A Safe Bug Spray That Really Works: Natural Mosquito Repellent

Summer is prime time for enjoying the outdoors. But more often than not, there’s a dark cloud hanging over that backyard barbecue: bugs – and especially mosquitoes. These blood-seeking fun busters expertly follow their senses right to your skin. But if you can repel them with one quick application of bug spray, then what’s the problem? It turns out that many old-fashioned bug sprays contain neurotoxic ingredients that may increase cancer risk. But, worry not – there are plenty of nontoxic essential oil blends that repel the bugs, without the bite to your health.

Why Should We Use Natural Mosquito Repellent?

Mosquito bites are not just annoying. They can also transmit diseases such as malaria, Zika, and dengue fever, among others. So, it’s important to guard against them. Mosquitoes are guided by their sense of smell, which is equipped with hundreds of odor-receptor proteins, and they’re attracted to the carbon dioxide we exhale, our skin odors, and sweat. Although none of these can truly be avoided, there are plant-derived all-natural essential oils that repel bugs and are completely safe for humans. The best part is that natural insect repellents not only have a fresh, clean scent but, most importantly, they are safe to use at any frequency and can be used in place of traditional toxic bug sprays like DEET and picaridin. Plus, natural bug sprays usually have a variety of essential oils to repel a variety of mosquitoes at once.

Of course, if you do get bitten, there’s still hope. Try natural home remedies for mosquito bites.

Essential Oil Mosquito Repellents

Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

Lemon eucalyptus oil (also referred to as PMD) is a hydrodistilled byproduct of lemon eucalyptus and shouldn’t be confused with the essential oil of eucalyptus itself. In concentrations above 30 percent, lemon eucalyptus oil has been shown to provide the same amount of protection for the same amount of time as DEET- and picaridin-derived sprays. Due to its efficacy, it’s one of the few natural ingredients included on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) list of effective mosquito repellents, in addition to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority-approved list.

Lemon eucalyptus is also a natural insecticide that is nontoxic to humans. In fact, some research shows that an all-natural blend of essential oils containing lemon eucalyptus was greater than 95 percent effective, compared to DEET (which was 100 percent effective) at repelling mosquitoes, for up to three hours. That 5 percent disparity seems small, but it represents the difference between a safe and potentially toxic spray.

Lavender Oil

Lavender oil, like thyme and oregano, is naturally toxic to certain mosquitoes and ticks while providing a natural antioxidant effect on humans. This makes it an effective oil to help naturally repel mosquitoes while being beneficial to human health.

Thyme Oil

Thyme oil contains monoterpenes, naturally derived plant extracts that are shown to be as effective as DEET at repelling mosquitoes. Some research also finds that monoterpenes may repel bugs for longer than DEET.

Greek Catnip Oil

You may only know catnip as a feline’s favorite herb, but researchers at Rutgers University have crafted a catnip that not only entertains cats for longer but, more importantly, also has higher concentrations of mosquito-repelling essential oils. Catnip, a member of the mint family, has been shown to suppress the feeding receptors of mosquitoes in multiple ways, which means a more effective natural bug spray.

Other Effective Natural Bug Repellents

Geraniol is naturally derived from rose and citronella oils and has been shown to be an effective insect repellent. Citronella (which is often used in backyard tiki torches and anti-bug candles), along with a vanilla extract, is a powerful essential-oil combo for naturally repelling mosquitoes, even remaining up to 71 percent effective one hour after application. Citronella extract can even repel ticks better than DEET, according to some research.

Other natural essential oils that make an ideal bug spray include peppermint, holy basil, rosemary, and tea tree oil. Peppermint, in addition to geranium, contains menthone, an all-natural extract from essential oils that may repel mosquitoes up to 90 percent effective for up to two hours, compared with DEET, which repelled for only 15 minutes at the same 1 percent concentration. Extracts of cumin and cinnamon are also proven effective mosquito repellents. Plus, eating foods like garlic, vinegar (for example in salad dressing), lemongrass, and chili peppers may help prevent mosquito bites.

