Unless you are at one of the poles, no matter where you go in the world you can count on one kind of insect being there to torment you: mosquitoes.
These blood-sucking flies are the scourge of many an otherwise pleasant outdoor adventure or excursion.
Beyond the sheer aggravation, they can actually prove to be extremely dangerous. Mosquitoes spread all kinds of hideous diseases, foremost among them malaria but also zika and even parasites.
Accordingly, it is definitely in your best interest to keep mosquitoes well away from you no matter where you go.
Bug spray works fine, but these potent and flammable chemicals might entail other health risks all their own.
How about something wholesome and natural like basil? Can basil keep mosquitoes away?
Yes, basil can definitely repel mosquitoes. Basil essential oil is a potent mosquito deterrent that can be used to protect an area or worn sparingly as you would bug repellent. Although generally safe, you should be cautious because basil oil can be a skin irritant.
Basil is most well known and beloved as a warm season herb that is integral to many dishes in different kinds of cuisine, but it also has a storied history as an all-natural bug and mosquito repellent.
That’s no joke, and there is definitely research to back this up. But, there’s a lot more you’ll want to know before you go by a big economy bottle of basil oil.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you need to know.
How Do Mosquitoes Find Prey?
Before we figure out how basil can protect us from mosquitoes we need to know how mosquitoes find us to feed on us in the first place.
It is quite simple, as mosquitoes are hunters of a sort with highly refined senses that help them locate prey. Prey, in this case, is you and me!
For starters, mosquitoes can directly detect our body heat, and more than that they can smell the CO2 emissions in our breath and the lactic acid that is secreted from our bodies.
All of these signals are ramped up whenever we are exerting ourselves or otherwise have a high metabolic rate.
That’s why when you are working hard outside mosquitoes always seem to magically be at their worst. That’s awesome because they are attracted to movement, too!
Regardless, if we cannot block these signals from detection then our only hope for stopping mosquitoes is to drive them away with something that will irritate them, injure them or otherwise repulse them. That is where basil comes in.
So Why Does Basil Work to Keep Mosquitoes Away?
Basil is a great, natural mosquito repellent simply because it contains oil which mosquitoes just cannot stand.
This oil contains chemical compounds which will drive mosquitoes away if they can smell it on the air.
This is a characteristic that several other herbs share with basil, including lemongrass, thyme, patchouli, clove and more.
But it is noteworthy that basil contains so much of this compound that even the live plant is a reasonably effective deterrent against mosquitoes and other flies.
Also, it is possible to extract the oil from basil, or to purchase basil essential oil, and use it as a concentrated and highly effective repellent in conjunction with low heat to help distribute it in the air.
You can also burn basil foliage for the same purpose, or even use diluted basil essential oil as an all-natural and effective bug repellent on your skin, clothing and gear.
Is Live Basil Effective Against Mosquitoes?
Yes, it is. Live basil plants are reasonably effective close-range mosquito repellents.
You already know how aromatic basil is, and if you can smell it, mosquitoes definitely can too and they will tend to stay away.
For this reason, if you are able to cultivate several large basil plants and place them strategically you might have decorative, pleasant and even edible mosquito repellent that works just as well as anything coming out of a factory.
Is Dried Basil Effective Against Mosquitoes?
Somewhat, but not nearly as effective as live, fresh basil or concentrated oil.
It is possible to burn dried basil and get some relief from mosquitoes in conjunction with smoke from a camp or cook fire, or a fire pit, but no matter how you are employing basil fresh is always best.
How to Prepare Basil as a Mosquito Repellent
You have several options for employing basil as mosquito protection.
As mentioned above, you can use live plants to help drive off mosquitoes. Note that more and bigger plants are better; they’ll provide more protection that you’ll enjoy.
Otherwise, extracting the oil from basil and using that as an aromatic to repel mosquitoes is your next best bet.
I recommend you purchase high quality basil essential oil from a reputable vendor and then use it in conjunction with a wax warmer or even a vaporizer to help blanket an area and keep mosquitoes out.
Lastly, it is possible to get good results from burning fresh basil in a fire.
Mosquitoes are also naturally repelled by smoke, so burning fresh basil to infuse that smoke with the same aromatic compounds will produce a wonderfully synergistic defense.
How Often Should You Use Basil to Repel Mosquitoes?
How often you should use basil to repel mosquitoes is dependent on how you are using it in first place.
In the case of a live plant or aromatic oil as described above, you can use it as often as necessary as long as it isn’t causing any problems for you.
But you’ll want to be cautious if you are using basil oil as an all-natural bug repellent. I would apply it no more than twice a day and expect anywhere from 1 to 3 hours of protection each time.
It’s possible for basil oil to cause skin reactions, and there are a few compounds in concentrated basil oil that have been linked with some significant health problems if you overdo it. See the next section.
Is Basil Safe to Use as Mosquito Repellent?
Compared to many other chemicals, basil is mostly safe but you should know that the concentrated oil, used as a bug repellent on your skin, has been linked to a few health problems.
Namely, basil oil can be irritating: It’s possible that basil oil could give you a rash, hives or just a red, tender and itchy spot.
Talk about defeating the purpose! And worse yet, certain types of basil can actually sensitize your skin to sunlight, leading to greater sensitivity and potentially significant sunburns.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.