When summer approaches, one big problem that people in many countries have to deal with is mosquitoes.
Though small in size, they can be very annoying and even dangerous, due to the pathogens thay carry.
Mosquitoes can spread or transmit several diseases, such as malaria, yellow fever, dengue, encephalitis and the West Nile virus. In recent times, the spread of the Zika virus has made people more aware of why mosquitoes are harmful.
People are prone to mosquito bites due to a combination of factors like scent, light, heat and humidity. When bitten by these tiny monsters, you can have itchy, bumpy skin.
For preventing mosquito-borne diseases as well as painful or uncomfortable bites, there are many commercial insect repellents in the market. However, in recent years, concerns have risen about the potential adverse health effects of insect repellents, especially those that contain N, N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide, also known as DEET.
To be on the safe side, you can use natural mosquito repellents that are safe for you as well as the environment.
Here are the top 10 natural mosquito repellents that really work.
Note: In most cases, essential oils work as effective natural mosquito repellents but they are not safe for use by pregnant and breastfeeding women. Also, do not use any of these oils if they irritate your skin.
1. Lemon Eucalyptus Oil
Lemon eucalyptus oil is one of the most effective natural mosquito repellents. Even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the use of lemon eucalyptus oil as an effective ingredient in commercial mosquito repellent products.
A 2014 study published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association reports that a mixture of 32 percent lemon eucalyptus oil offered more than 95 percent protection against mosquitoes for three hours.
- Mix 1 part lemon eucalyptus oil with 10 parts witch hazel.
- Put the solution in a spray bottle.
- Spray it onto your pulse points to repel mosquitoes.
- Repeat every few hours.
The beautiful smelling herb lavender also works as a natural repellent for mosquitoes and other bugs.
In a 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association, researchers found that lavender oil is effective at repelling adult mosquitoes. The study was done on hairless mice.
In addition, as lavender has analgesic, insecticidal, antiseptic and calming properties, it can both prevent and soothe mosquito bites.
- Apply a few drops of lavender oil to your pulse points before going outdoors to deter mosquitoes. Always do a patch test before applying the oil directly on your skin.
- Also, put a few drops of lavender oil on cotton balls and put them in different areas of your home to prevent the insects from invading your home.
- You can even grow lavender in your outdoor garden or in indoor planters.
3. Cinnamon Oil
Cinnamon oil is another very effective and environmentally friendly mosquito repellent.
It can kill off mosquito eggs and act as a repellent against adult mosquitoes, especially the Asian tiger mosquitoes.
A 2004 study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry reports that cinnamon oil shows promise as a great-smelling, environmentally friendly pesticide. The study also says that cinnamon oil has the ability to kill mosquito larvae more effectively than DEET.
- Add ¼ teaspoon (24 drops) of cinnamon oil to 1 cup of water. Pour the solution into a spray bottle. Spray the solution onto your skin or clothing, around your home and in any other place where you find mosquitoes.
- Alternatively, you can mix a little cinnamon oil in any carrier oil in the ratio of 1:4, then rub it on exposed skin to prevent mosquito bites.
Note: Never apply cinnamon oil in a concentrated form, as it can irritate your skin.
Citronella is another effective essential oil that works against mosquitoes. In fact, citronella is a common ingredient in many commercial mosquito repellents.
Mosquitoes hate its smell and will avoid places where there is citronella. It is also safe and nontoxic to humans and pets.
In a 2011 study published in the Malaria Journal, researchers reported that citronella candles used outdoors can provide up to 50 percent extra protection against mosquito bites for up to two hours.
- Fill a half-quart spray bottle with water. Add 10 to 15 drops of citronella oil to it. Give it a nice shake. Spray it on places where you notice mosquitoes. Repeat as needed. You can also spray it on your skin.
- Also, burn a few citronella candles outdoors or in the rooms in your house to deter mosquitoes.
Another herb that can help ward off mosquitoes is catnip. The active ingredient nepetalactone in it offers the repellency property. Also, this herb is nontoxic to humans and pets (except cats).
