The Health Benefits of Lemon Eucalyptus Oil

This oil can be used as an insect repellent

Dad and son use mosquito spray
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Lemon eucalyptus oil is an oil extracted from the leaves of a tree native to Australia (Eucalyptus citriodora) that is used as a natural insect repellant. The oil contains a compound called para-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD) that makes it harder for mosquitoes and other insects to pick up on your skin odor.

Most commercially available insect repellents contain a processed lemon eucalyptus oil that intensifies its concentration of PMD and, in turn, increase its power and duration as a repellent. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies synthetic PMD as a “biochemical pesticide,” which is a type of naturally occurring substance that controls pests by non-toxic mechanisms.

Health Benefits

Mosquitoes in the U.S. can carry diseases like Zika, dengue, and chikungunya, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other insects also carry diseases, such as ticks and Lyme disease. Used as an insect repellent, lemon eucalyptus oil can protect against bites that can lead to disease.

Lemon eucalyptus oil is sometimes used as an alternative to DEET, which is the active ingredient in many popular insect repellents. While DEET is highly effective when it comes to warding off disease-carrying insects, some individuals are concerned about its possible side effects, such as irritation of the eyes and skin.

According to the CDC, EPA-registered products made from synthesized lemon eucalyptus oil appear to provide reasonably long-lasting repellent activity.

The CDC includes EPA-registered products containing synthesized lemon eucalyptus oil and PMD in its list of repellents that can help reduce the bites of disease-carrying mosquitoes. Products containing DEET, picaridin, and IR3535 are also included on the CDC’s list.

Other Uses 

Although lemon eucalyptus oil is most commonly used as a mosquito repellent, it’s also said to stave off Lyme disease by preventing deer tick bites. In addition, lemon eucalyptus oil has long been used to soothe muscle spasms and alleviate osteoarthritis pain. However, there is a lack of scientific support for these uses of lemon eucalyptus oil.

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of studies testing lemon eucalyptus oil’s effects on children, the CDC warns against using the oil on those under the age of 3 years. Pregnant or nursing women and children should consult their primary care provider before using lemon eucalyptus oil.

Pure lemon eucalyptus oil shouldn't be applied directly to the skin or used in larger amounts than recommended (the oils are absorbed through the skin and using too much can be toxic).

What’s more, certain ingredients in lemon eucalyptus oil products may trigger allergic reactions. For that reason, it’s crucial to perform a patch test prior to using any type of product containing lemon eucalyptus oil. 

Lemon eucalyptus oil should never be ingested, as it may cause seizures and death. Contact poison control if you or someone you are with have swallowed products containing lemon eucalyptus oil.

Dosage and Preparation

There is no standard dosage recommended for lemon eucalyptus oil. The suggested dilution ranges from a 30% to 75% lemon eucalyptus oil solution applied twice a day. Commercially available natural bug repellants tend to contain 10% to 30% lemon eucalyptus oil.

Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after applying the oil and avoid getting oil in the eyes, on the lips or mouth, or near other mucous membranes as it may burn.

What to Look For

Lemon eucalyptus oil is not the same as lemon eucalyptus essential oil. It’s important to note the difference between essential oil of lemon eucalyptus and the lemon eucalyptus oil found in many commercially available mosquito repellents. A class of oils used in aromatherapy, essential oils are said to offer a broad range of health benefits (such as reduced stress and anxiety, improvements in sleep, and pain relief) when used appropriately.

Unlike the specially formulated and PMD-rich lemon eucalyptus oil found in many insect repellents, essential oil of lemon eucalyptus rapidly evaporates from your skin. In fact, essential oil of lemon eucalyptus only provides protection from bug bites for about an hour, according to a report published in Malaria Journal in 2011.

The CDC doesn't recommend "pure" essential oil of lemon eucalyptus due to the lack of testing for safety and efficacy.

Other Uses 

Although lemon eucalyptus oil is most commonly used as a mosquito repellent, it’s also said to stave off Lyme disease by preventing deer tick bites. In addition, lemon eucalyptus oil has long been used to soothe muscle spasms and alleviate osteoarthritis pain. However, there’s currently a lack of scientific support for any of these uses of lemon eucalyptus oil.

Other Questions

Are there other natural insect repellants?: A number of other plant-based products—including geranium oil and citronella—show promise as natural mosquito repellents. However, given that none of these remedies is known to deliver long-lasting and effective protection, people in high-risk areas for mosquito-borne diseases should opt for CDC-recommended repellents.

A Word From Verywell

To stay safe, consult your healthcare provider about the most appropriate repellent for you and apply your repellent whenever you’re outside in areas with known mosquito populations (especially during the hours between dusk and dawn). Carefully follow the instructions on the product label, and make sure to re-apply your lemon eucalyptus oil product as directed if you start getting bitten.

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