10 Essential Oils For Bug Bites That Give Fast Relief
When it comes to essential oils for bug bites, picking the ones that actually relieve the discomfort, irritation, swelling, pain, and redness is important. Though essential oils are plant-derived, natural, and pure, they are potent and not all work the same in treating a condition.
On that note, let’s understand what essential oils truly help treat bug bites. But before that, here is a little important information that you should know.
There are about 75000 species of Bugs. The familiar ones include Leaf-hoppers, Water Bugs, Stink Bugs, Bed Bugs, Cicadas, Aphids, Lice, and Boxelder bugs. They belong to the Order “Hemiptera” meaning “Semi-developed wing.” Since the wings are half developed, they are partly hard and partly membranous.
Bugs use “Stylet” to suck plant juices or blood.
All bugs carry a chemical, which is a mild venom. However, a group of assassin bugs found in tropical regions are highly venomous and transmit Chagas disease, which may even be fatal. Few of them are intentional biters and others bite when threatened.
Assassin Bugs: These belong to the family Reduviidae. They paralyze the prey using toxins. They do not eat the whole prey. Instead, the fluid inside the prey’s body is sucked through stylet. Few of the assassin bugs are ambush bugs, wheel bug and cone-nosed bug.
Symptoms Of Bug Bites
The symptoms vary with the type of venom injected by the bug.
- Mild venom attack may cause redness, rash, swelling, itching, pain in the affected area or tingling
- Severe immediate reactions may include fever, vomiting, breathing difficulty, loss of consciousness.
- If you undergo any of the severe reactions or shortness of breath, do visit a doctor immediately.
10 Essential Oils For Bug Bites
Essential oils are used since ancient times for various purposes. They aid in curing bug bites because application of oil on the affected site prevents us from itching and soothes the pain. Moreover, essential oils have compounds that are highly anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antinociceptive and antiseptic.
1. Lemongrass Oil
Lemongrass is an aromatic perennial herb widely distributed in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Cymbopogon citratus and Cymbopogon flexuosus are commonly known as Lemongrass.
Cymbopogon flexuosus are significant in Perfume industries while Cymbopogon citratus is known for its aromatic as well as medicinal properties.
A thin, amber or light yellow colored consistency and a strong lemony scent characterize Lemongrass oil (1). The oil is obtained through Steam distillation of dried leaves. The essential oil thus obtained is purified with anhydrous Sodium sulphate (2).
The oil contains 75 to 85% Citral. The Citral content determines the quality of lemongrass oil. There are about 23 chemical components found in the oil. Of those, the major ones are geranial, neral, β-myrcene. Geranyl acetate and isopulegol are found in minor quantities yet significant.
According to the researchers, Lemongrass Oil inhibits the skin inflammatory response in animals. Geranial and neral are the primary compounds responsible for the oil’s anti-inflammatory and anti-nociceptive properties. The oil also possesses anti-allergic property because of the presence of Z-asarone.
The antinociceptive property soothes the pain caused due to bug bite and sting. Also, allergies and inflammation reduce significantly with the application of Lemongrass oil on the affected area. However, you should make sure you follow a correct method of application.
- Dilute 2-3 drops of lemongrass oil with a tablespoon of coconut oil. Apply it on the infected area twice a day to prevent itching.
- In case of acute pain, you can also apply the same oil blend on the skin and leave it overnight to soothe pain and irritation.
- Not safe for children under 6 and pregnant women.
- Conduct a patch test before use.
- People with estrogen-dependent cancer should avoid Lemongrass oil.
2. Basil Oil
Basil (Ocimum sanctum) an indigenous Indian annual herb is often revered as an “elixir of life” for its healing properties (3). They are treated as ‘the Mother Medicine of Nature’ since ancient times due to their power to cure various ailments.
Sweet, herbaceous, slightly camphorous odor, thin consistency and a clear liquid characterize Basil essential oil.
Researchers have found about 25 active compounds in the Basil oil, of which, the significant constituents are linalool, citral, 1,8-cineole, methyl chavicol, camphor, methyl cinnamate, thymol, methyl eugenol, eugenol, elemicin, and methyl isoeugenol (4).
