Mosquitoes are probably the single most annoying insect out there. Tiny, almost invisible and basically undetectable until they strike, those itchy red welts they will leave behind will be driving you crazy for days after.
But annoyance aside, mosquitoes are also quite dangerous, being the primary vectors for several dangerous and debilitating diseases.
Whenever you’re in mosquito country, wearing bug spray is highly advised but if you’re anything like me, you are starting to worry about how many chemicals your body is absorbing from these products.
Luckily, though, there are many natural and holistic repellents out there, including several common herbs.
How about lemon balm? Will lemon balm keep mosquitoes away?
Yes, lemon balm can help to repel mosquitoes. Lemon balm oil has compounds that will drive mosquitoes away, and it can be effectively used as a topical application or the plant can be burned to create an aromatic smoke.
The good thing about lemon balm is that it is entirely natural, wholesome, and largely safe however you decide to use it.
It definitely works to keep mosquitoes away, and used properly, a single application can give you several hours of protection.
However, just like anything else, you’ve got to apply it right to avoid negative side effects.
Keep reading and I’ll tell you everything you need to know about lemon balm below.
How Do Mosquitoes Find Prey?
To better understand how lemon balm can help us, it’s good to learn how mosquitoes target us in the first place.
Simply stated, even though mosquitoes are parasites, they are still hunters and like any good hunter they use their senses to find prey.
In the case of a mosquito, they are homing in on movement for starters, but they can also detect body heat, exhaled carbon dioxide, and even lactic acid excreted through our skin.
All of these emissions, for lack of a better word, are intensified as your heart rate goes up making it easier and easier for these insects to spot you.
So, if anything is going to keep us safe from mosquitoes it must conceal these signals from the mosquitoes themselves, or else be so repugnant to the mosquitoes they look elsewhere for their next meal.
Lemon balm does the latter…
Why Lemon Balm Works to Keep Mosquitoes Away
Lemon balm is one of several plants containing oils which have in them compounds which mosquitoes find absolutely repulsive.
Generally, mosquitoes and most insects will tend to avoid these plants wherever they are growing, but we can get maximum protection by extracting the oil from the plant itself and then using it as an all natural insect repellent.
Lemon balm doesn’t directly harm mosquitoes, but the compounds in it are absolutely intolerable to them and they will not bite anywhere on your skin where you have applied lemon balm, and any area that smells strongly of it they will tend to avoid.
This gives us a couple of options for employing lemon balm as part of our overall mosquito defense strategy.
Will Live Lemon Balm Repel Mosquitoes?
Yes, somewhat. But compared to other herbs like basil, lemon balm is not a particularly effective “live repellent” for mosquitoes.
Large, bushy plants will definitely help, especially if you’re using them to protect a smaller space, but they aren’t the ideal way to employ lemon balm.
Will Dried Lemon Balm Repel Mosquitoes?
Not really. Although it still contains the essential oil compounds that give lemon balm its mosquito fighting power, many of them evaporate away when lemon balm dries out.
Accordingly, you’ll want to stick to using fresh, live plants or fresh cuttings from those plants if you aren’t extracting the oil from them.
Can You Burn Lemon Balm to Repel Mosquitoes?
Yes, you can. One trick that a lot of seasoned outdoorsmen know is that you can burn certain aromatic herbs, lemon balm among them, to produce a fragrant smoke that will drive mosquitoes away.
This is especially effective because these critters tend to hate any kind of smoke, anyway, so infusing it with the active ingredient in lemon balm is going to make it even more potent and intolerable to them.
That translates into fewer bites for you!
How to Prepare Lemon Balm as a Mosquito Repellent
You have several options for employing lemon balm as mosquito repellent.
As mentioned above, you can plant or place live plants near where you are sitting outside to give you a little bit of passive protection.
If you aren’t dealing with particularly thick clouds of mosquitoes, and so long as the plants are alive and healthy, a few straggler mosquitoes should stay away.
Ultimately, you can burn dried or live or fresh lemon balm to make an aromatic smoke that will seriously disturb mosquitoes and drive many of them away.
But, this is only effective so long as smoke is actually being produced; flames alone aren’t enough.
Lastly, probably the best and most versatile way to use lemon balm is to extract the oil from it.
You can do this the easy but expensive way by purchasing lemon balm essential oil, or you can do it yourself by crushing and mashing a live, fresh plant before straining off the bits and collecting the liquid.
This liquid can then be heated gently to produce an intense aroma, or even use directly on the skin as an all natural bug spray.
How Often Should You Use Lemon Balm to Repel Mosquitoes?
However you decide to use lemon balm, you can use it as often as you want within reason.
If you’re burning it, obviously you need to be careful to maintain good air quality and avoid breathing in too much smoke.
If you are applying the residue to your skin, take care of that you don’t overdo it every day because some people can suffer from a skin irritation or even sensitized skin from potent essential oils like this.
Is Lemon Balm Safe to Use as Mosquito Repellent?
Yes, generally. Lemon balm doesn’t produce any overtly toxic compounds when burned, and the oil, while potent, is generally safe for external use on human skin.
However, you are wise to test yourself for any allergic reaction to lemon balm before you commit to it.
Take a little bit of the collected or purchased oil, and gently dab a tiny amount on the inside of your forearm. Give it a day and then observe for a reaction.
If you notice any breaking of the skin, blistering, hives, and so forth discontinue use immediately.
Also consider that repeated or ongoing use of concentrated essential oils can sensitize your skin or make you more vulnerable to sunburn.
Don’t be afraid to dilute lemon balm and other essential oils in another natural oil like olive oil or coconut oil. A little bit will usually do it!
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.