Essential Oils for Tick Repellents

by Jade Shutes

Ticks and the diseases they transmit pose significant health risks to humans and animals alike. As the most important vectors of vector-borne diseases, ticks are responsible for transmitting a wide range of pathogens, leading to illnesses such as Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and tularemia. With the increasing prevalence of tick-borne diseases worldwide, there is a growing need for effective, safe, and eco-friendly tick repellents. Essential oils have emerged as a promising alternative to synthetic chemicals, offering a potentially beneficial option for those seeking to avoid harsh chemicals or who may be sensitive to conventional repellents.

Promising Essential Oils for Tick Repellency

Virginian Cedarwood (Juniperus virginiana): A study using a CO2 extract of Virginian cedarwood found it to be effective in repelling and killing nymphs of four tick species, with the black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis) being the most sensitive.

Cinnamon leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum) and Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens): Cinnamon leaf oil and geraniol, a component found in geranium oil, have shown promising results in repelling adult female I. scapularis ticks when used in lotion formulations.

Turmeric (Curcuma longa): In an in vivo study, a 2.5% turmeric essential oil solution was found to be significantly more effective than orange oil in deterring tick attachment to dogs.

Oregano (Origanum vulgare) and Clove bud (Eugenia caryophyllata): In a study comparing eight essential oils, oregano and clove oils demonstrated the highest repellency against lone star tick (Amblyomma americanum) nymphs, outperforming other tested oils such as thyme, vetiver, and peppermint.

Several other essential oils have shown promise as effective tick repellents for both humans and dogs.

Here is a list of the most notable essential oils mentioned:

  1. Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
  2. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  3. Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) – effective on dogs and cattle
  4. Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  5. Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
  6. Tagetes minuta (Stinking Roger or Southern Cone Marigold)
  7. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) – geraniol, a compound found in lemongrass, was effective on cattle.

Here is one of my favorite Tick Repellent Formulas. I hope it works for you as well as it has worked for us.

References:

  • Benelli, G., & Pavela, R. (2018). Repellence of essential oils and selected compounds against ticks-A systematic review. Acta Tropica, 179, 47–54. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.actatropica.2017.12.025
  • CDC. “Lyme and Other Tickborne Diseases.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 12, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/ticks/.
  • Dos Santos, D. S., Boito, J. P., Santos, R. C. V., Quatrin, P. M., Ourique, A. F., Dos Reis, J. H., Gebert, R. R., Glombowsky, P., Klauck, V., Boligon, A. A., Baldissera, M. D., & Da Silva, A. S. (2017). Nanostructured cinnamon oil has the potential to control Rhipicephalus microplus ticks on cattle. Experimental & Applied Acarology, 73(1), 129–138. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10493-017-0171-5
  • El-Seedi, H. R., Azeem, M., Khalil, N. S., Sakr, H. H., Khalifa, S. A. M., Awang, K., Saeed, A., Farag, M. A., AlAjmi, M. F., Pålsson, K., & Borg-Karlson, A. K. (2017). Essential oils of aromatic Egyptian plants repel nymphs of the tick Ixodes ricinus (Acari: Ixodidae). Experimental & Applied Acarology, 73(1), 139–157. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10493-017-0165-3
  • Feng, J., Zhang, S., Shi, W., Zubcevik, N., Miklossy, J., & Zhang, Y. (2017). Selective Essential Oils from Spice or Culinary Herbs Have High Activity against Stationary Phase and Biofilm Borrelia burgdorferi. Frontiers in Medicine, 4, 169. https://doi.org/10.3389/fmed.2017.00169
  • Goode, P., Ellse, L., & Wall, R. (2018). Preventing tick attachment to dogs using essential oils. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases, 9(4), 921–926. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ttbdis.2018.03.029
  • Khallaayoune, K., Biron, J. M., Chaoui, A., & Duvallet, G. (2009). Efficacy of 1% geraniol (Fulltec) as a tick repellent. Parasite (Paris, France), 16(3), 223–226. https://doi.org/10.1051/parasite/2009163223
  • Pages, F., Dautel, H., Duvallet, G., Kahl, O., de Gentile, L., & Boulanger, N. (2014). Tick repellents for human use: prevention of tick bites and tick-borne diseases. Vector Borne and Zoonotic Diseases (Larchmont, N.Y.), 14(2), 85–93. https://doi.org/10.1089/vbz.2013.1410
  • Parola, P., & Raoult, D. (2001). Ticks and tickborne bacterial diseases in humans: an emerging infectious threat. Clinical Infectious Diseases : an official publication of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, 32(6), 897–928. https://doi.org/10.1086/319347
  • Selles, S. M. A., Kouidri, M., González, M. G., González, J., Sánchez, M., González-Coloma, A., Sanchis, J., Elhachimi, L., Olmeda, A. S., Tercero, J. M., & Valcárcel, F. (2021). Acaricidal and Repellent Effects of Essential Oils against Ticks: A Review. Pathogens (Basel, Switzerland), 10(11), 1379. https://doi.org/10.3390/pathogens10111379
  • Soutar, O., Cohen, F., & Wall, R. (2019). Essential oils as tick repellents on clothing. Experimental & Applied Acarology, 79(2), 209–219. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10493-019-00422-z
  • Tabanca, N., Wang, M., Avonto, C., Chittiboyina, A. G., Parcher, J. F., Carroll, J. F., Kramer, M., & Khan, I. A. (2013). Bioactivity-guided investigation of geranium essential oils as natural tick repellents. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 61(17), 4101–4107. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf400246a