Ah, summertime: long days, lots of time in the outdoors, and inevitably pesky bugs! If the bugs like to munch on you, you’re probably looking for solutions to the itching and maybe even the pain and swelling as well. As a Florida native, I consider myself an expert on the plight of humans versus bugs.
I understand more than most the frustration of both preventing bugs and dealing with bites. I spent most of my young life layering on the Cutter or Off! and taking Benadryl for post-bite irritation, but essential oils offer a viable alternative to all of that without the toxicity. And we’re all here because we care about natural living and reducing toxic ingredients in our lives, right?
In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to use essential oils to treat uncomfortable bug bites, including which essential oils are the most effective for some common types of bug bites.
Whether you’re dealing with mosquitos, bees, spiders, or just have an itchy bug bite, we have some oils that can help you out! We’ll share the oils and also offer some home remedies that you can try out the next time you find yourself dealing with bugs!
Which Essential Oils are the Most Effective Bug Bite Remedies?
As with most remedies in the essential oil world, there is a lot of speculation regarding which oils are actually effective for certain purposes or conditions. There have been very few controlled studies that definitively prove that certain essential oils can reduce the effects of bug bites. However, anecdotal evidence is not something to be totally disregarded! Here is a list of a few oils that have some evidence backing their efficacy; scientific or anecdotal.
Clove Essential Oil Blended
Clove essential oil has anecdotal evidence supporting its use as a treatment post-moquito bite, but what is particularly intriguing about clove essential oil is its proven efficacy at repelling those nasty gnats!
In one study, Clove essential was combined into two separate blends with thyme essential oil and geranium essential oil. Both oil blends prevented the subject from being bit by insects for an average time span of 1.25-2.5 hours. The study did note that users can be irritated by clove essential oil when used topically and suggested patch testing if a reader plans to try these oil blends on themselves. The researchers tested the blends at a concentration of 10-25% .
Bergamot Essential Oil
And here we approach our first remedy with purely anecdotal evidence. Several sources state that Bergamot can be used for itch relief, but fail to offer any scientific evidence. Maybe it’s the placebo effect at play or maybe there’s some kind of chemical interaction that has yet to be proven, but sometimes this is how misinformation is spread.
If you’d like to test it out, you certainly can! Most sources recommend either diffusing it in the room or diluting a few drops in almond essential oil and applying it topically.
Lemongrass Essential Oil
It is a little disconcerting that so many websites state that these oils definitively have a certain effect yet fail to cite any research. Lemongrass essential oil is another essential oil on the lineup that is commonly touted as an itch-curing tonic but there is no scientific research mentioned in their reviews. Keeping this in mind, lemongrass is said to help with itchy bug bites.
What is backed by science is lemongrass’s antibacterial properties. There are several strains of bacteria that lemongrass essential oil has been tested against and proven effective at reducing and/or killing completely . So it may or may not help you with the itch, but it is more than likely to help you out with any potential bacteria that could enter the wound! Try out a few drops of lemongrass in witch hazel and spritz it on the affected area.
Helichrysum Essential Oil
If you haven’t heard of this essential oil, that’s because it is extremely rare. This essential oil has some limited research regarding its anti-inflammatory properties, so that’s a safe bet that you’ll experience these effects on a swollen bug bite! The anti-inflammatory activity of this essential oil was proven in vitro in a study on rats  (basically meaning that it hasn’t been tested in human trials yet), so there is more research to be done on this super rare oil.
If you’d like to give it a shot yourself, you can diffuse a few drops or dilute a few drops in your favorite carrier oil. Be sure to patch test first to make sure that you don’t experience an adverse reaction. Since this oil is super rare, we took the liberty of finding a reputable place to purchase it. Find it at Plant Therapy .
Lavender Essential Oil
Not only does lavender help calm you down, you can also use this essential oil to reduce itching from bug bites! And yep, this one has science to back it! Although no essential oil is extensively researched, the study featuring lavender as an anti-itch aid took note of its effects on certain chemicals that the body produces that make us itch. Individuals treated with lavender essential oil showed reduced levels of the itch chemicals, quantitatively demonstrating what lavender can do !
Lavender is nice and gentle, so you can diffuse this oil or dilute it and rub it on those nasty bug bites to relieve some discomfort.
Tea Tree Essential Oil
Tea Tree oil is another essential oil that is commonly mentioned on the blog circuit as an itch-reliever. There isn’t any information that directly links tea tree essential oil to treating itching or bug bites, but we do see research that this powerful oil is known as an antiseptic, an anti-fungal, and even an antibacterial agent .
However, the use of this oil for skin irritation like bug bites comes with a caveat. While tea tree oil has proven effective against skin irritations from allergies, it can also produce a rash in some individuals due to the potency of this essential oil . It is recommended that this particular oil is used with a carrier oil like jojoba in order to reduce the chances of skin irritation from the use of this oil. Try tea tree oil out the next time you have a bug bite, but if you are unfamiliar with the effects of this oil be sure to use sparingly until you know how it affects you.
Tea tree oil is also not recommended to be used internally, meaning that this essential oil is best for the skin and should not be ingested. Keep the tea tree on the outside, be sure to use a carrier oil, and see if this powerful oil is right for your allergy needs!
Peppermint Essential Oil
There are a few research studies that point toward peppermint essential oil being effective for itch relief in individuals with priuritis, so we can make the assumption that it might be effective for itch relief in general. There is not research directly on bug bites, but both studies showed statistically significant reductions in itching [7,8]. The benefit of using peppermint essential oil for this purpose is that it does not interact with other medications or cause adverse side effects like over the counter medications do.
