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Oil of lemon eucalyptus vs. DEET: have you found one to work better than the other at repelling insects?

By June 7, 2009 - 7:21pm
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The mosquitos are terrible this time of year! My son's legs look awful from all the bug bites, but I do not want to use DEET on him. I've heard of Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (sold as Repel, along with other similar manufactured products), and am wondering if this actually works? I don't want to buy another "natural" product that does not work, plus with my son's eczema, I can't just use "any" product on him (he is 2 years old).

What have you found that actually works, is not a poisonous pesticide (the oil of lemon eucalyptus is referred to by the FDA as a "biopesticide", meaning it is an insect repellent from a plant source).

Thanks in advance!

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EmpowHER Guest

I read the remarks about a guy who tried cinnamon oil diluted 20 to 1 with water and it still brought about an allergic reaction and he was very vocal in how bad the advice was that recommended it.

I used cinnamon oil full strength on my skin to check it for its ability to relieve mosquito bites and to repel them. It has given me no problems.

What I actually did was find that a very obnoxious mosquito had bitten me about six times very quickly all over my body while sitting at my computer and it was a small (and quiet) mosquito and didn't want to alight and stay in front of me so that I could murder him, so I grabbed my lavender oil and applied it and then, not getting relief as quickly as I wanted and wanting to check out the cinnamon oil's repellent properties, applied it to the bites and I was bitten no more and within 30 minutes (I didn't time it -- that's a guess) I felt the bites no more.

That's pretty consistent with lavender oil, though because there are different mosquitoes with different levels of irritation to their bites (and different levels of swelling), my experiences with applying lavender oil varies, although it is what I always use because I've found it reasonably effective in relieving mosquito and ant bites.

Two applications within a few minutes of each other practically always relieve the itch enough that it's no longer annoying within a reasonably short time span. No application can leave a bite itching for hours.

June 11, 2010 - 3:02pm
EmpowHER Guest

I just posted the last comment but I haven't included the other aromas that could repel mosquitoes. They don't like the smell of eucalyptus, citronella, cedar, peppermint, lemongrass and geranium. Indoors, you can also burn these essential in hot water to fragrant the air and see what works. Experiment with different mixes and you will know what works best for where you are and your skin and body chemical mix.

October 1, 2009 - 12:27pm
EmpowHER Guest

Hi. I read that OFF has 2 types suitable for use for children, Family Care and Clean Feel. You can make your own lotion from base lotion and natural essential oils mixed in them. I believe the mix is different from people to people as it interacts with your specific skin type and body chemicals. I have personally used base lotion mixed with eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils and it has repelled mosquito bites almost instantly. I was being feasted on when the SPA manager on an Asian island quickly mixed a lotion with those and there were no subsequent bites after! I think this is as natural as you can get. You can get these easily at body shop and local spa stores.

October 1, 2009 - 12:20pm
(reply to Anonymous)

Thanks for your information!

Yeah---the OFF! brand Family Care has between 5%-15% DEET, and the Clean Feel contains 5% Picardin...these terms are more about branding than about the ingredients they contain. I wrote about the different pesticides (Toxicity Reports for Insect Repellents), and honestly...picardin and DEET are categorized as only "slightly toxic". They are most likely fine for most children and adults, but in my quest to find an insect repellent that was categorized as "practically non-toxic"...that is why I was leaning more towards your other suggestion of using essential oils (but, those that actually work!).

I have not tried mixing the essential oil with lotion, and may consider doing that. So far, the Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (sold as Repel) has worked great...but the caveat is it is categorized as "highly toxic" for the eyes, but "practically non-toxic" for all other types of exposure/absorption.

Thanks for the suggestion to mix the oils with lotion...I am curious what harm these substances would do if they got into one's eyes, so keeping it away from the back of a little kid's hands and off their face (where it could drip down into eyes) is probably the safest way to go.

October 1, 2009 - 1:08pm
EmpowHER Guest

Thank you for this information!!! I have a 3-year-old mosquito magnet-- who also gets horrible whelps and scratches for days from each bite. She looks awful this time of year.

I bought some Lemon Eucalyptus today. Can't wait to try it-- on me first, then her.

June 30, 2009 - 9:03pm
(reply to Anonymous)

I'm curious if it worked for you? I also have a 3 year old mosquito-magnet, and the Repel (lemon eucalyptus) worked GREAT! I don't put it on his face or back of his hands, because of all the warnings about it getting into the eyes. I put it on his neck, ears and under his chin (as well as any other exposed body part), and it has worked great!

Unfortunately, the bug band did not work as well for us. Repel is easily available in stores, we're going with this for now. The only complaint is the lemon smell is SO incredibly strong, that we have to wash it off when we come back inside. It is a pain to spray him with bug spray to just go outside for a few minutes, to then face the bath-struggle when we come back inside.

October 1, 2009 - 12:48pm
EmpowHER Guest

Dear Alison,

I have been using the oil of Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus Citriodora) for many years with great success (25 drops mixed in a 60 ml spray bottle with water). I'm usually a mosquito magnet. But not with this natural oil. I now even use it on my baby with care. I had to special order the oil of Lemon Eucalyptus at Wholefoods because they didn't carry it (but they will gladly order it for you). It only costs about $5 for a .5 FL OZ (15 ml) bottle.

Hope that helps!!

Note: I live in the Dallas area.


June 18, 2009 - 9:11pm

alison b, I use Wisdom of the Earth Oils and know how wonderful they are and how they work! Audre is one of the owners, teachers and has writen the manual for oil usage...TRUST ME, she knows what she wrote about!

I had sent her your comments, hoping that she would comment here on EmpowHer. Audre is a powerful source.
Thanks, Princeline

June 15, 2009 - 2:37pm
EmpowHER Guest

Eucalyptus Lemon (citriodora) is extremely effective against black flies, west nile carrying mosquitos (and all mosquitos), and other summer pests...it was tested by the CDC years ago and was found to be as effective or more effective than DEET...which is man-made and has side effects...I would never put it on myself, much less a child!!

You do not want to get products with Lemon Eucalyptus IN THEM...you just want to get Lemon Eucalyptus in its pure and natural state. Otherwise, you have no idea what else is in the "mix". We carry it (I am an aromatherapist)...you can see my site at www.shiningsunaromatherapy.com

I have also tried using it neat vs mixed in water as a spray. The mix does not work. It is pungent smelling...but that is a small price to pay for a pure medicinal essence which has no side effects other than to boost your immune system and clear your respiratory system...while serving as an amazing insect repellant! So...I drip one or two drops on each arm and rub it in...same on my legs (2-3 there), and maybe one on your neck/upper chest, if it is exposed. On children, a drop rubbed into each of those areas would work wonderfully.

Hope this helps clarify the discussion. I have been doing this for over 10 years, and am very wary of synthetic products...Mother Nature has the answer for virtually anything that ails us! Regards, Audre

June 15, 2009 - 12:01pm

I'm the mosquito magnet! Not garlic, not eucalyptus, not even Skin-So-Soft wards off the little pests. Apparently, they just like the taste of my blood. Maybe I should just WEAR geraniums? LOL!

June 9, 2009 - 4:06pm
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