DIY Recipes

Try this DIY homemade bug spray recipe with essential oils (EOs):

Ingredients

  • Lemon eucalyptus oil
  • Citronella oil
  • Pure vanilla extract or vanillin
  • Distilled water
  • 1 16oz spray bottle
  • Optional: Witch Hazel

Directions

  1. Mix eight to 10 drops each of lemon eucalyptus oil, citronella, and either pure vanilla extract or vanillin (a vanilla-extract alternative made from wood pulp) into a small spray bottle.
  2. Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled water.
  3. Add an optional splash of witch hazel to soothe itchy skin.

You can increase the amount of essential oil based on your preferences, but, generally, the higher the EO concentration, the more repellent it will be. Remember to always dilute EOs and never use them directly on the skin in undiluted form. Also remember that due to evaporation, natural bug sprays made with essential oils will lose efficacy fairly quickly, so reapply every hour.

The common decorative plant Lantana camara, also known as big sage, red sage, or wild sage, can be mixed with Ocimum gratissimum, (aka clove basil, wild basil, or African basil) to make a natural bug repellent. Try this recipe made from dried plants:

Equipment

  • Food processor or another grinder

Ingredients

  • Wild sage
  • Clove basil
  • A liter of 50 percent ethanol or a liter of 50 percent methanol
  • Distilled water
  • 1 16oz spray bottle
  1. Start by air-drying the leaves at room temperature for two weeks.
  2. Then, grind 500 grams of wild sage and 325 grams of clove basil leaves into a powder in a food processor or other grinder to increase the surface area exposed to the liquid.
  3. Add this to one liter of either 50 percent ethanol (or methanol) and water to extract the most metabolites from the plants, which will not be extractable with water alone.
  4. Let the mixture sit for at least three days, shaking it three times per day. The ethanol should mostly evaporate.
  5. Strain the leaves out with cheesecloth and pour the liquid into a small spray bottle. Add distilled water to fill.

Other Ways to Avoid Mosquito Bites

Reapply Often

Essential-oil-based bug sprays have one big disadvantage – they dissipate more quickly than toxic bug sprays. So just as with sunscreen, make sure you reapply at least once every hour when outdoors.

Avoid Peak Times

Mosquitoes tend to overheat as they’re feeding and are also disrupted by light, which is why they come out to feed at night. If you’re going to be outside for extended periods of time, try to avoid being stationary outside at dusk and night.

Use Plants

Certain plants can help repel bugs, so why not place a few of what are referred to as spatial repellents around your yard and home to help fight against mosquitoes? Citrus plants such as lemon and orange have been used to repel bugs in mosquito-borne-illness-prone regions such as Tanzania, as is the eucalyptus plant. Cinnamosma fragrans, a plant found in Madagascar and South America, has also proven to be an effective bug-repellent plant.

Cover Your Body

Mosquitoes are attracted to sweat and can more easily bite the bare skin. So if you can, cover up as much exposed skin as possible to avoid bug bites.

Get Rid of Standing Water

Mosquitoes lay their eggs in standing water, which is the number one reason to make sure your pots (indoor or outdoor) have good drainage. If you have a bird feeder, a water feature, or a pond in your garden, consider installing a small solar-powered fountain agitator to keep the water agitated enough to keep mosquitoes from laying eggs.

The Dangers of Traditional Mosquito Repellent

DEET, or N, N-Diethyl-m-toluamide, was first developed in the 1940s by the U.S. military to repel bugs by effectively “blinding” them to human scents besides carbon dioxide. But after decades of use worldwide as a bug repellent and crop insecticide, some research has found that DEET may be unsafe.

Toxic Chemicals Have Side Effects

First, DEET contains harsh chemicals that can potentially trigger tumor growth or seizures in mammals (including humans). Breathing difficulties have also been reported at high concentrations, as has the temporary burning of the skin and mucous membranes. DEET is also unsafe for small children and pregnant women. It also may have immune-suppressing effects and can suppress acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity, which means it can have neurotoxic effects.

Not 100% Effective on All Mosquitoes

Not all mosquitoes are repelled by DEET. Even though it’s long-lasting, it’s still not 100 percent effective against all mosquitoes.

