Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Can You Repel Ticks With Essential Oils?

Ticks are annoying, but did you know that they could also be dangerous? Some ticks carry Lyme disease, a tick-borne, and often sexually-transmitted, disease known to be caused by bacteria of the Borrelia species. Normally when a tick is removed, there may only be some itching and minor swelling. However, Lyme disease commonly results in a "bulls-eye" rash that spreads around the bite like a target pattern, although many people never see this rash. Flu-like aches and pains are some other initial symptoms of Lyme. If it isn't treated right away, the bacteria can stay inside the body and cause more chronic symptoms, such as arthritis, fatigue, cognitive issues, numbness, weakness or headaches. The worst part for some people is that in Australia, Lyme disease is not recognised as existing in the country! Patients who cannot find doctors with access to the appropriate antibiotics, and naturopaths trained in Lyme disease, often end up with a severe, chronic illness and  sometimes have to travel to countries like Germany for treatment.

Syzygium aromaticum/Clove.
Fortunately, there are both chemical and natural ways to repel ticks, which is good news for those who may react to the chemical repellents. Some essential oils that may be toxic to tick larvae (in this study: Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus) are Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and garlic (Allium sativum) oil. Mexican oregano and garlic oil killed 90-100% of tick larvae at all concentrations ranging from 1.25-20%, while rosemary oil only killed at least 85% of larvae at 10-20% concentration. Another study tested the effects of vetiver oil (Chrysopogon zizanioides) against not only the tick species Rhipicephalus microplus, but also Amblyomma cajennense. Vetiver oil was able to reduce egg production, egg hatch rates and also survival of larvae, at rates higher than some conventional products. Oregano oil (Origanum bilgeri) may also repel and kill ticks (in this study: Rhipicephalus turanicus Pomerantzev). The dominant constituent of this essential oil, making up 93% of it, was carvacrol. After 48 hours, the oregano oil at a concentration of 0.8% killed over 83% of ticks, and over 63% at a concentration of 0.4%. In another study, this time testing clove oil (Syzygium aromaticum) and Java citronella (Cimbopogon winterianus) against R. microplus, clove oil was able to kill ticks at different stages of their life cycle at a rate of 92-100%. An ubiquitous essential oil in Australia is tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia). This was found to completely inhibit reproduction in R. microplus ticks at 5% and 10% concentrations, and at a 1% concentration was able to kill off 70% of the ticks. One basic recipe for a natural tick repellent involves 4 ounces of base/carrier oil, and 40 drops in total of tick-repelling oils, such as clove, garlic and carvacrol-rich oils. It is recommended to use this whenever camping, hiking or during any outdoor activity where the risk of tick bites is high. Using both natural and conventional tick repellents may be best.

Prevention is always best, partly because of how difficult Lyme disease is to treat, but an interesting pre-clinical study suggests that, of all things, stevia leaf extract may be effective in fighting the bacteria that cause this terrible condition. Stevia extract was shown to significantly reduce the biofilm, a protective coating that the bacteria produce to resist antibiotic and immune attack, and wiped out much of the bacteria. While more research, especially human trials, are needed in the natural prevention and treatment of Lyme disease, of course there is hope.

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