Linoleic acid present in the oil blocks the mechanism that is responsible for causing inflammation in the body. This makes it an anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive and analgesic.
Basil in its crude extract contains compounds like Civsilineol, Civsimavatine, Isothymonin, Apigenin, Rosavinic acid and Eugenol which are responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties (5).
Basil oil prevents immune reactions thus reducing the redness and swelling on the inflamed areas.
- Blend 2-3 drops of basil oil with a teaspoon of coconut oil and apply it on the skin twice daily.
- To reduce pain, dilute the Basil oil with water and use as a cold compress.
- Massage the infected place using a cotton ball dipped in the oil blend.
- Pregnant and lactating mothers should not use Basil Oil.
- Basil oil is not recommended for internal use.
- People who have epilepsy and cancer should avoid Basil oil
3. Lavender Oil
Lavender oil is one of the most versatile Essential oil. Lavender oil is probably the best choice to begin if you are just introduced to Essential oils. It is extracted from Lavandula angustifolia by hydrodistillation. Lavandula sp. is native to Mediterranean regions.
Oil appears yellow with intense herbal lavender scent with a delicate hint of fruit and wood. The oil is used since ancient times. Romans have used Lavender oil as their bath additives (6).
Scientists have found about 300 chemical compounds in the oil. Major compounds are Linalool, linalyl acetate. The quality of the oil extracted depends on the high level of Linalool, linalyl acetate and their respective proportions. It can be used as an analgesic, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and insect repellent (7).
The other constituents of lavender oil are 1,8-cineole, camphor, and endo-borneol. α-pinene, camphene, α-pinene, β-pinene, p-cymene, limonene, terpinen-4-ol, and cryptone (8).
Lavender oil inhibits histamine and inflammatory protein release reducing inflammation, redness and prevents itching of the infected area.
- Lavender oil blends perfectly with basil oil. Mix 2-3 drops of Lavender oil, 2 drops of basil oil and 1 tablespoon of coconut oil. Apply the concoction to the inflamed region and leave it overnight. Repeat until the wound heals.
- In case of intense pain, gently massage with a cotton ball dipped with lavender oil.
- You can also add 2- 3 drops of lavender oil in water and use it as a compress to soothe the pain.
- People with estrogen-dependent cancer should avoid using.
- Lavender oil may act as a sedative. Make sure you do not use it before driving or performing tasks that require concentration.
4. Geranium Oil
Geranium oil is extracted from Pelargonium species. The plants are appreciated for their vivid pink blooms. Oil is obtained from the leaves and stems of the plant through the steam distillation process. The leaves have various applications like flavouring, insect repellents, perfume and pharmaceuticals. Yellowish-green liquid and strong lemon-rose odour characterise Geranium oil.
The oil has about 42 different compounds of which the prominent ones are Linalool, Citronellol, Geraniol, 6-Octen-1-ol, 3,7-dimethyl-, formate, and Selinene (9).
Citronellol and Geraniol are considered as the major compounds in Geranium oil and are responsible for anti-inflammatory properties. Research evidence in mice shows that Geranium oil inhibits one or more signalling pathways in the effects caused by inflammatory mediators thus reducing the inflammation (10).
Geranium oil is highly recommended to treat bug bite. Lice is one of the most commonly occurring problems among people of any age. Lice, the minuscule creatures are pesky. Lice infestation quickly spreads and cause itching and tiny red bites on the scalp. Germanium oil is considered one of the best method to remove the head lice.
- To remove Lice from the head, add 20 drops of geranium or rose geranium oil to 4 ounces of natural shampoo and stir or shake well to combine. Scrub the scalp with the shampoo-oil blend, leave it for 10 minutes and wash.
- To cure wounds dilute 2-3 drops of geranium oil it with a tablespoon of olive oil and apply in the infected area.
- Pregnant women and children below 6 years of age should avoid using.
- The oil may be sedative and be cautious about when you use it.