Damages Clothing

DEET can slowly dissolve nylons and plastics. Spraying it on these types of fabrics may damage your clothing over time.

Also,

There are many ways to naturally protect yourself from bug bites – and specifically mosquito bites – without covering your skin with unsafe chemicals like DEET. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find your right mix of plant extracts and essential oils to create your own bug spray and repel bugs naturally.

Natural Home Remedies for Mosquito Bites

Few things are more annoying than the itching and scratching that accompanies a fat, juicy mosquito bite. When a mosquito bites us, we itch due to the residual saliva left behind from the insect’s feasting on our blood! Fortunately, just as Mother Nature has honored us with the presence of these buzzing nuisances, she has provided us with some natural home remedies for mosquito bites.

Here are some of my favorite and most-effective natural ways for relieving and treating painful and itchy mosquito bites. I’ve been using these remedies for years, as the mosquitos can get really bad here in Texas. In fact, you may be surprised to find that most of these remedies are common things that you can easily find in your home.

12 Remedies to Treat Mosquito Bites at Home

1. Vinegar

When you first notice the itchy bite, try applying a small amount of vinegar directly to the bump. If you have many bites, you may want to take a very hot bath in a tub filled with water and 2 1/2 cups of vinegar. I would personally recommend using organic apple cider vinegar.

Aloe Vera

2. Aloe

Aloe vera is another excellent remedy for mosquito bites, as well as many other conditions. Not only will it help ease the itching and swelling from the bit, but it will also aid in healing the wound. You can use fresh inner leaf gel directly from an aloe plant or organic aloe juice. They both work well at providing relief.

3. A Dry Bar of Soap

Another remedy for mosquito bits is to rub a bar of dry soap directly on the bite. This will help provide temporary relief to the itching. Remember to wash it off thoroughly after the itch fades away.

4. Baking Soda & Water

Another simple remedy for mosquito bites is to make a thick paste of baking soda and water. Then apply this paste generously to the affected area. You should feel the swelling and itching subside shortly afterward.

5. Onion

Other than making you produce tears, a fresh slice of onion can also help take the sting out of a bite. Simply place a fresh slice on the affected area for several minutes until the itching subsides. Be sure to wash the area thoroughly afterward.

6. Toothpaste

For quick relief from mosquito bites, try applying a small amount of all-natural peppermint or neem-based toothpaste. Allow the paste to dry and leave for as long as desired.

7. Raw Honey

Simply, take a small amount of honey and apply directly to the bite. Honey also has anti-microbial properties that can help prevent infection. I would personally recommend using local raw honey.

Lemons

8. Lime and/or Lemons

I usually apply a small amount of lime juice directly to the bites. Lemon juice also works well. I have also heard that rubbing the bite with the lemon or lime peel helps, but I usually prefer to use the juice. This also helps in keeping the wound from becoming infected from the grit and grime of fingernails.

9. Essential oils

There are many essential oils that can help provide temporary relief for mosquito bites. My favorites are tea tree, rosemary, neem, lavender, witch hazel and cedar oil. Take a small amount and dilute it with water, then apply directly to the bite.

10. Salt Paste

Take finely ground salt and mix with a small amount of water until you have a thick paste. Apply this salt paste directly to bite. I personally use Himalayan salt and find it works best, but iodized salt will also work. The important thing is to make sure it’s finely ground.

Garlic

11. Garlic

Try rubbing a piece of raw garlic on the wound. It is possible that you will feel a small amount of mild burning, but you should feel some major relief afterwards. This is not one that I use with my children, and is wise for to use caution when using this natural remedy. The smell of garlic (and neem) will also help repel the mosquitoes from biting you more later.

12. Ozonated Olive Oil

Ozonated olive oil is a natural health remedy in which olive oil is slowly infused with oxygen over a period of 3-6 months. This process changes the oil to an off-white topical cream that can soothe a variety of conditions. It speeds healing and alleviates swelling and redness from insect bites. Simply apply the cream directly to the bite, and the itching and swelling should stop within minutes.

A Natural Antibiotic: Thyme Oil

Superbugs like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus {MRSA} are on the rise and, unfortunately, are becoming resistant to the drugs used to treat them. When faced with a microbial infection, using natural antibacterial agents may not only be more effective but also safe and risk-free.

