How to Use Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil to Repel Bugs and Fight Flu

Lemon eucalyptus essential oil helps to keep you healthy and happy by freshening the air and helping fight off the common cold. Learn about the bug-fighting, flu-fighting powers of this oil.
How to Use Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil to Repel Bugs and Fight Flu

You may have heard about lemon essential oil and lemon eucalyptus oil—but what about lemon eucalyptus oil? If you live in an area with tons of mosquitos, you’re probably familiar with the refined version known as oil of lemon eucalyptus. It made waves when researchers found that it was just as effective as other bug sprays with harsh chemicals such as DEET. What you may not know is that this essential oil has loads of other benefits for your health.

Lemon eucalyptus essential oil helps to keep you healthy and happy by freshening the air and helping fight off the common cold. It can be used topically or during aromatherapy. It boasts a citrusy yet woodsy scent that is a pleasure to inhale.

Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil: eucalyptus trees

What is Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil?

Lemon eucalyptus oil is extracted from the leaves and twigs of the lemon-scented gum eucalyptus plant. This plant is also known by the botanical names Eucalyptus citriodora and Corymbia citriodora. This eucalyptus tree is also commonly known as lemon eucalyptus and is part of the Myrtaceae family.

Naturalists did not recognize the Corymbia genus until the mid-1990’s. Prior to that, these trees were simply classified as eucalyptus trees. Today, the lemon eucalyptus distinction refers to around 113 species,—most of which are found in Australia. The oil is also sometimes referred to as oil of lemon eucalyptus rather than eucalyptus essential oil. This helps to identify the exact eucalyptus species and process used to extract the oil.

The lemon eucalyptus tree features a white to coppery bark and leaves that smell like lemons. These trees grow best in forests and woodlands. They grow best in acidic, loamy soil. Lemon eucalyptus trees are native to the Darling Range in Western Australia. Today, these trees are also cultivated in other parts of Australia including New South Wales, Victoria and Southern Australia. There are also large oil producing forests in China, India and Brazil.


Twigs and leaves are the plant parts used to make this oil. The oil is removed from the tree through an extraction method known as steam distillation. The active ingredient in pure lemon eucalyptus oil is citronella, which makes up 80% of the oil’s composition.

Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus vs Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil

There are two types of lemon eucalyptus oil: refined oils and unrefined oils. Refined oils are used in bug sprays while unrefined oils are used in fragrances. Refined oils contain high amounts of PMD while unrefined oils are typically higher in citronella content.

Refined oils are known in the United States as oil of lemon eucalyptus and in Europe as PMD rich botanic oil. These refined oils are typically used in bug repellents. In fact, the EPA has registered 10 bug repellent products that use oil of lemon eucalyptus. The leaves are plucked from the eucalyptus tree and aged to create isomers known as p-Menthane-3,8-diol, known as PMD. This ingredient can comprise close to 98 percent of refined lemon eucalyptus oil.

Unrefined oils are more commonly used in perfumes and contain only trace amounts of PMD. Lemon eucalyptus leaves are plucked and immediately steam distilled. In essence, lemon eucalyptus oil is higher in citronella while oil of lemon eucalyptus is higher in PMD. Both types of eucalyptus oil boast significant health benefits, but for bug sprays, oil of lemon eucalyptus is preferred.


Lemon eucalyptus oil has a pale color and thin consistency. The aroma is sweet and lemony with a woodsy finish. This oil blends well with other woodsy scents including tea tree oil, frankincense and clove oil.

Health Benefits and Uses of Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil

1. Insect Repellant

Oil of lemon eucalyptus became popular after it was cited as an effective mosquito repellent. Studies have shown that lemon eucalyptus is almost as effective as repellents that contain DEET. DEET is a chemical that was deemed hazardous in large amounts by the EPA. This chemical can cause seizures and vomiting when taken in high doses or consistently over several days. Lemon eucalyptus oil is a safe alternative that still boasts efficacy without negative side effects for your health.

How to Use: Bug Spray

Fend off insect bites and make your own insect repellent with eucalyptus lemon oil. Combine 100 drops of essential oils in a 10 ounce or 300 ml bottle. We recommend using a combination of lemon eucalyptus oil, lavender oil geranium oil, citronella oil and clove oil. Add 4 ounces of witch hazel and 4 ounces of carrier oil such as coconut oil to the spray bottle. Add a few drops of vanilla extract for added potency. Shake well before use and reapply every 90 minutes.

2. Kicks Colds and Flus Fast

Lemon eucalyptus oil is a powerful tool for defeating the common cold and flu. Chemical compounds in this oil work as expectorants to alleviate chest congestion. Antioxidants and antimicrobial compounds in lemon eucalyptus oil also help to eliminate bacteria and toxins that lead to disease. In fact, many chest rubs such as Vicks VapoRub contain lemon eucalyptus oil. These compounds open up airways and relieve congestion when applied topically.