5. Tea Tree Oil
Tea tree oil is one of the popular and efficient essential oils for bug bites. Melaleuca alternifolia, the source of Tea tree oil is a native to Queensland and Australia. Oil is extracted from dried leaves and terminal branches through the steam distillation method.
Research shows that Tea tree oil has about 100 compounds of which terpinen-4-ol and α-terpineol, are significant components of the oil. Other significant compounds are α-pinene, β-pinene, 1,8-cineole and linalool. Teat tree oil is anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-inflammatory.
There is evidence that the Tea tree oil affects various immune responses. Terpinen-4-ol, α-terpineol, and 1,8-cineole are found to be the main components responsible for the anti-inflammatory property of Tea tree oil (11).
In an evidence-based study, it was inferred that 1% concentration of tea tree oil was effective against head lice with 100% mortality in just 30 minutes (12).
- To remove head lice, apply 20 – 40 drops of tea tree oil diluted with coconut oil or apply it on the scalp. Leave it for around 40 minutes and then shampoo the hair. Do this until lice are entirely eradicated.
- Dilute 4 – 6 drops of tea tree oil in water and apply on the inflamed skin to reduce inflammation.
- Tea tree oil is strictly not for ingestion.
- Skin irritation if caused should be addressed immediately.
6. Peppermint Oil
Peppermint oil is extracted from Mentha x Piperita, a cross between watermint and spearmint. It is a watery pale yellow with crisp methanol fragrance. Peppermint is known for its antiseptic, analgesic, antiphlogistic properties.
51 compounds are identified by the chromatographic analysis of peppermint oil purified after hydrodistillation of peppermint leaves. Methanol, menthone and menthyl acetate are found predominantly (13).
Neomenthol, pulegone, cineol and caryophyllene are other significant compounds present. However, the active components vary with the region where peppermint is grown, harvest season, temperature, radiation and humidity.
Peppermint inhibits the inflammatory mediators thus reducing further inflammation. Spathulenol, cadinene, caryophyllene and caryophyllene oxide are the compounds responsible for the anti-inflammatory property of the oil (14).
The inhibition of inflammatory mediators is crucial in treating bug bites. Peppermint oil is one of the best choices.
- Peppermint- Lavender Blend for Bug bite: Mix 24 drops of Peppermint oil and 24 drops of Lavender oil. Store it in a dark glass bottle. Apply on the inflamed skin for every 2 hours until it heals.
- Not safe for pregnant women and children under 6
- People with epilepsy should avoid this
- Sometime when ingested may cause acid reflux worse.
7. Thyme Oil
Thymus vulgaris, a perennial herb is the source of Thyme oil. Thyme is one of the oldest medicinal plants. Thyme has a wide range of applications in Pharmaceutical and cosmetic fields as well.
Thymol, carvacrol, γ-terpinene and p-cymene are significant components of thyme oil. The other minor components present are geraniol, linalool, gamma-terpineol, carvacrol, thymol and terpinen-4-ol (15).
Thyme oils are known for its antimicrobial, antitumor, antimutagenic, antigenotoxic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, angiogenic, antiparasitic, antiplatelet, antihepatotoxic, and hepatoprotective properties
When a bug bites you, your immune system responds immediately to it. This causes inflammation. Carvacrol and thymol present in Thyme oil inhibit the enzyme responsible for inflammation thus preventing you from further inflammation (16).
In addition to anti-inflammatory properties, Thyme oil exhibits anti-lifestyle related disease properties (17).
- Blend 6 – 10 drops of Thyme oil with 2 or 3 drops of Lavender oil and apply it on the infected skin to heal.
- Add 10 drops of thyme oil with water and bath in it. This calms the body reducing itchiness and pain.
- Pregnant women should avoid this.
- Sometimes may cause skin irritation.
8. Eucalyptus Oil
Eucalyptus oil is derived from the distillation of dried eucalyptus leaves from Eucalyptus radiate, E. globulus and so on. Research says that there are about 700 species of Eucalyptus trees. Eucalyptus oil is registered insecticide and miticide (18).
