Essential Oils are the new rage, and if you haven't heard of them, you're probably living in a hole somewhere. Pinterest and the web, in general, are full of articles proclaiming how well essential oils work to remove ailments, reduce pain, calm your stomach, fix headaches, and yes, remove pests from your home, including essentail oils for bed bugs.
There certainly is a great deal of hype about Essential Oils and Essential Oils for bed bugs. But you know us, we're here to tell you the truth and cut through the hype. We're here to find out ...
Do Essential Oils for Bed Bugs REALLY work, and do essential oils REALLY help with bed bug bites?
Let's find out ...
Essential Oils for Bed Bugs
Essential oils have been proven to relieve pain, itching, swelling and discomfort for many types of insect bites. But how well do they really work when compared to over the counter anti-itch creams, a bed bug specific creams and ointments. Even more interesting is the question: Do essential oils really work to kill bed bugs, and keep them out of your home?
Essential oils and other "green" or natural ways to treat bed bugs are of interest to many. These products and solutions are safe for pets, and kids, and help keep our Earth safe from harmful chemicals. While they do work, they are often not as effective as chemical based products. But is that the case with bed bugs too?
We're going to look at Essential Oils for Bed Bugs from these two perspectives, killing and preventing bed bugs, and for treatment of bed bug bites.
In our research, we not only include 100% pure essential oils mixed with water but also over the counter "natural" bed bug products such as EcoRaider, Bed Bug Patrol, and Bed Bug Bully - all basically a mixture of various essential oils and other unknown ingredients.
A Research-Based Study
We could certainly just provide you with our opinions on the matter, based on our limited experience, which is what many other Bed Bug sites do. But that wouldn't really help you much, especially given the amount of hype and deceptive promotion and advertising going on right now. The deception is so bad, the FTC even stepped in and took actions against a number of different bed bug product manufacturers for deceptive advertising.
Some of these natural, "bed bug killer" products sell for almost $100 a gallon! At those prices, they better work.
That's the sad part about all of this, and why we're publishing this article. There are millions of people being plagued by bed bugs all over the world. These people, their children, and their pets are being bitten nearly every single night.
They aren't sleeping well due to the stress, anxiety, and discomfort of being infested with bed bugs. They wake up itching and scratching every single day, and they are spending their hard earned money on solutions, they don't work.
Frankly, it makes us angry.
So we're not going pump a bunch of products that don't work, and we're going to use real science to give you the facts.
The information below is based on a study done in 2014 called: Potential of Essential Oil-Based Pesticides and Detergents for Bed Bug Control. 2014. N. Singh, C Wang, & R. Cooper. J. Econ. Entomol. 107(6); DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/EC14328
This study, placed live bed bugs in petri dishes. The bugs were sprayed with 11 different over the counter "natural" bed bug sprays and two chemical pesticide sprays. There was even a control group sprayed with water.
The study measured bed bugs that not only died immediatley, but also beds that died over time. Why? Well, generally you won't see bed bugs. They hide and hide really well, so while many of these companies would like you to believe that you just lift up your mattress, spray all the bed bugs dead, and you're good to go, that just isn't reality.
Chances are, you won't see any bed bugs. So when you spray your mattress and furniture, you want a spray that has residual effect, so when they do crawl over it later, it will kill them.
Do Essential Oils Kill Bed Bugs?
The short answer is yes, but not well.
First off, all of the "natural" products, contained various essential oils, combined with soap, salts, solvents, wetting agents, defoamers, and other ingredients that are just unknown and in unknown amounts due to confidential formulas.
How did our 13 products (11 natural, 2 chemical) do against each other?
Let's take a look. The following table shows the percentage of bed bugs killed within 10 days of treatment when the product was sprayed directly on them (remember, this is generally NOT the case in your home).
% of Bed Bugs Killed
Bedlam Plus (Our #1 recommended Bed Bug Spray - Chemical)
Temprid SC (synthetic pesticide)
Bed Bug Fix
Green Rest Easy
Bed Bug 911
Stop Bugging Me
Most of the above products killed less than 50% of the bed bugs they were directly sprayed on! Our top recommended spray, EcoRaider performed the best for both immediate and long term kills of bed bugs.
Now, what's interesting with all of this is that all of these products contain many of the same essential oils. Since some products killed 100% of the begs, and others less than 20%, we can only conclude that it's not the essential oils, but some other ingredient that's killing them, or perhaps some chemical combination of other ingredients and essential oils.
The Bottom Line: Essential Oils by themselves do kill bed bugs on contact, but not at a high enough rate compared to chemical alternatives. For residual kills (what is really important), they generally don't work well at all.
Do Essential Oils Prevent Bed Bugs?
This same study, also tested to see if bed bugs would crawl into areas sprayed with the various products. This was done to test both residual kill effectiveness and also whether the products prevented or repelled the bed bugs.
