Essential oils as tick repellents on clothing

Exp Appl Acarol. 2019 Oct;79(2):209-219. doi: 10.1007/s10493-019-00422-z. Epub 2019 Oct 1.


Essential oils show promise as natural alternatives to synthetic tick repellents, but few studies have investigated their repellent efficacy in vivo or under field conditions. Here, blanket-drags and standardised walks were employed to evaluate tick acquisition by 1 m2 cotton blankets or cotton trousers, respectively, in woodland edge habitats of known high tick abundance. Blankets and trousers had been treated with one of 5% oregano, rosemary, spearmint or thyme oils, 20% DEET (N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide) (positive control) or ethanol excipient-only (negative control). The number of ticks present on the blankets or trousers differed significantly between treatments: spearmint oil treatments resulted in significantly fewer ticks than the negative controls for both blankets and trousers and significantly fewer ticks were present on the oregano oil treated blankets. For ticks that did attach to the trousers, the rate of drop off within 3 min was significantly higher for trousers treated with spearmint oil or thyme oil than ethanol, oregano oil and rosemary oil. No reduction in repellence was detected over a 24 h period between treatment and testing. The results suggest that 5% oregano and spearmint oils exhibit potential as natural clothing repellents, with an effective equivalence to 20% DEET.

Keywords: Habitat; Ixodes; Personal-protection; Sampling; Tick-borne-disease; Vector.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • England
  • Mentha spicata / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile*
  • Origanum / chemistry
  • Protective Agents*
  • Rosmarinus / chemistry
  • Thymus Plant / chemistry
  • Tick Control*
  • Ticks*


  • Oils, Volatile
  • Protective Agents
  • rosemary oil