Living here in the Great Northern parts of NH, we generally experience the plague of Black Flies in the spring and summer, and now the threat of mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus. This year seems to be unremittingly brutal. Let me introduce you to the essential oil that is at the heart of our very own Insect Deterrent at Fields of Ambrosia. Lemon Eucalyptus Oil, the common name of one of the natural oils obtained from the lemon-scented gum eucalyptus plant that has gained popularity as an insect deterrent in the last decade. This use is important when you consider the dangers of DEET and other toxic solutions, and want to steer clear of them. This natural plant oil contains p-menthane-diol, which has proven to be more effective than its foremost chemical alternative DEET, which has been documented to cause serious adverse effects, especially in children.
According to The New England Journal of Medicine, “Insect-transmitted disease remains a major source of illness and death worldwide. Mosquitoes alone transmit disease to more than 700 million persons annually. Protection from arthropod bites is best achieved by avoiding infested habitats, wearing protective clothing, and using insect repellent. Applying repellent to the skin may be the only feasible way to protect against insect bites. Commercially available insect repellents can be divided into two categories — synthetic chemicals and plant-derived essential oils.”
The best-known chemical insect repellent is DEET. Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is the only botanical or plant-derived ingredient registered by the EPA and approved by the CDC. The repellent originated as an extract of an Australian eucalyptus tree and studies suggest that products with 30 percent Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus repel as well as those with 15 to 20 percent DEET.
There are over 700 species of eucalyptus, so do not confuse Lemon Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) with its more common sister Eucalyptus globules. This oil is commonly known as Eucalyptus or Blue Gum Oil. It contains 60-75% 1, 8 cineol and is the eucalyptus that is known to provides support for a healthy respiratory system and soothe muscles after exercise. Note, however, that this pure oil is not registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an insect repelent.
Lemon Eucalyptus oil is extracted from the leaves and twigs of the lemon-scented gum eucalyptus plant. The lemon eucalyptus is a tall tree that grows up to 50 meters tall and comes from the temperate and tropical northeastern Australia. Usually extracted through steam distillation, the essential oil3 has a pale yellow color and a thin consistency. It smells sweet, lemony, and fresh, with a woody hint. In 2000, the EPA registered oil of lemon eucalyptus as a “biopesticide repellent,” meaning it is derived from natural materials. The resulting products can be applied to human skin and clothing for repelling insects such as mosquitoes, biting flies, and gnats. They are formulated as a spray or a lotion. When it was tested on humans, it gave complete protection from biting for between six to 7.75 hours. Compared to DEET, there was no significant difference in efficacy and duration of protection.
Other uses for Lemon Eucalyptus Oil:
Anti-fungal and antiseptic – occasionally used to treat athlete’s foot. The oil is used in personal hygiene products, such as soaps, for its antimicrobial properties.
Anti-inflammatory and analgesic – can be applied to wounds to help prevent infection. When diluted, lemon eucalyptus essential oil helps soothe aching muscles and joints as well.
Air freshener – The aroma is thought to soothe the nerves and awaken the mind.
Lemon eucalyptus oil is generally safe for adults, children and canine pets when applied to skin as an insect deterrent. Note, though, that some individuals might have a skin reaction to it. Children under the age of three should not be over-dosed with any repellent. Enjoy the outdoors this summer with the protection of a Lemon Eucalyptus based Insect Deterrent.