In many areas of the country, ticks are a hazard to reckon with while enjoying the outdoors. They attach to your skin, feed on your blood, and can transmit Lyme disease or other infections in the process. Chemical repellents, such as DEET, are effective, but toxic. Luckily, they aren’t the only choice.
“Essential oil sprays can be helpful,” says Drew Sinatra, ND, a naturopath in Northern California who treats many patients with Lyme disease and other tick-borne infections. While essential oils aren’t always enough, he adds, “They’re certainly less toxic.”
When Essential Oils Work Best
Essential oils work best where the vegetation is not too dense. “If people are going out hiking on trails and they’re not in tall grass or the bushes—where they’re touching a lot of the plant matter—I think they’ll be safe,” says Sinatra. But a chemical repellent may be more prudent when you’re heading into dense wilderness.
Other Essential Precautions
Regardless of the type of repellent, Sinatra emphasizes one basic step: “You have to be doing regular tick checks.” When hiking in dense vegetation, wear light-colored clothing, tuck pants into boots, and look for ticks—often. Watch out for ticks in decaying leaves on the ground, as well.
Essential Oils to Look For
Ticks can tell that you’re coming by detecting breath, body odors, body heat, moisture, and vibrations. Essential oils (and chemical bug sprays) interfere with the ticks’ senses, making you less desirable as a host. When added to a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, these are some of the main essential oils that repel ticks and other insects:
Many of these oils can be found in natural bug sprays and balms for people and pets. Apply every 30–60 minutes.