natural lyme disease prevention tick repellent

Natural Tick & Lyme Disease Prevention

natural lyme disease prevention tick repellent
I am convinced we live in the middle of Tick-Central. Meeting place of the National Association of Wood-Ticks. If ticks had a yearly convention, they might hold it in the state of Wisconsin.

And I hate them. I loathe these weird, disease-ridden, blood-gorging, leg-climbing creepy stalkers.

I didn’t worry much about ticks when I was little. I played in the woods, rolled around in the grass, and found one latched to me from time to time, but it wasn’t a big deal.

Either the times have changed or I have changed. Maybe it’s both…

Up here in the north we hear about Lyme disease all the time. And rightfully so. Not to mention the other tick-borne illness that are starting to become more commonplace. Some people get Lyme Disease and then get over it quickly with no long-term affects. But then there are those that suffer for a lifetime.

As a natural medicine practitioner I have seen many patients with Lyme disease. People who have struggled for years and years with debilitating, life-changing symptoms all because of one little bug. Brain fog, intense joint pain, headaches, stomach pain, fatigue, fever… for some people it’s like having a permanent flu that they can’t shake.

And because of this, Lyme disease is something that absolutely terrifies me.

In order to protect ourselves against ticks and the diseases they carry, we take our knowledge of their biology and physiology and use it against them! Here on the homestead we have 19 acres, and we want to be able to enjoy every piece of it without worry.

Tick Behavior
Ticks don’t fall from trees or jump on us, instead they do something called “questing.” That is, they climb to the top of a blade of grass or weed and stick their front legs up in the air, just waiting for a victim to brush by that they can grab on to.

Find one on your head? He crawled there. And the thought of this makes me shudder.

On their front pair of legs, ticks have what are called Haller’s Organs, which can detect smell (especially ammonia), temperature change, movement, and carbon dioxide. This is how they know you’re coming.

We also know that they like warmth and moisture- both in their outdoor habitat, and on you.

Smell & Repellents
Do you have bad body odor or breath? The stronger the smell, the easier for ticks to know their next meal is on its way. That goes for your pets too.

Since chemical (smell) detection is such a strong sense for ticks, one that they rely on heavily, we can derail them here.

Rose-Geranium Oil
A “natural tick repellent,” this is an all natural alternative to deet-based sprays and other harsh chemical repellents. This is for dogs and humans only, as sources say it can be toxic for cats. I couldn’t find credible information regarding this oil for horses.

There are two main species of Rose Geranium oil available, the one with the botanical name Pelargonium capitatum x radens is what you are looking for to repel ticks —> Find it here! Rose Geranium oil under the name Pelargonium graveolens is not the same exact thing, and it is more common- so read your label carefully.

All of the individual accounts I have read of people using this oil on themselves and their dogs have been remarkably positive. I couldn’t find any info on the exact mechanism of how this works, but my guess is that it does one of two things: either repels ticks, meaning that they find the scent offensive and it makes them withdraw their legs and not exhibit questing activity, or it scrambles their sensors and makes them unable to detect you or your dog nearby.

Full Strength Oil
Some oils need to be diluted, but Rose Geranium Essential Oil does not. Try a drop between your dog’s shoulder blades and one at the top of the base of tail. Put a drop on your wrists and behind your knees.

Alternatively, you could even put a drop or two directly on your dog’s collar. Or try a clay diffuser pendant and attach it to their collar. It is a clay pendant that holds and diffuses essential oils and is usually worn as a necklace.

Diluted Oil
Or, you can make a Rose Geranium body spray by combining 8oz distilled water with 2 Tbs witch hazel or vodka and 10-30 drops of Rose Geranium Essential Oil (depending on your preferred strength and apparent effectiveness). Just spritz your dog’s legs, belly, or neck! Spritz it on your lower body where ticks are likely to try and grab you.

You could even make a dog shampoo or body lotion for yourself with this essential oil.