Apart from using spices like garlic, I recommend you try essential oils derived from herbs like thyme oil. Not only do they have antibacterial properties, but they also provide a number of health benefits. Before I go into thyme oil’s antimicrobial functions, let me share some information on the essential oil.

thyme oil

What Is Thyme Oil?

Oil of thyme is derived from thyme, also known as Thymus vulgaris. The perennial herb, a member of the mint family, is used in aromatherapy, cooking, potpourri, mouthwashes, and elixirs, as well as added to ointments. Thyme also has a number of medicinal properties, which is due to the herb’s essential oils.

The benefits of thyme essential oil have been recognized for thousands of years in Mediterranean countries. This substance is also a common agent in Ayurveda practice. Today, among the many producers of thyme oil, France, Morocco, and Spain emerge as the primary ones.

Uses of Thyme Oil

Due to thyme oil’s antibacterial, antispasmodic, antirheumatic, expectorant, hypertensive, and calming properties, it has a long list of uses that include:

  • Home remedy – Thyme oil is used to relieve and treat problems like gout, arthritis, wounds, bites, and sores, water retention, menstrual and menopausal problems, nausea and fatigue, respiratory problems (like colds), skin conditions (oily skin and scars), athlete’s foot, hangovers, and even depression.
  • Aromatherapy oil – The oil can be used to stimulate the mind, strengthen memory and concentration, and calm the nerves.
  • Hair product – It is said that thyme oil can prevent hair loss. It is used as a treatment for the scalp and is added to shampoos and other hair products.
  • Skin product – Thyme oil can help tone aged skin and prevent acne outbreaks.
  • Mouthwashes and herbal rinses – Like peppermint, wintergreen, and eucalyptus oil, thyme oil is used to improve oral health.
  • Insecticide/insect repellent – Thyme oil can keep insects and parasites like mosquitoes, fleas, lice, and moths away.

The Composition of Thyme Oil

Thyme is an example of a herb with over 300 varieties and various chemotypes, which are plants with the same appearance but have different chemical compositions. Each chemotype yields different oils with corresponding therapeutic benefits. This occurs when the plant is grown in different environments, climates, and soil.

Depending on which chemotype it is derived from, the oil of thyme produced will have a distinct chemical structure. The known chemotypes are:

  • Thymus vulgaris thymolThis chemotype has strong antiseptic activities and is 60 to 70 percent thymol. It goes by the name of “thyme” and “red thyme,” and is harvested during the fall.
  • Thymus vulgaris linalool This is the most gentle of all thyme chemotypes. Referred to as “garden thyme,” this variation has potent antiparasitic and antifungal properties and is grown at high altitudes.
  • Thymus vulgaris carvacrol– As its name suggests, this type contains the chemical constituent carvacrol. Its amount will depend on when it is harvested. When collected in the spring, it will contain 30 percent carvacrol, and 60 to 80 percent when harvested right after flowering or during the fall. T. Vulgaris carvacrol is known for its antiseptic properties.
  • Thymus vulgaris thujanol– Found only in the wild, this plant contains 50 percent thuja oil and is known for its beneficial effects on the immune system and hormones. It is often called “sweet thyme.”
  • Thymus vulgaris alphaterpineolThis type is harvested during the early spring and has a pepper-like smell.
  • Thymus vulgaris geraniol ­– The geraniol chemotype has a lemon-like fragrance and is grown at high altitudes. It is often picked during autumn.
  • Thymus vulgaris 1,8 cineole – This contains 80 to 90 percent cineole and has diuretic, anticatarrhal, expectorant, and analgesic properties.
  • Thymus vulgaris p-cymene– This should be obtained from spring or else it becomes a different chemotype.
  • Thymus vulgaris phenol­– These are thyme plants that grow at high altitudes and contain up to 90 percent of phenol compounds.

Benefits of Thyme Oil

As I previously mentioned, thyme oil is an effective natural agent against nasty bacterial strains. A study presented at the Society for General Microbiology’s spring conference in Edinburgh pointed out that essential oils may be efficient and affordable alternatives to antibiotics in the battle against resistant bacteria.