How to Use: Bedtime Aromatherapy, Bath Oil and Decongestant

If you’re feeling under the weather, add a few drops of lemon eucalyptus oil to your diffuser at bedtime. Run a warm bath and add 10 drops of eucalyptus oil for severe cold and flu symptoms. Lemon eucalyptus oil is also great at opening up your sinuses. Simply add 10 drops eucalyptus oil to a pot of hot water and lean over the pot. Drape a towel over your head and inhale deeply for 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Relieves Pain

Eucalyptus lemon oil contains anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe pain. It’s commonly used to treat joint pain and disorders such as arthritis. The scent of lemon eucalyptus oil boosts mood and helps to induce relaxation. This can help to reduce stress-induced tension headaches and sore muscles. Lemon eucalyptus oil also provides a cooling sensation when applied topically. It is similar to Tiger Balm in these properties. Applying this oil to sore muscles to minimize pain and speed up recovery time.

How to Use: Aromatherapy and Bath or Massage Oil

Add 2 to 3 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil to your diffuser to reduce stress related tension. Sit in a comfortable position and inhale deeply for 10 minutes. To soothe sore muscles before bedtime, draw a bath and add 10 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil. Soak for 15 minutes or until muscles feel relaxed.

This oil can also be a great addition to your gym routine as a sports massage oil. When used after a workout, it can soothe sore muscles. Combine lemon eucalyptus oil with carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil. Massage into achy muscles in a circular motion. Heat the oils in the microwave for 15 seconds before use for the best results.

4. Eliminates Odors

Lemon eucalyptus oil is great for eliminating odors and freshening the smell of rooms. Antifungal properties in lemon essential oil can help to eliminate bacteria and toenail fungus such as Athlete’s foot. The sweet, lemony scent doesn’t just mask offensive odors. Antimicrobial compounds work to eliminate the bacteria in the air that causes these unpleasant smells.

How to Use: Air Freshener

Add 2 to 3 drops of lemon eucalyptus oil to your diffuser to freshen air. Run the diffuser for 10 to 15 minutes to eliminate particularly strong odors such as onion or garlic. You can also add a drop of lemon eucalyptus oil to your car air freshener to keep your ride smelling like new. Keep your feet free from fungus and add a couple drops to freshly washed gym shoes.

5. Improves Digestion

Lemon eucalyptus oil can help to alleviate common digestive disorders such as constipation, indigestion and upset stomach. The lemon scent of this oil helps to temper feelings of nausea. Swelling and inflammation in the throat can encourage the regurgitation of stomach acid. This can lead to indigestion and acid reflux disease if not treated. Anti-inflammatory properties in lemon eucalyptus oil help to soothe this swelling and streamline your digestive system.

How to Use: Aromatherapy

Inhale the scent of lemon eucalyptus oil before or after a meal to soothe digestion. Add 2 to 3 drops to your diffuser and breathe deeply for at least 5 minutes.

Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil: eucalyptus leaves

Side Effects of Lemon Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Skin Irritation

People with sensitive skin have reported skin reactions when using this lemon essential oil topically. Test one drop of this essential oil on your skin before applying liberally to avoid skin rash. Keep away from sensitive areas as lemon eucalyptus oil can also irritate the eyes, ears and nose.

Oral Consumption

Lemon eucalyptus oil can be toxic when taken orally. Toxicity from this oil can cause severe headaches, nausea, seizures and respiratory problems. Contact your poison control center or emergency room immediately if you accidentally swallow this oil. Only use this oil topically or as part of aromatherapy to avoid negative side effects.


There is very little research n the effects of lemon essential oil during pregnancy. To be safe, we recommend avoiding this oil when pregnant or breastfeeding. As always, consult with your healthcare provider before using essential oils.

Bug Spray Warnings

It’s important to make a distinction between lemon eucalyptus oil and it’s refined version known as oil of lemon eucalyptus. The EPA has registered oil of lemon eucalyptus for use in bug sprays, but NOT pure or unrefined lemon eucalyptus oil. This is due to the presence of PMD and is important for regions that are hot zones for mosquito-borne disease. For use in bug sprays, always try to find products that use oil of lemon eucalyptus especially when in areas hit hard by malaria and dengue.

Add Lemon Eucalyptus Oil to Your Regimen

Lemon eucalyptus oil has therapeutic qualities that can keep you at the top of your game. Use it topically to alleviate aches and pains from intense workouts and to break up congestion during cold season. Add it to your aromatherapy sessions to boost mood, freshen your home and improve your digestion. Don’t forget about the refined alternative—oil of lemon eucalyptus. This oil contains high concentrations of PMD, making it the best choice for bug sprays without harmful chemicals or side effects.

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