Did you know that certain essential oils and herbs can repel biting insects and other pests?
By: Kathy Sadowski, MS in Aromatherapy, Registered Aromatherapist, LMT
The Repelling Actions of Peppermint
In recent years, research has demonstrated synthetic based insecticides and repellents can be toxic to humans and the environment. People are turning to natural ways to deter pests. Many essential oils such as citronella, geranium, eucalyptus, peppermint, chaste, and lemongrass have shown action against a variety of biting bugs and garden pests with far less toxic effects. Blend peppermint together with these herbs to make insect repelling recipes.
Below is some research on peppermint as an insect repellent:
Peppermint oil on human skin was effective against three mosquito species. From: Ansari, M. A., Vasudevan, P., Tandon, M., & Razdan, R. K. (2000). Larvicidal and mosquito repellent action of peppermint (Mentha piperita) oil. Bioresource Technology, 71(3), 267-271.
Mentha piperita (peppermint), M. spicata (spearmint), Thymus vulgaris (thyme), Origanum vulgare (oregano), O. applii (oregano), Aloysia triphylla (lemon verbena), Ocimum gratissimum (basil), and O. basilicum (basil) were studied and demonstrated varying degrees of antimicrobial activity. From: Sartoratto, A., Machado, A. L. M., Delarmelina, C., Figueira, G. M., Duarte, M. C. T., & Rehder, V. L. G. (2004). Composition and antimicrobial activity of essential oils from aromatic plants used in Brazil. Brazilian Journal of Microbiology, 35(4), 275-280.
Peppermint essential oil is proved to be a very effective larvicide and repellent against dengue vector mosquitoes. From: Kumar, S., Wahab, N., & Warikoo, R. (2011). Bioefficacy of Mentha piperita essential oil against dengue fever mosquito Aedes aegypti L. Asian Pacific journal of tropical biomedicine, 1(2), 85-88.
Beta farnesene in peppermint confused aphid phermones. From: Crock, J., Wildung, M., & Croteau, R. (1997). Isolation and bacterial expression of a sesquiterpene synthase cDNA clone from peppermint (Mentha x piperita, L.) that produces the aphid alarm pheromone (E)-β-farnesene. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 94(24), 12833-12838.
Of 53 tested plant oils, bay, caraway seed, clove leaf, lemon eucalyptus, lime, pennyroyal, peppermint, rosewood, spearmint, and tea tree oils were highly effective against the greenhouse whitefly. From: Choi, W. I., Lee, E. H., Choi, B. R., Park, H. M., & Ahn, Y. J. (2003). Toxicity of plant essential oils to Trialeurodes vaporariorum (Homoptera: Aleyrodidae). Journal of Economic Entomology, 96(5), 1479-1484.
Apium graveolens (celery), Citrus sinensis (orange), Eucalyptus globulus (eucalyptus), Juniperus oxycedrus (juniper), Laurus nobilis (bay), Lavandula hybrida (lavender), Mentha microphylla (mint), Mentha viridis (spearmint), Ocimum basilicum (basil), Origanum vulgare (oregano), Pistacia terebinthus (turpentine tree), Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary), and Thuja orientalis (thuja) were effective insect repellents against Acanthoscelides obtectus. From: Papachristos, D. P., & Stamopoulos, D. C. (2002). Repellent, toxic and reproduction inhibitory effects of essential oil vapours on Acanthoscelides obtectus (Say)(Coleoptera: Bruchidae). Journal of Stored Products Research, 38(2), 117-128.
Lice infesting of buffaloes was significantly reduced after treatment with camphor, peppermint, chamomile, and onion and rosemary essential oils. Moreover, the oils significantly repelled fly species: Musca domestica, Stomoxys calcitrans, Haematobia irritans and Hippobosca equina. From: Khater, H. F., Ramadan, M. Y., & El-Madawy, R. S. (2009). Lousicidal, ovicidal and repellent efficacy of some essential oils against lice and flies infesting water buffaloes in Egypt. Veterinary parasitology, 164(2), 257-266.
Peppermint showed antigiardial activity against the parasite. From: Vidal, F., Vidal, J. C., Gadelha, A. P. R., Lopes, C. S., Coelho, M. G. P., & Monteiro-Leal, L. H. (2007). Giardia lamblia: the effects of extracts and fractions from Mentha x piperita Lin.(Lamiaceae) on trophozoites. Experimental parasitology, 115(1), 25-31.
The following essential oils showed fumigant potential against these mites: Tetranychus urticae and Phytoseiulus persimilis: caraway seed, citronella, java, lemon eucalyptus, pennyroyal, peppermint, sage, spearmint. From: Choi, W. I., Lee, S. G., Park, H. M., & Ahn, Y. J. (2004). Toxicity of plant essential oils to Tetranychus urticae (Acari: Tetranychidae) and Phytoseiulus persimilis (Acari: Phytoseiidae). Journal of Economic Entomology, 97(2), 553-558.Anise (Pimpinella anisum), eucalyptus (Eucalyptus camaldulensis), mint (Mentha piperita) basil (Ocimum basilicum) and laurel (Laurus nobilis) were tested and demonstrated repellency against Culex pipiens, with the eucalyptus, basil and anise being the most active. From: Erler, F., Ulug, I., & Yalcinkaya, B. (2006). Repellent activity of five essential oils against Culex pipiens. Fitoterapia, 77(7), 491-494.
Eucalyptus, geranium, lavender, and mint showed varying degrees of repellency against the bloodsucking bug Rhodnius prolixus Stahl. The knockdown time of nymphs in minutes by constituents was 117.2 (eucalyptol), 408.7 (linalool), 474.0 (menthone), and 484.2 (limonene). While the repellent effect was quite lesser than that of deet, eucalyptol was 3.5 times less toxic. From: Sfara, V., Zerba, E. N., & Alzogaray, R. A. (2009). Fumigant insecticidal activity and repellent effect of five essential oils and seven monoterpenes on first-instar nymphs of Rhodnius prolixus. Journal of medical entomology, 46(3), 511-515.
The following plant oils showed repellent activity against the mosquito Aedes aegypti: Acantholippia seriphioides, Achyrocline satureioides, Aloysia citriodora (lemon verbena), Anemia tomentosa, Baccharis spartioides, Chenopodium ambrosioides, Eucalyptus saligna, Hyptis mutabilis, Minthostachys mollis (mint), Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary), Tagetes minuta and Tagetes pusilla (marigold). From: Gillij, Y. G., Gleiser, R. M., & Zygadlo, J. A. (2008). Mosquito repellent activity of essential oils of aromatic plants growing in Argentina. Bioresource technology, 99(7), 2507-2515.
Against larvae Spodoptera littoralis the following oils showed insecticidal activity: catnip, white cedar, clary sage, thyme, marjoram, patchouli, pennyroyal, lemon mint, Melissa, and lavender. From: Pavela, R. (2005). Insecticidal activity of some essential oils against larvae of Spodoptera littoralis. Fitoterapia, 76(7), 691-696.