Among the essential oils tested, cinnamon oil and thyme oil were found to be the most successful against various Staphylococcus species, including the dreaded MRSA.  Researchers said that this can help lower antibiotic use and minimize the formation of new resistant strains of microorganisms.

Oil of thyme can also function as a decontaminate for food products. As shown in Food Microbiology, both basil and thyme essential oils exhibited antimicrobial properties against Shigella sonnei and Shigella flexneri that may contaminate food. The compounds thymol and carvacrol in thyme oil demonstrated this benefit.

Furthermore, thyme oil can be used as a preservative against spoilage and several foodborne germs that can contribute to health problems. It is effective against other forms of bacteria like Salmonella, Enterococcus, Escherichia, and Pseudomonas species.

Other reports also show that oil of thyme has anti-inflammatory properties. In a research published in the Journal of Lipid Research, six essential oils including thyme oil showed the ability to suppress the inflammatory cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) enzyme in the same manner as the antioxidant resveratrol does. It was noted that the chemical constituent carvacrol was responsible for this effect.

The same study also noted that thyme and the other essential oils activated peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs), which help suppress COX-2 expression.

In addition to these, significant health benefits of thyme oil include:

  • Help reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Stimulates menstrual flow
  • Increases circulation and elevates low blood pressure
  • Triggers the removal of waste that may lead to cellulite
  • Eases nervousness and anxiety
  • Helps fight insomnia
  • Eliminates bad breath and body odor

How to Make Thyme Oil

Thyme essential oil is produced through the steam distillation of the fresh or partially dried leaves and flowers of the thyme plant. Distillation produces a red-, browns, or orange-colored thyme oil, which has a strong, spicy smell. Further distillation yields white thyme oil, a clear or pale yellow oil with a mild fragrance. As mentioned before, its chemical composition varies depending on the type of thyme used in production.

Fortunately, you can make infused thyme oil at home. Here’s is one guide you can use.

What You Need:

  • ½ cup fresh thyme
  • 8 ounces carrier oil (ex. olive oil)
  • Mortar and pestle
  • Saucepan
  • Funnel
  • Glass container

Procedure:

  • Wash the herbs and dry it by patting it with a clean cloth. You may also dry it in the sun or place it in a salad spinner.
  • Crush the herbs using the mortar and pestle to release their natural oils.
  • Place the crushed thyme and its oil into the saucepan, and place the carrier oil. Simmer this mixture over medium heat for at least five minutes or until it produces bubbles.
  • Turn the heat off and allow the mixture to cool. Pour the mixture into the glass container then store in a cool place.

How Does Thyme Oil Work?

Thyme oil can be used in a number of ways. It can be inhaled, applied topically, or used as a mouthwash. Below are some particular ways to enjoy its benefits:

  • Relieve pain – Mix three drops of thyme oil with two teaspoons of sesame oil. Use this mixture as a massage oil and apply on the abdominal area to relieve pain. This may also be used as a massage oil to treat other types of pain.
  • Alleviate fatigue – Add two drops of thyme oil to your bath water.
  • Improve sleep – Add a few drops to your diffuser.
  • Promote oral health – Use thyme oil as a mouthwash by adding one drop to a cup of warm water.
  • Reduce the appearance of scars and skin marks – Apply oil of thyme mixed with any carrier oil (like almond oil) on the affected area.
  • Use as a cleanser – Add a few drops of thyme oil to your facial wash.
  • Treat or protect against respiratory problems – Add two drops of thyme oil to hot water and use for steam inhalation.
  • Uplift mood – Simply inhale the scent of thyme oil.

Is Thyme Oil Safe?

Thyme oil should not be used directly on the skin, as it can cause sensitization. It must be first diluted with a carrier oil (like olive oil or almond oil). Before use, test on a small area to see if you have any allergies.

This herbal oil should not be taken internally, as it can cause nausea, dizziness, vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle problems. Doing so may also negatively impact your heart, lungs, and body temperature. It may also stimulate the thyroid gland, which is why this essential oil is not recommended for people with hyperthyroidism.

