Bug bite discomfort can certainly get under your skin. Itching, swelling, burning, and pain can grip your attention, botching your summer fun. Thankfully, soothing essential oils put the brakes on symptoms, along with speeding skin repair. Some extracts also repel the offenders. Yay! Here are herbal all-stars that eliminate bug bite misery.
1. Risks of bug bites
Repeated scratching can break your skin, enabling germs on your nails and fingers to enter the wounds. Applying essential oils to itchy skin calms the urge to scratch. Plus, their antimicrobial compounds kill bacteria, preventing infection.
If you have eczema, an insect bite can launch a flare-up. Venomous bites can cause serious allergic symptoms, discussed below. To help you identify insects by their signature bites, here’s a slideshow article.
2. Healing essential oils for bug bites
Essential oils are concentrated extracts derived from plants, with therapeutic qualities. Following are the best essential oils for treating insect bites, with botanical names in parentheses. To save you shopping legwork, I’ve researched sources of high-quality products.
Basil essential oil (Ocimum basilicum)
Despite its robust scent, basil essential oil is gentle on skin, easing inflammation and irritation. With antimicrobial effects, it staves off infection. Basil’s specialty is quelling the gnawing pain of spider bites.
This essential oil is safe to use on children older than 3 months. German chamomile tames itching, burning, swelling, and redness. It also expedites skin healing.
While treating bitten skin, inhale the scent of this essential oil, and it’ll suffuse you with calmness. Meanwhile, lavender oil works its magic against itching, inflammation, swelling, and pain. Use it to tackle intense bite symptoms, such as those caused by mosquitoes, spiders, chiggers, ticks, and fire ants.
This essential oil cools skin irritation, itching, and inflammation. By killing bacteria, lemongrass reduces the chance of bug-borne disease, especially from ticks. Breathing the fragrance of lemongrass will help you feel relaxed and balanced. The scent is similar to lemons, but milder and sweeter, with a grassy note.
(Mentha x piperita)
Menthol is a compound in peppermint that douses inflammation and cools the skin. Peppermint oil is also antimicrobial, lowering infection risk. Use this essential oil to soothe bite itching, burning, and pain, especially from fire ants.
This essential oil erases bite pain, itching, and swelling. As a side benefit, inhaling rosemary sharpens memory! With antimicrobial power, rosemary oil averts infection.
With antihistamine qualities, this essential oil combats swelling, itching, and pain. Tea tree oil kills various bacterial strains, including Staphylococcus aureus, which resists drug treatment. Tea tree oil has broad application, against attacks of mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, fire ants, bedbugs, chiggers, and ticks.
3. Application methods
Two essential oils are generally safe to use on skin without dilution – lavender and tea tree. For all other essential oils, always mix them with a carrier oil. Otherwise, you risk irritating your skin and acquiring a rash. Blending essential oils with a carrier oil doesn’t weaken their effects. Rather, carrier oils improve essential oil absorption by hindering evaporation.
The ideal carrier oils have a light consistency, promoting skin penetration. Oils that shine for treating bug bites are sesame, grapeseed, sunflower, olive, and sweet almond.
For healing purposes, organic and cold-pressed oils contain more vitamins and minerals than refined oils. Some can also be used for cooking. Choose a carrier oil that suits your budget and culinary intentions.
Essential oil Dilution
The guideline for adults is blending 3 drops essential oil with 1 teaspoon carrier oil. This ratio is a safe, 2 percent dilution rate. For children age 3 months and older, use 1 drop essential oil mixed with 1 Tablespoon carrier oil, a 0.3 percent dilution rate. Remember, for treating insect bites on children, ONLY use German chamomile essential oil.
For convenience, store your essential oil blend in a rollerball bottle. A 10ml bottle holds 2 teaspoons of carrier oil.
- After mixing your chosen essential oil with carrier oil, massage the balm into your skin. Repeat up to three times daily.
- For large skin areas, soak a washcloth in a bowl containing 1 cup cool water and 4 drops tea tree oil. Slightly wring out the cloth, and rest it on irritated skin, until the fabric is no longer cool. Repeat up to three times daily.
A. Do you have sensitive skin? If so, to avoid irritation, do a patch test before treating a bug bite. Mix 1 drop essential oil with 1 teaspoon carrier oil, and apply to your inner forearm. After an hour or longer, note if any redness or rash has developed. If so, wash your skin with olive oil, followed by cold water, and do not use that particular essential oil. Then, test a different one.
B. Before touching bug bites, always thoroughly wash your hands.
C. Careful to not get essential oils in your eyes or mucous membranes! If this accidentally occurs, wash the area with olive oil, rather than water.