Other Essential Oils
People have used citrus, peppermint, cedar wood, eucalyptus and other oils for tick repellent as well.

Before you choose one or a combination of these, make sure you know: 1. if and how much it needs to be diluted, and 2. if it is safe for the critter you are using it on. Just because it is safe for you, doesn’t mean it is for your cat or horse.

Make a custom essential oil body spray using the directions above, but tailored in a way you like. If it doesn’t seem effective, tweak it and keep trying until you find a winner. There are a lot of variables that can affect how ticks react to different scent repellents. The species of tick and its gender, its age and the habitat in which it is found, plus your personal scent will all influence the effectiveness of your custom body spray.

Already Made Tick Repellents
And if the thought of homemaking anything scares you more than the thought of ticks crawling up your body, well then try these already made natural scent based tick-repellent products:

For Humans:
Botanical Solutions Tick Guard– lemongrass, rosemary, and peppermint.
All Terrain Herbal Armor– citronella, peppermint, cedar, lemongrass, and geranium.

For Dogs:
Natural Chemistry Natural Flea & Tick Spray– clove, cinnamon, and cedar wood.
Curealia Natural Insect Repellent Balm– lavender, cedar wood, rosewood, and Patchouli.

For Both Humans & Dogs:
Turtle Moon’s Nature’s Cloak– eucalyptus, lavender, rose geranium, african sage, and blue cypress.

For Both Cats and Dogs (labelled safe for cats at time of posting, but please double check yourself!):
Vetri-Repel Flea & Tick Repellent– lemongrass and cinnamon.
FLEA & TICK Repellent Wipes– lemongrass and cinnamon.
Mercola Nautral Flea and Tick Spray– lemongrass and cinnamon.

I like the idea of scented wipes for a cat, as my cat is known to run at the sight of a spray bottle!

Always be careful when using a new body product for the first time, as people and pets can be sensitive to things, even if they are natural or organic. Put some on a small test spot and wait 24 hours to make sure there are no skin reactions.

Indoor-Outdoor Pets
A very easy way for ticks get into the house. Dogs and cats are an easy meal for ticks. If you have cats or dogs that spend time both indoors and outdoors, you have to protect them in order to protect yourself. Your fur-coated, low to the ground, happy go-lucky pup is the perfect target.

Try some of the homemade or pre-made sprays, balms and wipes mentioned above in order to repel ticks from your pets. Also keep in mind that every product might not work on every pet; if you try one that just doesn’t seem to be effective, try a different product or a different application technique.

While it is likely these won’t repel every single tick every single time, even if you see some reduction, it is still worth it.

Does your dog reek?
Well, give it a bath.

Remember, ticks operate largely on smell and this is a great opportunity to repel them.

Diet is Important
Also consider the power in feeding your cat or dog a species-appropriate diet. That is, a meat-based kibble or raw food diet, not a corn, soy or gluten-based diet. This can absolutely have an affect on their smell, and not to mention their health (and therefore ability to fight a Lyme or other tick-borne infection if one should present itself). Plus, parasites are often attracted to weakened hosts. Make your dog or cat the strongest and healthiest it can be!

Cats are Trickier
They are more sensitive to tick repellents, even natural ones. They can’t handle a lot of the essential oils that dogs can. Which I believe is why all of the sprays approved for cats only contain lemongrass and cinnamon oils, and in weaker dilutions than some of the sprays for dogs or humans only.

For every source that said an essential oil was okay for cats, another source said it was not. Which is why I don’t have a recommendations for making your own tick repellent spray for cats. For cats, it is probably safer to to find a tested, pre-made spray that is known to be safe.

Outdoor cats really shouldn’t wear collars, as they are prone to getting them caught and hanging themselves, so anything attached to a collar won’t work either.

Fortunately cats are smaller and therefore take less time do a tick-check.

