This All-Natural Tick Repellent Works, and Here’s Why

Your risk of getting bitten by a tick may be highest in the summer, but depending on where you live they can be a problem any time of the year. Luckily, there's a natural tick repellent that's easy to make at home.

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Ticks run rampant during the summer, especially in the Northeast and the Midwest United States, but they can also be a problem at other times of the year. But these tiny arachnids are more than just a minor nuisance; if they bite you, they could also be dangerous.

According to the Global Lyme Alliance, tick-borne illnesses like Lyme disease can cause lots of unpleasant symptoms, including fever, fatigue, rash, and muscle and joint pain. Another tick-borne illness with the potential to cause severe symptoms is Powassan encephalitis, which is a viral brain infection that causes seizures, aphasia, muscle weakness, dementia, and can even be potentially life-threatening. Need we say more?

small bottles of oil on cedarwood nuts and conesOlinchuk/Shutterstock

Although it’s pretty obvious that you should stop tick bites in their tracks, exactly how to prevent them is a little less clear.  The CDC recommends avoiding wooded and bushy areas, treating clothing and camping gear with the insecticide 0.05% permethrin, and using insect repellents like DEET and oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE). And there are also all-natural tick repellents you can try, including cedar oil.

You’d typically find cedar oil in Atlas cedarwoods in northern Africa, and it was once used by the Egyptians to embalm their dead. But this essential oil is also an  effective natural tick-repellent, according to Cornell University researchers.

Cedar oil is effective against ticks and other insects, according to natural pesticide producer Wondercide. Not only does the oil block the bug’s scent receptors and disrupt its body systems, but it also dries the bug upon contact. If the tick happens to be in an early life stage, it may disintegrate completely.

Ready to test it out? Try making a small dose of natural tick repellent in a spray bottle. Simply mix four ounces of distilled or boiled water, witch hazel, and 30 to 50 drops of cedar oil (along with other oils like lavender or vanilla for a sweet-smelling scent). Bring the bottle along in your car or handbag so you’ll be prepared for any outdoor activity. And before you run off to the woods, make sure you’re following these tips to avoid tick bites this summer.

Sources
Medically reviewed by Michael Spertus, MD, on November 08, 2019