OUCH!!! So you’ve been bitten or stung by some insect or spider.  Well just as essential oils can be used as effective insect repellants, they can also be used for insect bites. The beauty is they can act very quickly to break down the poison and render it harmless.

The molecules of essential oils are very small (less than 500 atomic mass units in fact) and lipid soluble (can pass through fatty substances or tissue), so they can pass through the skin very easily and quickly enter the blood stream.

The Original Snake oil.

Everyone will have heard of the phrase “snake oil salesmen”. Nowadays it denotes someone engaged in shonky business practices, usually selling something that isn’t what it’s been purported to be. However over 100 years ago, the term Snake oil referred to a real product, which was exported to the U.S. from Australia.

The product in question was Tea Tree oil (or Melaleuca alternifolia) and it was found to be very effective against rattlesnake bite. Traveling salesmen would sell the oil to the settlers, trappers and miners traveling through the Wild West. Unfortunately over time, many of these traveling salesmen would be selling the pioneers an oil, that wasn’t really snake oil – hence the phrase – Snake oil salesmen.

This is no reflection on Melaleuca mind you. The oil is effective against snake poisons which affect the blood and organs (hemotoxic venoms). This includes rattlesnakes and copperheads. It’s not so effective against snake poison which attacks the nervous system (neurotoxic venoms) and which are the most deadly. And many snake venoms include both a neurotoxic and hemotoxic component. [1]  An essential oil like Clove or the blend Thieves is likely to be the most effective. [2] Clove oil has analgesic/anaesthetic, anticonvulsant, and anti-inflammatory properties. In any case, you should seek emergency medical attention in the event that you are bitten by a poisonous snake (or spider for that matter).


Coming down the scale of lethality (considerably) what about bites/stings from such critters as ants, bees, spiders and ticks? The essential oil that I would most likely turn to is the Young Living oil blend – Purification. It consists of  Citronella, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Melaleuca (there’s that snake oil again), Lavandin and Myrtle.

Single oils that are effective include Lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary, Eucalyptus Globulus, and our old friend, Melaleuca (or Tea Tree as it’s also known). Lavender and Peppermint will be effective in reducing any itchiness that can occur after a bite. In the event that there’s pain, the oil blend Panaway could help. Panaway contains Wintergreen, Clove, Helichrysum and Peppermint. Clove is the most antiseptic of all essential oils, while Helichrysum is effective as an anaesthetic and analgesic. Wintergreen is highly anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic. How much oil to apply? Around 2 drops 2-4 times a day.

The Essential Oils Desk Reference (EODR) also lists Melrose, an oil blend that consists of Melaleuca, Naouli, Rosemary and Clove oils as the first recommendation for bee stings. [3]   Don’t forget that before you apply the essential oil, you will need to remove the stinger first. Apply around 2 drops 2-3 times a day until you see the redness start to abate.

In the event of spider bites, the same caution applies as per snake bites. If we are talking about funnel web or red back (black widow in Nth America) bites, seek immediate medical attention. If you’re unsure or unable to identify the spider in question, try to catch it (safely). This will be necessary to assist the medics/hospital in determining which anti-venom to use.

While waiting for medical attention, I would most likely apply the Purification oil blend or even Thieves and Panaway. A number of spider bites, while not deadly, can create serious problems such as gangrene (the Brown Recluse in Nth America, and I believe, the White-tail spider in Australia). Purification, Thieves and Panaway are helpful here, but again, seek medical attention. How much oil do we apply in the event of a spider bite? The EODR says 1 drop of any of the above mentioned blends every 10 minutes, until you reach medical treatment. I would probably be applying more than that in my own case, but you be the judge.


In the case of ticks, you need to remove the tick before attending to the bite. You can use essential oils to remove the tick as well. Either Thyme or Oregano would be effective here, but you may wish to dilute them 50:50 with a vegetable oil (almond or coconut are good, but so is olive oil) as these oils with their high phenol content, can irritate the skin. Apply2 drops over the bite area and the phenols in the oils will cause the tick to let go.

After you have removed the tick, you can apply an oil like tea tree, peppermint, lavender or rosemary. Apply anywhere between 1-6 drops, around 3-5 times daily.

Anyway, back to the garden…   🙂

Till next time



 Disclaimer: Please remember that anything discussed here does not
constitute medical advice and cannot substitute for appropriate medical care. Where essential oils are mentioned, it’s recommended you use only pure, unadulterated therapeutic grade essential oils and follow the safety directions of the manufacturer.


[1] An excellent source of info on snake venom or snakes for that matter is The Reptipage.

[2] Essential Oils Desk Reference, 4th Edition, Essential Science Publishing, Sept 2007, P461

[3] Essential Oils Desk Reference, 4th Edition, Essential Science Publishing, Sept 2007, P410-411