Since thyme oil can be used to increase circulation, it should be avoided by people with high blood pressure. Pregnant women should steer clear of thyme oil because it can stimulate menstrual flow. Thyme oil should also be kept away from infants and young children because they are sensitive.

Thyme Oil Side Effects

Use of thyme oil may result in allergic reactions, even when it’s diluted. Some people who use it may experience dermatitis or inflammation of the skin. People with allergies to rosemary or mint oils should also stay away from thyme and its essential oil.

Always consult a physician or anyone knowledgeable in essential oils before using one, especially if you’re suffering from any disease or are taking certain medications.

What Are The Health Benefits of Thyme?

Thyme is a herb with culinary, medicinal and ornamental uses. The flowers, leaves, and oil of thyme have been used to treat bedwetting, diarrhea, stomach ache, arthritis, colic, sore throat, cough, including whooping cough, bronchitis, flatulence, and as a diuretic, to increase urination.

Thyme is of the genus Thymus. The most common type is Thymus vulgaris.

It is native to the Mediterranean.

History of thyme

[thyme]

Thyme has been used for flavoring and medicinal purposes since ancient times.

In Ancient Egypt, thyme was used for embalming. The Ancient Greeks used it as an incense in temples, and they added it to bathwater.

The Romans used thyme as a flavoring for cheese and alcoholic beverages. They are also said to have offered it as a cure people for who were melancholic or shy. They are believed to have introduced it to the British Isles.

Hippocrates, who lived around 460BC to 370BC, and who is known today as “the father of Western medicine,” recommended thyme for respiratory diseases and conditions. It was grown in gardens and gathered in the countryside.

When the Black Death swept across Europe in the 1340s, posies of thyme were worn for protection.

Scientific research does not support this use, but thyme has been shown to have a range of medicinal properties.

Forms of thyme

The fresh leaves of thyme can be used in teas and in cooking. They are sometimes placed between layers of linen, like lavender, to protect the fabric from insects.

The essential oil of thyme, usually referred to as “oil of thyme,” contains between 20 percent and 60 percent thymol.

It is extracted for a range of uses, for example, for scenting soaps and as an ingredient in deodorant. It has been used as an antiseptic, and as an insect repellant. Thymol has been used in meat preservation, and it is often included in the oil used to preserve olives in the Mediterranean.

Unlike the fresh leaves, the essential oil cannot be ingested and it should not be used directly on the skin. It should be diluted in a carrier oil, for example, olive oil.

Possible health benefits of thyme

Thymol is one of a naturally-occurring class of compounds known as biocides, substances that can destroy harmful organisms. Used alongside other biocides, such as carvacrol, thyme has a strong antimicrobial action.

One study has suggested that thymol can reduce bacterial resistance to common drugs such as penicillin.

The tiger mosquito

The tiger mosquito is native to tropical and subtropical areas of Southeast Asia. Since the 1990s, it has spread around the world, carrying West Nile virus, Yellow fever virus, St. Louis encephalitis, dengue fever, and Chikungunya fever.

team at Chungbuk National University in South Korea reported that a combination of thymol, alpha-terpinene, and carvacrol was effective in killing off tiger mosquito larvae.

High blood pressure

Researchers at the University of Belgrade, in Serbia, found that an aqueous extract obtained from wild thyme reduced blood pressure in tests on rats. Rats tend to have similar responses to humans when they have hypertension so the findings could have implications for humans.

Protecting from foodborne bacterial infections

[thyme and olives]

Thyme is often used with olive oil to preserve olives.

A team at the Center for Studies of Animal and Veterinary Sciences in Portugal studied the antimicrobial activity of essential oils extracted from a range of aromatic plants, including thyme oil.

They reported that thyme oil, even at low concentrations, showed potential as a natural preservative of food products against several common foodborne bacteria that cause human illness.

A Polish study tested thyme oil and lavender oil, and they observed thyme oil was effective against resistant strains of Staphylococcus, Enterococcus, Escherichia and Pseudomonas bacteria.

Colon cancer

study carried out in Lisbon, Portugal, found that extracts of mastic thyme may protect from colon cancers.

