CDC Confirms Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus as Effective as DEET

A close up of leaves on a Corymbia citriodora or Lemon Eucalyptus tree.

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According to the CDC, oil of lemon eucalyptus could be a much safer and more natural weapon than DEET.

It's easy to say you'll never use DEET, that is until you come down to South Carolina. My home state boasts mosquitoes that rival your house pet in size and stature. But still, many fear the toxicity of DEET and try to avoid it even with those mini-monsters landing on you noon and night. According to the CDC, oil of lemon eucalyptus could be a much safer and more natural weapon. The CDC confirmed that oil of lemon eucalyptus can be as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitoes, a story reported on Mattermore:

Oil of lemon eucalyptus [active ingredient: p-menthane 3,8-diol (PMD)], a plant- based repellent, is also registered with EPA. In two recent scientific publications, when oil of lemon eucalyptus was tested against mosquitoes found in the US it provided protection similar to repellents with low concentrations of DEET

Mattermore reports that until recently, DEET was the only repellent recommended by the CDC, and approved for individual use by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Oil of lemon eucalyptus is plant-based repellent oil made from leaves of Eucalyptus citriodora.

Concerns with DEET

A woman spraying herself with insect repellent.

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The most serious concerns about DEET are with the central nervous system:

Dr. Mohammed Abou-Donia of Duke University studied lab animals'
performance of neuro-behavioural tasks requiring muscle coordination. He found that lab animals exposed to the equivalent of average human doses of DEET performed far worse than untreated animals.

Children with DEET toxicity reported lethargy, headaches, tremors, involuntary movements, seizures, and convulsions though the amount that led to this toxicity was unreported, according to the CDC.

Update: An earlier version of this article referred to lemon eucalyptus oil as well as oil of lemon eucalyptus; we have revised it to just the latter in order to stay consistent with CDC terminology.