Make Your Own Bug Spray with Essential Oils

Jun 10, 2022

Not all bug sprays are created equal! In this post, learn about DEET and its key concerns, and learn how to make your own natural DEET-free essential oil bug spray.

Diethyl-meta-toluamide, abbreviated DEET, is the most common active ingredient in insect repellents. According to Wikipedia ("DEET," 2003), “Citing human health reasons, Health Canada barred the sale of insect repellents for human use that contained more than 30% DEET in a 2002 re-evaluation "based on a human health risk assessment that considered daily application of DEET over a prolonged period of time". The agency recommended that DEET-based products be used on children between the ages of 2 and 12 only if the concentration of DEET is 10% or less and that repellents be applied no more than 3 times a day, children under 2 should not receive more than 1 application of repellent in a day and DEET-based products of any concentration should not be used on infants under 6 months.”

DEET has been found to inhibit the activity of a central nervous system enzyme, acetylcholinesterase, in both insects and mammals. This enzyme is responsible for the function of neurons which control muscles, and insecticides containing DEET can cause neuromuscular paralysis and death by asphyxiation.

DEET works as a repellent because mosquitoes intensely dislike the smell. An olfactory receptor neuron in the special antennal sensilla of mosquitoes is also activated by eucalyptol, linalool, and thujone — all of which are natural constituents in many essential oils.

So, bottom line? Consider using a 100% natural, organic aromatherapy bug spray. Not only will you avoid the concerns of using DEET, but you’ll also reap the benefits to your mental and emotional well-being with essential oils that promote a calm, grounded, and cheerful mood while being gentle to the skin.

The essential oils in the blends I am sharing with you include two of the constituents mentioned above, eucalyptol and linalool, while avoiding thujone as it carries safety concerns. I’ve included 3 versions so you can use appropriate dilution levels for adults, children, or horses if you have them.

 

Aromatherapy Bug Spray Recipes for Adults, Children, and Horses

Please note: These blends are for personal use only. Without a preservative, a water-based product will have an unpredictable shelf life. If you wish to add a preservative, a 1% addition of Optiphen Plus or another compatible natural preservative is recommended.

 

Essential Oil Bug Spray for Adults

Essential Oils

  • 6 drops lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus
  • 18 drops sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum CT linalool
  • 20 drops lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
  • 6 drops patchouli, Pogostemon cablin

Other Ingredients

  • 120 ml (4 oz) water or lavender hydrosol
  • 50 drops emulsifier, such as polysorbate 20 (acts as a solubilizer in this recipe)

Packaging

  • 120 ml (4 oz) PET plastic mister spray bottle

Directions

Combine ingredients in the mister bottle and shake well. To use, spray on the skin regularly. I prefer not to spray the bug blend directly on my face. Instead I spray it on to the palms of my hands and dab the bug spray on to my face. You will need to apply this bug blend more often than commercial insect repellents. Use caution when spraying on fabrics.

Contraindications

Exercise caution with sensitive or damaged skin, or if you are taking a drug that is metabolized by the CYP2B6 pathway. Contact a certified aromatherapist or health care professional for further information, or contact us for further details.

 

Essential Oil Bug Spray for Children

Essential Oils

  • 3 drops lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus
  • 6 drops sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum CT linalool
  • 8 drops lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
  • 3 drops patchouli, Pogostemon cablin

Other Ingredients

  • 120 ml (4 oz) water or lavender hydrosol
  • 20 drops emulsifier, such as polysorbate 20 (acts as a solubilizer in this recipe)

Packaging

  • 120 ml (4 oz) PET plastic mister spray bottle

Directions

Combine ingredients in the mister bottle and shake well. To use, spray on the skin regularly – you will have to apply this more often than commercial insect repellents. Use caution when spraying on fabrics and avoid spraying the child’s face.

Contraindications

Exercise caution with sensitive or damaged skin, or if you are taking a drug that is metabolized by the CYP2B6 pathway. Contact a certified aromatherapist or health care professional for further information, or contact us for further details.

 

Essential Oil Bug Spray for Horses

Essential Oils

  • 12 drops lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus
  • 36 drops sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum CT linalool
  • 40 drops lavender, Lavandula angustifolia
  • 12 drops patchouli, Pogostemon cablin

Other Ingredients

  • 240 ml (8 ounces) water or lavender hydrosol
  • Emulsifier in the same amount as the essential oils, such as polysorbate 20 (acts as a solubilizer in this recipe)

Packaging

  • 250 ml (or 8-ounce) PET plastic spray bottle

Directions

Combine all ingredients in the bottle. Shake well and either spray on the horse’s coat and brush in, or spray on your hands and apply to the horse’s coat. This can also be sprayed in the barn.

We recommend not using essential oils on small pets such as dogs and cats. An alternative could be a lavender hydrosol, used without essential oils. Hydrosols are a product of steam distillation or hydrodistillation. They are not essential oils added to water.


While we need a thriving insect population to maintain healthy ecosystems and to help pollinate essential oil-bearing plants, we certainly don’t need to be bitten by them! I hope you find these blends helpful. If you make them, let us know in the comments how they work for you.


References

DEET. (2003, October 20). Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved June 8, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DEET 


Article by: Colleen Thompson, RA, MIFPA

For over 25 years, Colleen Thompson has been a passionate and highly respected aromatherapy educator. She has owned 3 aromatherapy stores and a holistic spa, and she founded Essence of Thyme in 1995, where she mentors budding aromatherapists from all over the world, helping them create their own thriving aromatherapy businesses.


About Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies

Essence of Thyme College of Holistic Studies offers 370- and 700-hour professional aromatherapy certification programs that help you grow a successful, fulfilling career by specializing and creating your market niche. Professional Level Certification prepares graduates to become aromatherapy consultants, launch product lines or retail businesses, or provide services as an adjunct to existing holistic health specializations. Master Level Certification and electives are ideal for certified aromatherapists seeking higher education or a path to clinical aromatherapy practice.

All Essence of Thyme programs focus on aromatherapy product development and advanced formulation, evidence-based research, spa and business management, international industry regulatory guidelines, and sustainability and conservation of essential oil and carrier oil-bearing plants.

Our comprehensive, evidence-based programs meet or exceed the criteria set forth by 5 international professional aromatherapy associations. Learn more about our aromatherapy certification programs.

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