Breast cancer

Oncologist researchers Turkey looked at the effect of wild thyme on breast cancer activity, and specifically how it affected apoptosis, or cell death, and epigenetic events in breast cancer cells.

Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression caused by mechanisms that do not involve alterations in DNA sequence. They found that wild thyme induced cell death in breast cancer cells.

Yeast infection

The fungus Candida albicans is a common cause of mouth and vaginal yeast infections, a recurring condition often referred to as “thrush.”

Researchers at the University of Turin, in Italy, found that essential oil of thyme significantly enhanced intracellular killing of C. albicans, which causes thrush, in the human body.

Prolonging the stability of cooking oils

Lipid oxidation is a serious problem during food processing and storage. It leads to losses of quality, stability, safety, and nutritional value.

Scientists from Warsaw, in Poland, carried looked at whether thyme extract might prolong the stability of sunflower oil at different temperatures. They suggest that thyme might be a potent antioxidant for stabilizing sunflower oil.

Common skin problems

Skin problems are common worldwide. In some countries, herbal preparations are an important form of medicine.

[thyme oil]

Thyme oil in an antifungal cream may help prevent eczema.

A team at Addis Ababa University, in Ethiopia, carried out a study to assess the therapeutic benefits of a 10 percent chamomile extract cream and a 3 percent thyme essential oil antifungal cream for eczema-like lesions.

They noted that 66.5 percent of those treated with a fungal cream containing thyme essential oil were completely healed, compared with 28.5 percent of those using a placebo.

Results for the chamomile cream were similar to those for the placebo. The researchers conclude, “A 3 percent thyme essential oil cream could represent a relatively economical and easily available opportunity to treat and heal mild to moderate cases of fungal infections,” but they recommend further research.

Acne

Scientists from Leeds, in the U.K., tested the effects of myrrh, marigold, and thyme tinctures on the bacterium that causes acne. They found that thyme may be effective in treating acne.

Its antibacterial effect proved stronger than that of standard concentrations of benzoyl peroxide, the active ingredient used in most creams and washes that are recommended for acne. Benzoyl peroxide also causes a burning sensation and irritation on the skin.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies thyme essential oils as “generally recognized as safe for their intended use.”

However, anyone planning to make a significant change to treatment for a health condition should first discuss this with a physician.

Essential Oils for Treating Cold Sores

Cold sores, which are also called fever blisters, can be itchy, painful, and embarrassing. They are typically caused by the herpes simplex virus.

Cold sores can be treated with antiviral medications, which may shorten how long the symptoms last. There are various home remedies, as well, which are used to ease their discomfort.

Furthermore, a lot of studies have been done that show compounds in certain essential oils may help treat cold sores.

Essential oils might have some advantages over medication. For instance, essential oils usually cause fewer side effects than antiviral drugs.

Although they may be helpful in treating the symptoms of the herpes simplex virus, essential oils can be harmful if taken orally. When used to treat cold sores, the oils are applied topically to the skin only after they are mixed with a carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil or coconut oil.

In this article, we take a look at 10 essential oils that research suggests may be able to help treat cold sores.

Essential oils for cold sores

The following essential oils may be useful for treating cold sores:

Lavender

Applying certain essential oils may help to reduce cold sore irritation.

Lavender oil has been used for years to treat a variety of issues, including skin irritation and bruises.

Although it may not have any effect on the virus, lavender oil may be helpful in reducing pain associated with cold sores. In one study, lavender oil appeared to have the potential to decrease pain and inflammation.

The first time someone uses lavender oil, they should dilute it with a carrier oil. If there is no reaction, they might be able to use a stronger mix.

Lavender oil can also be used undiluted, as it does not usually irritate the skin. One or two drops of lavender oil can be applied directly to the sore.

Peppermint oil

In one study, peppermint oil was shown to inhibit the activity of both the herpes virus type 1 and type 2. The study concluded that peppermint oil might be useful in treating recurrent herpes infections.

A few drops of peppermint oil diluted with a milder oil, such as almond oil, can be applied to the sore.

