Reviewed by Dr. Michael Kessler, DC
As fall creeps in, summer bugs like mosquitoes and bees can linger, while others start to head indoors for shelter. The itching and scratching of insect bites and stings aren’t just painful and irritating, but they can also drive you crazy. And some chemical-filled after-bite sprays aren’t particularly settling. For those looking for natural treatments, essential oils for bug bites can be helpful when used properly.
Research indicates that a number of essential oils may help relieve the pain and irritation of bug bites by lowering inflammation and itchiness, and potentially reducing the duration of symptoms.
6 Essential Oils for Insect Bites and Stings
Bug bites don’t have to suck the fun out of a weekend getaway or lead to a sleepless night at home. The following essential oils can help deal with the pain and irritation.
To safely use essential oils on your skin, they must first be diluted with a carrier oil.
1. Peppermint Oil (Mentha spp.)
Mint essential oils like peppermint oil or spearmint oil can offer relief by cooling the area of an insect bite. It is also possible that the scent of mint helps repel bugs, potentially preventing more irritating bites.
The anti-inflammatory and cooling effects of mint are safe for topical use if the skin is not broken. If the bite is deep and has broken through skin, applying mint, even when diluted, may cause burning or further aggravation.
These oils are best used for mosquito bites, ant bites, or other bites that aren’t more than skin-deep.
2. Lavender Oil (Lavandula angustifolia)
Lavender has universal appeal: it is visually alluring, pleasantly fragrant, and it provides a calming sensation. It might also provide some relief from bug bites.
Compared to other topical essential oils, lavender oil is generally considered to be among the safest for adults, because it does not have to be diluted before application.
Lavender oil can provide soothing effects to treat a variety of bug bites, while also working to battle inflammation at a cellular level.
3. Chamomile Oil (Matricaria recutita chamomilla, Chamaemelum nobile)
Chamomile has long been used for its soothing properties, and it’s included in a number of skincare products for this effect. When applied to bug bites, chamomile oil has the potential to calm symptoms like redness, itching, and irritation. It might also speed up the healing process.
One study from 2011 compared chamomile to a one percent hydrocortisone cream for relieving irritation and found that chamomile helped sores heal faster and better controlled pain, inflammation, and itching.
4. Tea Tree Oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)
Tea tree oil is another popular essential oil for skincare. It is known for possessing anti-swelling, anti-itching, anti-pain, and antibacterial effects.
When it comes to bug bites, tea tree oil’s biggest asset is its potential to quell itching. It can be used to limit the symptoms of several common insect bites, like mosquito, tick, spider, bee, flea, and bed bug bites.
There is also some evidence that tea tree oil may have anti-histamine effects. This may lead to reduced itchiness and swelling not only from big bites, but also from other potential allergens.
5. Basil Oil (Ocimum spp.)
Basil essential oil has been noted to have strong anti-inflammatory capabilities along with its antimicrobial properties. These can work to reduce redness and swelling as well as prevent infection.
It might be useful to address numerous types of bug bites, including bee stings.
6. Camphor Oil (Cinnamomum camphora)
A relative of cinnamon, camphor and its essential oil might help relieve pain and irritation from bug bites. The oil works by creating a warm tingling in the area, which may help reduce itching.
It should be noted that if your bite is causing a burning sensation, camphor oil can enhance the discomfort.
How to Use Essential Oils for Bug Bites
Essential oils are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). Therefore, it is important to do your research and only buy from trusted providers.
With the exception of lavender oil, all other oils on this list need to be diluted prior to use. Failing to do so can lead to burning, discomfort, and other unwanted symptoms and reactions.
Essential oil can be diluted with water to make a spray, or with a carrier oil like coconut oil to be rubbed on the skin.
The proper ratios for essential oil/dilution are as follows:
- For a water-based spray: two to three drops of essential oil for every two to three drops of carrier oil in a bottle of water.
- For direct application: five drops of essential oil per one ounce of carrier oil.
If applying directly to a bite, mix the essential oil with a carrier oil, apply to the affected area, and cover with a cloth or band-aid.
Before using as an ointment or rub, perform a skin-patch test. This can be done by making your mixture and then applying a small drop to an area on your body.
If you do not experience a negative reaction—redness, itching, pain, or hives—then it is likely safe to use. A skin-patch test is used to assess any potential allergies or reactions to the plants used as oils.
Essential Oil Recipe for Bug Bites
You can create your own recipe using any of the essential oils above. Just remember to combine it with a carrier oil. If desired, you can even use a combination of essential oils.
Here’s a sample recipe:
- 2 tsp coconut oil
- 5 to 10 drops lavender essential oil
- 5 to 10 drops peppermint essential oil
- 10 ml glass rollerball bottle
Add the coconut oil to the bottle along with the lavender and peppermint oils. Secure the lid and shake well to combine. Roll onto the insect bite as needed. If storing for later, shake before each use.
Essential Oils to Treat Insect Bites and Stings
The cooling, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial compounds within many essential oils can help treat your irritating bug bites, so you can get back to your life. If you’re looking for a natural solution to a natural problem, give some of these remedies a try.
As with any natural remedy, consult your physician or pharmacist to avoid potential allergens or negative interactions.
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