They did not prevent or repel the bed bugs at all. An additional study done at Rutger's University came to the same conclusion.
The Bottom Line: Essential Oil and natural based products DO NOT repel or prevent bed bugs. But, they do smell nice!
Do Essential Oils treat bed bug bites?
Unfortunately, no comparable study was done comparing essential oils and natural bed bug products against commercial anti-itch creams and ointments.
But fortunately, there is some pretty well-documented information out there about the pain relief, anti-itching properties, and anti-swelling properties exhibited by a number of essential oils. In fact, perhaps many of you have used essential oils to soothe mosquito bites, bee stings, etc.
Here our 3 favorite Essential Oils for treating bed bug bites
Lavender Oil is both a healing and soothing oil. Lavender Oil is a very popular essential oil, and 100% pure oils are available from a number of local and online providers, including Amazon.com
Using a cotton ball, apply the pure unidiluted oil your bed bug bites sites. Within a short period of time, you should begin to feel significant relief, and smell good too!
Pure Lavender oil soothes swelling, prevents itching, and has a calming and relaxing effect. Lavender Oil also has antibacterial properties that will help prevent infections.
Frankincense Oil, famous for it's mention in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles, is a very old, and frequently used oil that soothes itching caused by bed bug bites.
Frankincense Oil for bed bugs, is applied using a cotton swab or q-tip. Apply it at full strength, and only a drop or two is required.
Frankincense also has the added benefit of providing energizing aeromatheropy.
Chamomile Oil is a very common ingrediant to many moder skin care products, and for good reason. Chamomile Oil works very well and helps with itching, swelling, and discomfort, making it the pefect treatment for bed bug bites.
Recent studies have also shown that Chomomile can increase the rate of healing too. Apply Chaomomile Oil to bed bug bites using a cotton swab. Remember, it only takes a drop or two, a little goes a long way when using 100% pure oils.
Bed bug bites can often itch more in the evening, while you're trying to sleep. Chamomile is also a sleep enhancer, and the smell can help you drift off and get a good nights rest.
Other Effective Home Remedies for Bed Bugs and Bed Bug Bites
In addition to essential oils, there are also a number of other natural treatments for bed bug bites.
Another common natural remedy for reducing itching and pain is Aloe Vera. You can either purchase natural aloe vera gel or use leaves from an Aloe Vera plant, if you have one.
Apply a liberal amount of aloe vera to the bite area, and gently rub it in, leaving it until it dries.
Aloe Versa will not only sooth and reduce itching, but it will also help your skin heal as well. Aloe Vera is our personal favorite natural rememdy for bed bug bites and bed bug rashes.
Witch Hazel is a proven, and well known natural treatment for bug bites, including bed bug bites.
Witch Hazel is an astringent, that reduces itching and cools. Apply it with a cotton ball on the bites as needed.
Lemon juice is also an astringent, that will not only help to alleviate itching but will also help to dry up and heal bed bug bites and any related rash. To boot, lemon juice also has antibacterial properties and works as an anti-inflammatory as well.
To use Lemon Juice, soak a cotton ball in the lemon juice, apply it to the bite or bite rash area, let it dry, then rinse it off.
Ice or Cool Compress
Ice is a common remedy to reduce pain and inflammation. Ice also works well to reduce itching, and redness caused by bed bug bites.
Wrap ice in a thin cloth or towel, and apply to the bite area for 10-15 minutes. This can be repeated as often as you woudl like.
Oatmeal works very well in the bath to treat bed bug bites. Fill your tub with warm water, mix in Oatmeal, and soak your bite area in the oatmeal/water mixture.
If you prefer to use an over the counter product, Aveeno Soothing Bath Treatment works very well.
100% Natural Baking Soda works very well at neutralizing chemicals and acids in your skin that cause itching and inflammation. Baking Soda additionally serves as an anti-bacterial as well, reducing your risk of infection.
Mix Baking Soda with water, into a pasty mixture. Apply the mix to your bed bug bites using a q-tip, and let it dry.
Cucumber has become a very popular skin treatment in recent years, and for good reason. Cucumber naturally contains soothing and anti-itch properties, similiar to Aloa Vera. As a result, Cucumber works very well for treating bed bug bites.
You can either slice up a cucumber, and apply the slices to the bite area, or you can mince up cucumber and apply the wet mixture directly to your bed bug bites. We recommend leaving it on for about 20 - 30 minutes.
Like other natural remedies for bed bugs, Coconut Oil also serves as a natural soothing and healing treatment for bed bug bites. Coconut oil not only replenishes the skin and reduces itching, but it also has natural antibacterial properties.
Coconut oil also serves as wonderful base for using essential oils. Just mix essential oils into Coconut oil, and apply liberally to your skin.
Bed Bug Bites are not only embarrassing, but they itch, and run the risk of infection. If you have bed bug bites, you'll want to treat them quickly for numerous reasons.