Diatomaceous Earth to Kill Ticks
Diatomaceous Earth is the fossilized remains of tiny sea creatures, ground into a very fine powder. It safely and effectively kills a lot of different insects, ticks reportedly included. Diatomaceous Earth is both abrasive and will scratch insects, plus it absorb the protective lipid layer from their exoskeleton, causing them to dehydrate and die.

This would be perfect for applying to an already infested animal- whether house pets or livestock. Or consider using weekly as a tick clean up for your dog or cat. Use a spice jar with shaker top or old baby powder bottle. Shake a decent amount on to the animal and use your hand to rub it in down to the skin. Don’t get it in their eyes. Leave it on them and let it go to work. One person reported applying this at night and finding a dog bed full of dead ticks in the morning.

You can even sprinkle this in the dog house or dog’s bedding.

Need to Know:
Only buy food-grade Diatomaceous Earth.
Minimize dust when using, as inhaling too much can cause lung irritation or other problems.
It is completely safe for animals (and humans) to touch, and even eat.
It only works when dry, not wet.
I’d apply it outside, as it will get messy!

Check, Check, and Recheck
No matter what type tick-repellent you use, whether natural or otherwise, you must check your pets for ticks every single day. It is part of being a responsible pet owner.

Make sure to check around your cat’s ears and face, especially the eyes. If there is one place that tiny, Lyme-infested ticks love to bite, it is the eyelids. Ick. And don’t forget under the dog’s collar!

Ticks Sleeping in Your Bed
If your dog or indoor-outdoor cat is sleeping in your bed, I would urge you to reconsider. They may give you the guilt trip of a lifetime for kicking them out of their favorite cozy spot, but they will be get over in a couple days, and you’ll be much better off.

If you live in an area with a high rate of Lyme Disease, allowing your pet to sleep in your bed is just too risky. The ticks that are most likely to transmit Lyme Disease are so small that you are highly likely to miss them during a tick-check.

Ticks crawling off your dog and on to your inner thighs, arm pits, and neck in middle of the night sounds like the making of a good horror movie, agree?

Habitats & Hosts
Part of the battle is keeping ticks away in the first place. There are things you can do to prevent them from even wanting to be on your property and in your business.

This is a tough one for us homesteaders and farmers, as we tend to keep a lot of animal feed and outdoor structures that mice just love. Mice don’t only help along the tick’s lifecycle, but they are often responsible for producing infected ticks. Many sources agree that ticks are generally born pathogen-free, and it is only when they feed on a reservoir host, commonly the white-footed mouse, that they pick up the Lyme bug and other diseases.

So, get rid of the mice! Don’t leave open feed out. Don’t let feed sit out overnight, as in, only give your pets what they will eat in the daytime. Consider a long-term mouse trapping solution like a water-trap (look up “mouse bucket trap,” if you’re not familiar). Increase and encourage your barn cat population, and make them earn their keep!

Don’t keep brush piles. Keep your wood pile as tidy as possible and with the fewest mice-hiding spots as you can. Sheds and other outbuildings, especially those that are cluttered make great mouse-homes.

The threat of mice isn’t necessarily that they transport ticks (well, it is), but more so that they are a host for tick-born disease. Even when mice aren’t in your general living areas they are still a threat because they are coming in contact with other animals that are likely crossing through in closer proximity to you (and dropping ticks around). So, consider deterring mice in the biggest area around your homestead that you can.

Don’t let your yard get away from you. Especially if this is the place where your pets and your children play. Hire the neighbor kid to mow every week if you have to.
grass blades
Keeping the grass cut short makes it harder for ticks to “quest” and find you.

Consider making a short-grass-safe-zone for your kids, or even your dog and train them to stay in it.

Yard Borders & Other Vegetation
Unless you have lots of unkempt grass with fun hiding spots, ticks generally aren’t in the middle of your groomed lawn. They need shade and moisture and something decent to quest on, which they often find where wooded areas meet grass.