D. If you’re a pregnant or nursing mother, obtain your doctor’s approval before using essential oils.
5. Repelling bugs
Some essential oils with pungent odors interfere with insect radar, keeping bugs at bay. Here are four extracts that excel as repellents:
Rosemary essential oil
Mosquitoes detest its piney fragrance. If you have a garden, plant rosemary to deflect them. To make a deterrent spray, in an 8-ounce spray bottle, combine 20 drops rosemary essential oil, 2 ounces witch hazel, and 2 ounces water. Shake the mixture well, and mist your skin.
Lemongrass essential oil
Many biting insects can’t stand the citrus scent, especially mosquitoes, ticks, ants, fleas, and chiggers. If you own property, landscape with a few lemongrass plants. For a deterrent spray, add ¼ cup water and 2 drops lemongrass oil to an 8-ounce spray bottle. Shake well, and spritz around your home. You can also mist your clothes with lemongrass water. Generally, lightly colored essential oils don’t stain fabric.
See this article for how to banish spiders, mosquitoes, ants, bedbugs, and ticks, using peppermint oil.
Bites that cause complications require urgent medical care. If any of the following symptoms occur, promptly see your doctor. However, for anaphylactic shock, immediately head to your nearest hospital Emergency Room.
This can cause body-wide illness. Bite enlargement and pus signal the start of infection. Advanced symptoms are fever, marked swelling, and deepening redness.
Poisonous Spider Bite
The venom of certain spiders can spark an allergic reaction. Initial signs are skin swelling, burning, redness, and possible fang marks. Pain can spread to the back and stomach region. Other symptoms include an ulcerous wound, breathing difficulty, chest tightness, profuse sweating, throat closure, facial swelling, flushed skin, abdominal cramping, diarrhea, nausea, hives, vomiting, fever, restlessness, and tremors.
Since spider bites can become infected with tetanus bacteria, be sure to get a tetanus booster injection every 10 years. Here’s how to recognize venomous spider bites.
A virus-carrying mosquito can render serious illness, such as West Nile virus. See your doctor for a mosquito bite accompanied by nausea, fever, swollen glands, body aches, vomiting, headache, or a rash. Here’s more information on mosquito bite allergy, also known as “skeeter syndrome.”
Symptoms of tick-borne illness are fever, chills, headaches, joint pain, rash, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue. The classic sign of Lyme disease is a bull’s eye rash. Upon spotting an embedded tick, remove it using this method. If you live in a region where tick-borne disease is prevalent, see your doctor right away. Bring the tick with you, secured in an alcohol-filled container.
Don’t wait for symptoms to arise! A delay in antibiotic treatment can cause dire complications, such as facial paralysis, arthritis, bleeding disorder, impaired breathing, and damage to your heart, kidneys, and joints.
Fire Ant Bites
Rendering a sharp stinging sensation, these bites morph into itchy, red, and pus-filled bumps.
This is a life-threatening allergic reaction to insect venom. Red flags are a racing heart, feeling faint, difficulty breathing, impaired swallowing, coughing, hoarseness, abdominal or chest pain, hives, flushing, dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting, and swelling of the lips, tongue, face, eyelids, and throat.
7. Sweet relief!
Be ready for bug bites with essential oils of basil, German chamomile, lavender, lemongrass, peppermint, rosemary, and tea tree. Here’s a summary of their starring qualities:
- basil – antimicrobial and gentle on skin; excellent for spider bites.
- German chamomile – soothes inflammation; safe for children.
- lavender – heals the wounds of mosquitoes, spiders, chiggers, ticks, and fire ants; calms nervous tension.
- lemongrass – kills germs and cools skin; relaxing lemony scent; tames bites of mosquitoes, ticks, ants, fleas, and chiggers.
- peppermint – antimicrobial; menthol cools burning, pain, and itching; fades the sting of intense bites, including fire ants.
- rosemary – anti-inflammatory, anti-itch, antimicrobial; improves memory!
- tea tree – stellar antimicrobial and antihistamine properties; effective for bites of mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, fire ants, bedbugs, chiggers, and ticks.
Carry vials of lavender and tea tree oils with you, applying them directly on skin. Otherwise, mix essential oils with your choice of carrier oil, such as sesame, grapeseed, sunflower, olive, and sweet almond. For convenience, blend mixtures in advance, storing them in rollerball bottles, away from heat and light. To repel insects, use oils of rosemary, lemongrass, peppermint, and rose geranium.
With these essential oils on hand, bugs won’t bother you!
Below, please share your essential oil triumphs against bug bites. Thank you!
Disclaimer – The information provided here cannot replace professional medical advice. If you have a skin condition or serious illness or disease, obtain physician consent before using essential oils.