Additionally, if you have an allergic response to certain types of insect bites peppermint may be especially helpful. Allergens like the chemicals that bugs transmit typically cause the production of histamines within the body, an inflammatory response that causes all of those pesky reactions like itching and hives. Peppermint and other oils in the mint family were found to reduce the amount of histamines present in a 2006 study . Not only does peppermint smell fresh and clean, it can also help provide allergy relief.
You can dilute peppermint essential oil with your favorite carrier oil and apply it topically to the affected area. You’ll also feel a nice cooling effect from the menthol that is present in peppermint essential oil, which can help with the inflammation from an insect bite.
Chamomile Essential Oil
You might be surprised to see chamomile on the list of essential oils that can help with bug bites, but chamomile does more than just . Chamomile is proven to be a topical anti-inflammatory with studies showing reduced irritation with the application of chamomile . Internally, chamomile has been shown to produce an increase in immune indicators with regular consumption , so you may even want to consider adding chamomile into your daily routine! Aside from the benefits for itching, chamomile is a fantastic calming oil. Diffuse chamomile and lavender for a great night’s sleep!
Rosemary Essential Oil
Rosemary essential oil is listed on several websites as an essential oil that can help with irritation from bug bites, but little to no research is presented and the evidence is purely anecdotal. If you’d still like to give it a go for the next bug bite you receive, make sure you dilute it! Rosemary essential oil can be irritating if left undiluted and the last thing you want when you are already dealing with bug bites is further irritation!
Basil Essential Oil
Basil essential oil is another on the list that doesn’t necessarily carry scientific backing, but is still touted as an effective treatment for bug bites. Several websites state that basil essential oil stops itching, but do not provide citation to scientific research studies.
Basil was used in natural medicine as an insecticide, so there’s a chance that diffusing this essential oil may also help keep the bugs at bay in the first place!
If you’re playing guinea pig with basil for treating a bug bite that you already have, you should still dilute it with a carrier oil to ensure that the oil won’t irritate your skin.
Application: Home remedies for bug bites that itch and swell
We’ve reviewed the oils, now let’s put them to work! These are a few recipes that you can make at home to treat bug bites, prevent bug bites, or both!
Lavender Vinegar Bath
- 1 cup apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
- 50 drops of lavender essential oil
- Combine vinegar and lavender in your container of choice
- Shake to combine
- Shake well before each use
- Fill your tub with warm water
- Once filled add 6 tsp of your lavender vinegar to the tub
- Swirl the water to disperse the oil
- Soak for 30 minutes or longer if desired
- Massage any floating droplets of oil into your skin
Anti Itch Body Wash
- 1 cup filtered water
- 1 tsp liquid castille soap
- 40 drops lavender essential oil
- 20 drops bergamot essential oil
- 15 drops peppermint essential oil
- Combine all of your ingredients in a mason jar
- Shake to blend
- Before use, shake well again
- Dip a cotton ball in it and apply it to the affected area
Anti-itch Oil Blend
- 2 tsp aloe vera gel
- 3 drops lavender essential oil
- 2 drops chamomile essential oil
- 1 drop bergamot essential oil
- Combine your ingredients in a mason jar
- Shake well
- Shake well again before using
- After bathing, showering or washing use a cotton ball to apply your solution to the affected areas
Essential Oils for Every Situation
While all of these essential oils can be helpful for dealing with those mini flying and crawling spawns of satan, there may come a time when you encounter a specific issue with one type of aforementioned creature of hell and need a quick solution. Below we take some of the essential oils listed above and offer recommendations for certain types of bugs. Please keep in mind that if you have a serious allergy to certain insect bites, it is important to seek professional medical help. These are not a substitute for life-saving treatments like an epi-pen.
Most effective for Itchy bug bites
If we’re talking about the itch factor, look no further than lavender or chamomile. As mentioned above, both of these essential oils have some scientific research behind them that proves that they can reduce inflammation and block histamines (the chemical stuff in your body that makes you want to scratch and causes inflammation). Not only will they help the itch, they’ll also help you to be nice and calm.
Most effective for Mosquito bites
For dealing with mosquitos, we’re looking for something that is antimicrobial as well as anti-itch. Go for tea tree essential oil here, but use caution as this essential oil can be irritating to some individuals. Make sure that it is properly diluted and patch test first unless you like allergic rashes on top of your mosquito bites.
Most effective for Bee stings
Bees are the saviors of our environment and the reason for our existence, but dangit bee stings hurt! For this unfortunate interaction with these buzzing angels, try out some peppermint essential oil diluted. It will cool down the area that will likely become inflamed after you get the sting. If you develop major swelling in the area that doesn’t go down within 24 hours, get yourself to a medical professional ASAP.
Most effective for Spider Bites
Spiders are great for catching bugs, not so great if you get munched on by one. Some spiders are incredibly venomous, so consider the use of essential oils null and void in the case of life-threatening spider bites. For an encounter with the spider of the non-venomous variety, try out something that is anti-inflammatory and soothing like a lavender and peppermint combination. Dilute it and massage it into the affected area for best results.
In what ways can you use essential oils for bug bites?
Some state that diffusing essential oils can help with bug bites, but it really makes more logical sense that this would help with preventing bugs from making an appearance in the first place.
If you’re using essential oils after the fact, try one of the recipes listed above or dilute any combination of the essential oils listed above with your favorite carrier oil and apply topically to the affected area(s). Topical usage makes the most sense because it allows for the essential oils to be absorbed into the skin and do their best work on the affected areas!
What blends are available?
You can create your own blend using any of the essential oils listed above, but there are also a few pre-mixed options available that are already diluted and ready to use. You can try “Nature Shield” from Plant Therapy https://www.planttherapy.com/nature-shield-synergy-essential-oil?v=77 or Bug Away from Rocky Mountain Oils https://www.rockymountainoils.com/bug-away.html
Both of these options are available in a roll on as well for easy use.