Essential oils for bug bites can be highly effective when correctly used. These naturally derived oils target inflammation and itchiness, taking the misery out of bug bites.

Oils can reduce the temptation to scratch, which can prevent infections. This is because persistently scratching a bug bite may open a wound that allows bacteria to get into the body.

Essential oils can help with bug bites in several ways. The following oils may help speed healing time and reduce itching after a bug bite.

Fast facts on essential oils for bug bites:

  • It is crucial to dilute essential oils with a carrier oil, such as vegetable oil.
  • Antimicrobial essential oils can reduce the risk of developing an infection.
  • Anti-inflammatory oils can change the way the body reacts to bug bites, reducing the itch.
  • People with allergic reactions should avoid essential oils. Essential oils might trigger an asthma attack for some people.
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Peppermint oil may help with the burning and itching from bug bites.

Any bug bite can become infected, especially if it is scratched or it leaves an open wound, as some stings do. In people who have a mild skin reaction — as many people do to mosquito and ant bites — these oils may be beneficial.

Always mix the essential oil with a carrier oil and do not apply directly to the skin.

The United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA) do not monitor essential oils, so, choose a brand that is known for quality and purity.

Peppermint and menthol oils

According to one source, peppermint oils create a cooling sensation on the skin. This can help burning, stinging, and itching sensations caused by bites or stings. Research suggests peppermint oil may act as an antimicrobial, reducing the risk of infection associated with some bites. Do not apply peppermint oil to broken skin as it may burn or aggravate it. Use only on mosquito bites and other mild sources of irritation.

Tea tree oil

Tea tree oil may help prevent bacteria and other microbes from growing in a bug bite. This can reduce the risk of infection, making it an excellent choice for children who cannot resist scratching.

Research also shows that tea tree oil might act as a natural antihistamine. Antihistamines reduce the activity of the body’s histamine receptors, which can play a role in allergic reactions and itching. This may reduce swelling and itchiness.

Lavender oil

Known best for its mood-improving and calming effects, lavender oil may also help reduce the pain and itchiness of bug bites. Lavender may also improve the pain from bites and stings from insects, such as fire ants and bees.

Lemongrass oil

Lemongrass oil’s antimicrobial effects can help prevent the spread of some insect-borne diseases, according to some sources. Research published in 2014 also found that a compound found in lemongrass oil might have anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation is a major source of pain and itching following insect bites and stings. By reducing inflammation, lemongrass oil may make bites less painful.

Camphor oil

Camphor oil can create pleasant warming sensations on the skin, which may help conceal the itching of some bug bites. If the bite burns, rather than itches, however, avoid camphor, since it can make the sensations worse.

Chamomile oil

Long valued in traditional medicine for its soothing properties, these benefits of chamomile may also help with itching associated with insect bites and stings. A handful of studies have shown that chamomile has anti-inflammatory properties. This means it may help with mild allergic reactions, as well as itching and burning associated with most insect bites and stings.

Witch hazel

Witch hazel is not, in the strictest sense of the term, an essential oil. It is a water distilled from the leaves and stems of the Hamamelis virginiana plant. Witch hazel may prevent bites from becoming infected by fighting bacteria and keeping the injury clean. Witch hazel is also used to reduce inflammation and bruising. Since it is water, there is no need to dilute it in a carrier oil.

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Essential oils may serve a variety of roles and studies suggest they should be used as a supplement to mainstream treatments.

Essential oils are extracted from plants, such as herbs, flowers, or trees.

Essential oils are distinct from perfume and fragrance oils, which are often mixed with other ingredients. Within the plant, essential oils serve a variety of roles.

In plants, essential oils attract beneficial bugs, such as bees, to defend against dangerous insects, protect the plant from bacteria and disease, and send important chemical signals about the plant.

Advocates of essential oils argue that human users can benefit from essential oils just as much as plants do. Research into this developing field of alternative medicine is still in its infancy.

Many studies, however, suggest that essential oils can supplement mainstream medical treatments, or even offer benefits that standard treatments do not. That includes the treatment of insect bites.

Applying essential oils to the skin

Apply the oils directly to the affected area using the instructions that came with the essential oil, as advised by a doctor or specialist, or according to a guide specific to essential oils. Never consume essential oils unless a specialist recommends otherwise.

Avoid using the following oils after a bug bite or if the skin is broken or irritated:

  • allspice
  • bay laurel
  • benzoin
  • cassia
  • cinnamon
  • clove
  • fennel
  • fir needle
  • oregano
  • parsley
  • sage
  • spruce
  • tagetes
  • thyme

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding should consult their doctor before applying essential oils to their skin.

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A bug bite may be infected if it becomes swollen and begins oozing.

Sometimes essential oils are not enough to treat the pain and itching of bug bites. Some other strategies that may help include:

  • putting calamine lotion on the bite
  • taking an oatmeal bath
  • applying a topical anti-itch remedy such as hydrocortisone cream
  • taking an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl

If the bite becomes very swollen, has streaks coming out of it, or begins oozing, it may be infected. In this case, people should see a doctor immediately.

People experiencing severe allergic reactions that cause shortness of breath, flushing, a rash, or vomiting should seek emergency care. Never use essential oils to treat an allergic reaction.

Bug bites can be an annoyance, particularly for people who have sensitive or dry skin. Essential oils offer a simple antidote. Some essential oils may help prevent bug bites altogether. According to some research, neem, lemon eucalyptus, and citronella oils can help repel mosquitoes and some other insects.

People should use essential oils diluted on the skin, or try an insect repellent containing them.

Essential oils are powerful. The fact that something is natural does not mean it is safe. So as with any remedy, people should talk to a doctor before using essential oils, especially if they have sensitive skin or a history of allergic reactions.