A 2001 study by the American Chemical Society reports that nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, the compound used in most commercial insect repellents.
Another study published in 2009 in Medical and Veterinary Entomology reports that catnip oil can be considered a relatively safe repellent.
- Put a small amount of fresh catnip leaves in small porous bags and leave them in different parts of your house. Change the leaves every 2 to 3 days.
- Alternatively, simmer 1 tablespoon of catnip leaves in 2 cups of water for 5 minutes. Strain and allow the liquid to cool. Spray the solution in different parts of your home.
Peppermint essential oil is another natural deterrent against mosquitoes and other insects that you may notice in your home.
Bugs do not like the energizing and strong scent of peppermint oil.
A 2011 study published in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine found peppermint essential oil to be an efficient larvicide and repellent against dengue vector. However, further studies are needed to identify the possible role of oil as adulticide, oviposition deterrent and ovicidal agent.
- Before heading outdoors, apply peppermint oil directly on exposed skin. You can even dab a little on your clothes.
- Also, pour ¼ cup of distilled water into a small spray bottle. Add 2 teaspoons of witch hazel and 20 to 25 drops of peppermint essential oil, then shake it to combine all the ingredients. Spray the solution in areas where you notice the tiny insects.
Another herb that has mosquito-repelling powers is thyme. This aromatic herb contains phytochemicals that alone or in combination can repel mosquitoes.
A 2002 study published in the Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association reports that 5 percent thyme oil, when applied to the skin of hairless mice, provided a 91 percent protection rate.
- Crush some thyme leaves between your hands. Rub the bruised leaves on your skin to repel mosquitoes.
- Mix a few drops of thyme essential oil with 2 tablespoons of olive oil or jojoba oil. Dab it on exposed skin before going outdoors.
- You can even throw thyme leaves into a campfire to protect yourself from mosquitoes.
Neem, also known as Indian lilac, is another natural alternative against commercial mosquito repellants. It contains highly volatile components that act as insect deterrents.
A 2015 study published in the Malaria Journal highlights the effectiveness of neem oil against mosquitoes. It was found that neem oil offered more than 70 percent protection for three hours.
- Dilute neem oil with any carrier oil in the ratio of 1:4. Apply it on exposed skin before going outdoors.
- Also, put 1 tablespoon of neem oil in a regular-sized spray bottle and fill it with water. Spray the solution in areas where you notice these tiny insects. Repeat as needed.
- Another option is to burn dry neem leaves, then allow the smoke to remain in the room for some time to kill mosquitoes.
Lemongrass works as an effective mosquito repellent. This pleasant smelling herb contains natural citronella oil that repels mosquitoes.
- Break off a lemongrass stalk and peel off the outer leaves. Rub the pulp on your skin to help repel mosquitoes.
- Another option is to fill a spray bottle with 4 ounces of witch hazel. Add 1 teaspoon each of eucalyptus and lemongrass essential oils. Shake it vigorously and spray it on your exposed skin every few hours.
10. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is another good natural insect repellent. It has an odor similar to camphor, which insects do not like. In fact, many commercial repellents contain tea tree oil as one of the main ingredients.
As this essential oil has antiseptic, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, it is also effective at soothing mosquito bites.
- Dilute tea tree oil in carrier oil in the ratio of 1:4. Use a cotton ball to apply the solution on exposed skin.
- Also, put cotton balls soaked in the diluted tea tree oil in different rooms of your house.
- Avoid going out during mosquitoes’ peak feeding times, such as at dawn and dusk and a few hours into the night. This will reduce your risk of getting bitten.
- Dark-colored clothes are more attractive to mosquitoes than light-colored outfits. So, try to wear clothes in lighter shades.
- Reduce the number of mosquitoes around your home by removing or treating standing water. Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water that is stagnant.
- Bring natural predators of mosquitoes to your home, such as fish, turtles and birds to help reduce the population.
- Even with mosquito repellent, you may get bitten. To reduce the pain and itchiness, rub some raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar on the site of the bite.
- Apply a cold compress or put a slice of raw onion on the bite to get relief and guard against infection.