia and belongs to the Myrtaceae plant family. The trees can be similar in appearance.
Lemon-scented eucalyptus essential oil is similar to citronella in aroma; blue gum eucalyptus essential oil is more camphoraceous in aroma.
How to Use Essential Oils as Insect Repellents
One of the best way to use essential oils as insect repellents is in an aromatherapy diffuser or a natural-based aromatherapy candle. Simply light the candle when dining outdoors in the summer to repel insects.
You can also use these essential oils in a white lotion base, carrier oil base, or a spritzer base. Make sure that all essential oils are fully diluted before applying to the skin. Check for any contra-indications for use. If in doubt, consult a certified aromatherapist.
Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, UK: Thorsons
Tisserand, R., Young, R., 2014, Essential Oil Safety (2nd Edition), UK: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier
Author is a UK-certified aromatherapist, published author in aromatherapy, an approved education provider for the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy (NAHA), an aromatherapy business owner, and Chief Editor for the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal.