It's that time of year when ticks are coming out and becoming more widespread. So what can we do to protect our family and dogs from these host seeking bugs? DEET is one of the most commonly used repellents but is a proven neurotoxin when used in excess. Most studies today define excess as using it for 3-4 days in a row. In my world, I have active kids who are outside playing everyday, so that doesn't seem excessive to me but based on research this is limit when DEET can start causing harm to the body. So what natural options are available for our families to use?
If you are looking for an easy and effective way to repel ticks this summer, here is your solution - "ROSE" GERANIUM ESSENTIAL OIL. This is the common name and it is better known in the field by its Latin binomial name of Pelargonium graveolens also known as Pelargonium X aspen . There are sooooo many articles written about which "rose" geranium works best that it's downright confusing! So let me clear the air. Here is what I know for certain. Each rose geranium variety has a slightly different smell but the species have very similar chemical compositions. And quite frankly the exact same essential oil farmed and distilled from one location can yield a slightly different product in both smell and chemical composition year after year based on weather and environmental changes. So are they really that different from each other in using against ticks? Let's see...
Why does Geranium Repel Ticks?
From most articles I have read, rose geranium repels ticks because of the smell for a couple of reasons. Ticks use their sense of smell to determine when to leap onto their host. Ticks do not like the smell of geranium and it also disguises our natural smell of CO2 we give off which is a big indicator for ticks when choosing their host. Some species of rose geranium (Pelargonium capitatum & Pelargonium radens) have a more floral rosy scent than the traditional, more commonly found Pelagorium gravelons, which has a rosy smell with a small hint of mint. Most articles you will see floating around the internet are users who say that the rosy smell is the key for deterring these pesky bugs. BUT, based on a study by Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry in 2013, they found that Pelagorium gravelons (Egypt) was just as effective or more effective as DEET based on one specific chemical composition of the plant - 10-epi-y-eudesmal. That is merely one of the several chemicals found in this rose geranium essential oil and it happens to be the one that was effective in repelling ticks. And keep in mind Pelagorium gravelons is the less floral option of the varieties and species in the geranium family.
So is one better than other? I would put all of the "rose" geranium essential oil varieties on the same playing field based on the research done over the last few years. With that being said, I would tell you to choose the essential oil you like better. The two most common that you will find will be Pelagonium graveolens (rose smell with a hint of mint) and Pelargonium graveolens var. roseum or Geranium Bourbon (highly floral smell). All three would work effectively.
Regardless if you are using DEET or a natural tick repellent, be diligent about checking your kids and dogs when coming back in from playing outside.
Available with oil purchase.
Oils we carry:
Palargonium gravelons - (Rosy smell with a hint of mint)
Pelargonium gravelons var. roseum (Highly Rose Fragrant)
Bioactivity-Guided Investigation of Geranium Essential Oils as Natural Tick Repellents. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2013 ACS PUBLICATIONS
by Jade Shutes