Eucalyptus oil is used since ancient times to treat respiratory diseases, allergies, asthma, heal wounds and also as an insect repellent. They are known for their antiseptic, antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Eucalyptus is widely used to ease pain and inflammation.
Studies show that α-pinene, 1,8-cineol and pinocarveol-trans are significant components found in Eucalyptus oil. There are about 100 chemical compounds found in it of which 1,8-cineol is the major one (19).
When your body gets exposed or bitten by a Bug, your immune system considers it as an allergen and starts reacting to it. The mechanisms of your immune system deploy inflammatory mediators. 1,8-cineol and α-pinene present in the Eucalyptus oil inhibits these inflammatory mediators preventing further inflammation (20).
- Blend 4-6 drops of Eucalyptus oil with a tablespoon of almond oil or coconut oil. Apply the concoction of the skin. Almond oil facilitates fast absorption and relieves pain immediately.
- Using a few drops of Eucalyptus oil in steam therapy calms down the entire body.
- You can also use it in warm water to take a bath.
- Avoid using it with any homoeopathic treatments.
- Do not use internally.
- Pregnant women and children under 6 should avoid using.
- People with estrogen-dependent cancer should not use.
9. German Chamomile
German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) belongs to Sunflower family. Chamomile oil is used since antiquity and a popular one. The Chamomile oil is widely used in cosmetic industries and known for its anti-inflammatory properties. It is used to treat many skin disorders.
The primary and active components of Chamomile oil are α-bisabolol oxide A & B, α-bisabolol, sesquiterpenes, chamazulene, umbelliferone, coumarins, flavonoids, apigenin, luteolin, spiroethers, quercetin, and en-yn dicycloether (21).
Components such as tannins, choline, anthemic acid, phytoestrogens, and polysaccharides are minor yet significant.
Chamazulene is produced during the distillation process and, gives the oil its blue colour. It is about 5% of the essential oil.
Bisabolol comprises 50% of German Chamomile oil. The flavonoids apigenin and luteolin are responsible for anti-inflammatory, carminative, and antispasmodic properties (22).
Chamomile oil is promising in treating bug bites and inflamed skin.
- Blend a few drops of Chamomile oil with peppermint oil or lavender oil and apply it on the skin to reduce inflammation. Repeat it every night until the problem resolves.
- Mix 2-3 drops of Chamomile oil and lavender oil with water. Use this as a moisturizer to prevent skin irritation.
- Dilute it with water and use as a cold compress in case of severe pain.
- Pregnant women should avoid this.
- It is a mild sedative. So caution is necessary.
10. Rosemary Oil
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) belongs to the mint family of Lamiaceae and native to Mediterranean regions. A thin clear liquid and mint-like herbaceous fragrance characterise Rosemary oil.
It is also one of the most popular oil with limitless applications. Rosemary oil possesses antispasmodic, analgesic, antirheumatic, carminative, cholagogue, diuretic, expectorant, antiepileptic, anti-inflammatory and peripheral antinociceptive activity (23).
Carnosic acid, carnosol and rosmarinic acid present in the oil are responsible for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These compounds reduce the number of White Blood cells at the site of inflammation, which results in anti-inflammatory response. The oil when applied inhibits inflammatory mediators. The anti-inflammatory activity of Rosemary is higher than indomethacin, a common anti-inflammatory drug (24).
- Rosemary oil blends well with peppermint oil, thyme oil, tea tree oil and camphor oil.
- Mix 2 – 4 drops of Rosemary oil equally with almond oil. Apply it on the infected areas of the skin using a cotton ball.
- Add 10 drops of the oil to water, and you can use it to the bath.
- Pregnant women should avoid using this.
- People suffering from hypertension should also avoid.
When To See A Doctor?
Seek immediate medical care if you undergo any of these symptoms:
- Shortness or difficulty in breathing
- Swelling in the lips or throat
- Severe pain in the affected area
- No sensation in and around the bitten area
- Rashes spread all over the body
- You are not sure what type of bug bit you.
- Intense and intolerable itching