Whether you’re out camping, taking care of your property or in the middle of a desperate survival situation, if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to make things worse, it has got to be biting mosquitoes.
Mosquito bites are incredibly annoying and also sometimes dangerous because these little bloodsuckers transmit all sorts of heinous diseases.
Sure, you can reach for a can of bug spray to fend them off but what if you don’t have any? Or what if you are worried about side effects from the chemicals?
Other natural and improvised means might prove effective. How about lemongrass? Will lemongrass keep mosquitoes away?
Yes, lemongrass can keep mosquitoes away since the essential oil extracted from the plant is potent, all natural, and will prevent bites. Although not nearly as effective, leaving the plant growing also provides some mild insect repellent properties.
Interesting stuff, and definitely good to know if you are worried about your skin absorbing huge amounts of the chemical cocktails typically found in modern bug sprays.
It is entirely possible to use lemongrass as a natural and effective ingredient in a mosquito-repelling formula. I’ll tell you what you need to know down below.
How Do Mosquitoes Find You?
Before we delve into how exactly lemongrass works to protect you from mosquitoes, it is helpful to know how mosquitoes find their prey- that means you!
Mosquitoes are highly adapted to locate warm-blooded animals to bite, and they do this by homing in on body heat, movement and your exhaled carbon dioxide when you are breathing.
This means that if you’re outside, working hard and sweating, they will have an easier time finding you and also because of the lactic acid your body is producing.
In short, it’s very hard to hide from a mosquito, so you need to repel them, and that’s where lemongrass comes in.
So Why Does Lemongrass Work to Keep Mosquitoes Away?
Lemongrass oil doesn’t make you invisible to mosquitoes but it does actively repel them by deterring them from biting you.
If a mosquito does not feel comfortable committing to a bite, they will leave you alone and look for other prey.
By smearing lemongrass oil on your skin, whether or not it is extracted by itself or placed in a base solution like an ointment or cream, mosquitoes will avoid any skin where the lemongrass oil is.
Maybe it’s an irritant, maybe they hate the taste of it or maybe it is actively harmful to them.
Whatever the case, they won’t bite you if you have treated yourself with lemongrass oil.
Is Lemongrass the Same as a Citronella Plant?
There are a few points of confusion concerning lemongrass as a mosquito repellent plant.
Lemongrass is also known as citronella grass, and is sometimes confused for geraniums which are also citronella-scented, a type called, unimaginatively enough, the scented geranium.
The two plants don’t look anything alike, but if you see one labeled citronella on its tag, you might jump the gun and buy the scented geranium instead of the lemongrass which is what you are actually after: scented geraniums are nowhere near as effective, even though they smell like citronella.
To prevent confusion, look for a plant called lemongrass, Citronella grass or one that is referred to by its scientific name of Cymbopogon citratus. Then you’ll know you have the genuine article…
How to Prepare Lemongrass as a Mosquito Repellent
As mentioned above, lemongrass is not as effective as people think for repelling mosquitoes when it’s just sitting there growing.
Yes, it has a fragrant aroma that is distinctly recognizable and if you’ve grown up believing that that aroma will naturally repel mosquitoes, you’re probably going to be covered with bites in short order.
Yes, it has some mild deterrent properties, but nothing like the protection that you’ll need.
To put lemongrass to work for you as a mosquito repellent, you must extract the oil from the leaves of the plant.
You can do this by mashing the thin blades of grass using a mortar and pestle or any other means to crush them.
Then you can collect the oils and other liquid oozing out of the plant and concoct a homebrew mosquito repellent with it or apply it directly.
Alternatively, you can also gently simmer the leaves and just enough water to cover them until the water turns a distinct yellow color.
Strain out the leaves and then you can use the mixture in the same way.
How Often Should You Use Lemongrass to Repel Mosquitoes?
Using lemongrass oil directly or as an ingredient in a mosquito repellent seems to give protection for anywhere from 2 to 3 hours depending on conditions.
If you are sweating heavily or rubbing against stuff, you’ll need to apply it more frequently. If you’re staying reasonably cool, calm and undisturbed it will last longer.
Is Lemongrass Safe to Use as Mosquito Repellent?
Generally yes. Lemongrass is about as safe as anything can be, it does not seem to cause irritation or side effects in the low concentrations that it will be in through common extraction techniques.
However, it’s critical that you carefully test yourself with a small dab of lemongrass oil on the inside of your forearm before you commit to smearing it all over your body: some people are allergic to lemongrass!
If that happens, you’ll wind up covered with hives or red welts no matter what sort of biting bug you are facing.
Also, there is some evidence to suggest that repeated applications of various essential oils can promote sensitivity and irritation of skin.
So once again it’s definitely worthwhile to do your due diligence and test the efficacy of lemongrass oil on yourself for half a day or even longer to see if any unwanted side effects manifest.
You’ll be a lot happier that you found out in the comfort of your own home or backyard and not when you’re getting ambushed by mosquitoes by the lake or deep in the woods.
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.