10 Essential Oils for Bug Bites & Stings

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

If you choose to use essential oils for bug bites, there are many effective options to choose from, but it depends on your symptoms and the type of bug bite. Bug bites are some of the most irritating things that can happen to your body, because you often don’t know they have occurred until the bug has already done the damage. Insect bites and stings most often result in itching, redness, pain and inflammation at the site of the bite. In some cases, these bites can cause allergic reactions, which is very common in bee stings, but other insects also create more intense reactions. Bees, wasps, hornets, yellowjackets and fire ants are the bugs that tend to have the most severe reactions from their stings or bites. The cause of a bug bite is rarely malicious intentions from a bug, but is instead a defensive reaction, when an insect’s territory, nest or hive is disturbed.

Whether you are bit by a mosquito, wasp, chigger, bedbug, tick, spider, deerfly, lice or sand fly, the symptoms may differ, and depending on your sensitivity, it may require different treatment, including formal medication or a trip to the emergency room. The normal symptoms of a bug bite may include redness, pain and swelling, but more serious bites can cause chest pain, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain (typically from spiders). The open wounds that are often left behind by a bug bite, particularly if they are then scratched and worsened, can be perfect locations for infections. As a result, rapid treatment with essential oils for bug bites is common in many parts of the world, as it can treat both the symptoms and protect against any secondary symptoms or infections. [1]

Essential Oils for Bug Bites & Stings

Some of the most reliable essential oils for bug bites include tea tree, peppermint, eucalyptus, lavender, thyme, basil, coconut, melissa, chamomile and rosemary oils.

microscopic view of a bed bug

Bedbugs? Air your mattress and call the exterminator. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Chamomile Oil

Known as one of the most effective remedies for bug bites, chamomile oil possesses anti-inflammatory, analgesic and antiseptic compounds that can address the immediate pain of the bite, as well as protect you from itching and any other infections. [2]

How to Use – You can mix a few drops of chamomile oil with aloe vera gel or another carrier oil to quickly soothe the pain of a bug bite. Re-apply as needed until the redness and inflammation disappears.

Melissa Oil

Antibacterial and antiviral activities are critical for an essential oil used to treat bug bites. The broken skin of a bug bite, even if the hole is impossible to see, makes it perfect for infections, especially if you are regularly scratching or itching the area. Melissa oil is a serious immune booster that will keep the wound clean until it has a chance to heal. [3]

How to Use – Be sure to dilute melissa oil into another soothing oil, such as coconut oil, before applying it directly to the site of the bite, where it can set up its protective shield.

Peppermint Oil

One of the most powerful anti-inflammatory and soothing oils available, peppermint oil can eliminate the urge to itch, which will speed the healing process and prevent secondary infections, while also improving the appearance and redness of the bite itself. [4]

How to Use – You should apply a small amount of this oil directly to the area where you’ve been stung or bitten, and re-apply 2-3 times per day for rapid healing. You don’t need to dilute this oil, but people with sensitive skin should consider it anyway.

Lavender Oil

Not only does this oil relax the body and mind, but also helps eliminate topical inflammation and pain associated with bug bites. Beyond that, the aroma of lavender oil is intolerable to many bugs, so it can even work as a preventative measure. [5]

How to Use – You can mix 10 drops of lavender oil to a warm bath and then soak in the tub for 20-30 minutes to relieve the pain of bites. This can also give you a slight aroma of lavender, which makes you less of a target for bites.

Basil Oil

The itching of a bug bite is often what makes it so difficult for them to heal. Even while you sleep, the inflammation can cause you to scratch. Research has shown that basil oil reduces the urge to itch, making it perfect for a bedtime bug bite remedy. [6]

How to Use – Apply 3-4 drops of diluted basil oil to the site of a bug bite before you go to sleep, and you should see significant reduction in inflammation by the time you wake up.

Rosemary Oil

This oil boasts anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, as well as a rich supply of antioxidants to stimulate healing and prevent secondary infections from using the bite or sting as an entry point. This is largely due to the significant presence of rosmarinic acid in this oil. [7]

How to Use – Always blend this oil with a carrier oil, such as jojoba oil or olive oil, before applying directly to the site of the bug bite. Re-apply this 1-2 times per day until the pain and inflammation have disappeared.

Coconut Oil

Although this isn’t technically an essential oil, coconut oil has soothing, moisturizing and antibacterial qualities that make it a great choice for bug bite treatment. It can protect the wound from further infection and stimulate the production of new cells on the surface of the skin. [8]

How to Use – Rub 1 tablespoon of coconut oil between your palms and then rub it gently on the bug bites for rapid and effective relief from pain and redness.

Thyme Oil

The active ingredient in this popular oil, thymol, is able to help defend against pathogens and other infections, while also stimulating healing activities and reducing the pain associated with bug bites. [9]

How to Use – Due to the potency of this oil, and the chance for skin irritation, many people choose to add thyme oil to their bathwater and then take a long soak to eliminate the pain of bug bites.

Tea Tree Oil

Known around the world as the best anti-fungal, antibacterial and antiviral essential oil, tea tree oil can soothe inflammation, eliminate pain, and prevent any type of infection from attacking the body through an open bug bite wound. [10]

How to Use – Always dilute tea tree oil, as it is extremely concentrated. Blend 5 drops into 1 tablespoon of aloe vera gel or coconut oil and directly massage around the bug bite area. Symptoms of the bite should clear up within 1-2 days with regular re-application.

Eucalyptus Oil

Boasting antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and detoxifying abilities, eucalyptus oil is one of the best essential oils for bug bites. It can eliminate redness fast, cool the wound, and prevent any infections during the healing process.

How to Use – You can purchase eucalyptus oil that is intended for topical use, and while this may already be slightly diluted, it will be perfect for cleansing the skin and even preventing additional bug bites, thanks to its powerful aroma. [11]

A Word of Warning

The antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties of essential oils for bug bites make them very effective, but there are some risks involved. Many of the essential oils on the market, including the ones above, can cause skin inflammation and allergic reactions, particularly for people with sensitive skin. Furthermore, some bug bites can carry blood-borne pathogens (such as from mosquitoes), so an essential oil remedy won’t treat the infection that was just delivered to your body. Overall, it is important to speak with your doctor about possible uses of essential oils for bug bites, and if the pain, inflammation or secondary symptoms of a bug bite/sting don’t go away within a few days to a week, seek medical attention.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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