Chrysanthemum oil

Although chrysanthemum oil may not specifically treat the herpes simplex virus, research has suggested that the oil has a strong anti-inflammatory effect, which may reduce symptoms.

Allergies to chrysanthemum oil are not uncommon. It is best to test a small area of the skin before using the essential oil on a cold sore. Never apply directly to the skin, and always dilute in a carrier oil.

Eucalyptus oil

Eucalyptus oil may be useful in treating cold sores due to its anti-inflammatory ability.

A paper in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology indicated that eucalyptus oil could decrease inflammation. By reducing inflammation, eucalyptus may speed up the healing process of a cold sore.

Users should be sure to dilute eucalyptus oil in a carrier oil before applying it to the skin to avoid irritation. Eucalyptus is a known allergen, so people should not use it if they have a reaction.

Clove oil

The effect of clove has been studied on the herpes simplex virus as well as other viruses, including hepatitis C.

Clove may have an antimicrobial and antiviral effect on the herpes simplex virus. It also may decrease pain associated with a cold sore.

Clove is irritating if applied directly to the skin. It should be diluted with a milder oil, such as coconut oil. Users should use caution when applying the mixture to the sore.

Chamomile oil

Chamomile oil interrupts absorption of the herpes virus into the cells differently than antiviral drugs, according to some research.

This oil may also be useful in treating drug-resistant strains of herpes. Again, chamomile oil must be diluted in a carrier oil before being applied to the skin.

Tea tree oil

According to a review published in the International Journal of Dermatology, tea tree oil has shown the ability to stop or kill the herpes simplex virus.

The oil is strong, so it is best to use it with caution. Users should dilute it with a carrier oil to decrease the chances of a skin irritation.

Hyssop oil

Research on hyssop oil showed that the essential oil caused a decrease in viral activity.

A few drops of hyssop oil can be diluted and applied to the cold sore.

Lemon balm oil

Lemon balm oil, which is also called Melissa extract, may have an antiviral effect on the herpes simplex virus.

One study indicated that the oil prevents the herpes virus from penetrating the cells.

Users should apply the diluted oil to the cold sore with a cotton swab three or four times a day for best results.

Thyme oil

Thyme oil has been examined to determine its ability to treat herpes simplex virus type 1. The results of one study indicated that the essential oil shows antiviral action against the virus.

Thyme oil should always be diluted with a carrier oil before it is applied to the cold sore.

Risks and considerations

lemon balm essential oil in glass bottle with fresh leaves
To reduce the risk of an allergic reaction, essential oils such as lemon balm should be diluted with a carrier oil before being applied to the skin.

When using essential oils to treat cold sores, it is important to understand the risks. Some essential oils can be irritating to the skin and may damage the skin if they are used too much.

An allergic reaction is also possible when using essential oils. Hives, redness, or itching at the site of application are signs of an allergic reaction.

If signs of an allergic reaction develop, people should stop using the oil immediately.

Diluting an essential oil with a carrier oil may be useful and necessary. Dilution means the carrier oils provide better absorption as well as less irritation to the skin.

Common carrier oils used to dilute essential oils include:

The ratio of essential oil to carrier oil may vary. Typically, a ratio of 2–5 drops of essential oil diluted in 1 ounce of a carrier oil is used.

Additional home remedies for cold sores

aloe vera dripping its gel in to glass bottle
Applying aloe vera may help to calm cold sore symptoms.

In addition to essential oils, there are also other natural home remedies that can ease the symptoms of cold sores.

Home remedies that may help ease cold sore symptoms when applied include:

  • aloe vera
  • hot or cold compress
  • zinc
  • vitamin E
  • witch hazel

Home remedies do not kill the herpes virus or prevent future flare-ups of cold sores. Instead, home remedies may ease cold sore symptoms, such as pain, redness, and itching.

Summary

Cold sores can be painful and annoying. The essential oils listed here may help decrease symptoms and treat the sores.

It is wise to keep in mind that the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who regulate medications, do not control the use of essential oils.

It may be helpful to consult with a certified aromatherapist to find the best brands and uses of various essential oils for cold sores.

If cold sores occur frequently, it is also best to consult a doctor to work out if additional treatments are needed.