Consider creating a border of rock or wood chips between your yard, the places where your family spends their time and the woods. This is a great reminder for family members to stay in the reduced-tick zone and not to wander to the edge of the woods.

Trim back overhanging trees, especially those in areas that are traveled by humans and animals. This will allow more sunlight in, encourage drying of the ground beneath, and discourage ticks.

A leaf pile is like a tick motel. Get rid of ’em as soon as you rake ’em.

Animal Trails
Ticks are strongly attracted to the scent of ammonia. Animal trails = animal urine. Animal urine = ammonia. Ticks know that they are likely to find plenty of host animals if they stay close to well-traveled critter paths.

Discourage deer from traveling through your property with fences or undesirable plants. Put bird feeders where deer can’t stand under them to clean up the dropped goods. Consider using several Nite-Guards: solar powered red lights that are activated at dark and scare away deer and other animals. Block trails and encourage the animals to go another way, away from your property.

Fowl Friends
There are mixed reports of whether or not chickens, guinea hens, ducks, and turkey will decrease your tick population. I haven’t seen any scientific studies that say either way, but have heard plenty of positive personal accounts.

My opinion is that they definitely will! That is, only if they are truly free-ranging. For the four years that my parents had 12-18 free-ranging Rhode Island Reds, we absolutely noticed less ticks on ourselves and pets.

Need another reason to convince your significant other to get a couple backyard chickens? This may be it! Wondering what breeds of chickens are best for tick control? Any of them. Chickens were made to eat bugs. It’s what they do.

Guinea hens are probably regarded as the absolute best tick hunters. So if you need serious help, consider a flock of those.

Clothing Choice
If you find a tick on your head or upper body, it is because it climbed all the way up there, not because it dropped on you.

The Pant Tuck
We almost never go out to do work at the outskirts of the yard or woods without tucking our pants into our socks. This way when a tick attaches to your lower leg, it can’t crawl up inside your clothes, and you’ll be more likely to spot it on the move on your outerwear.
pant tuck
Plus, it just looks cool.

We never wear shorts when doing work in the yard, hiking, or foraging in the woods. Yes, even in the middle of summer.

Also keep in mind that ticks like warmth and moisture. On their journey up the inside of your pant leg, while you’re working out in the hot sun, they are likely to settle into the first warm spot they find. And if that image isn’t enough to make you tuck your pants into your socks, well then I can’t help you…

Light-Colored Clothing
What you wear and how you wear it matters!

Spotting a tick on your light-colored clothing is ten times easier than seeing one on black, dark blue or brown clothing. It is something so simple that can make a world of difference.

And on a similar note, train your brain to scan for ticks, especially when outside with a partner. Karl and I like to go for walks in the woods and forage during the summer. We are constantly glancing at each others clothing to catch any ticks before they get too far. 

And check these out! Lymeez Tick Gaiters: Grab and Go Tick Repellent Outerwear. Leg-warmer-esque cuffs for your lower legs that have a built in repellent and will prevent ticks from crossing them and crawling up your legs. I want a pair of pants made out of these…

Tick-Infested Clothing
After a leisurely hike, a day of yard work, or even a walk through the pasture- what do you do with your outerwear that could be harboring ticks?

First, remove your clothes in a safe location- right in the laundry area, or even outside if you can. Don’t remove your clothes in a place where you don’t want ticks to drop, like in your bedroom.

Many studies have show that the washing machine is not an effective way to kill ticks and they can survive any water and detergent combination you can throw at them. The CDC has recommended an hour in the dryer on high heat following a wash will be enough to kill most.

I almost never dry my clothes on high, and never for an hour. Uh oh.

Luckily, a brilliant 10th grader, Jaqueline Flynn, discovered that putting her tick-infested clothes in the dryer BEFORE washing them, for five minutes on a low setting, was enough to kill all of that ticks she tested! It works because it dries them out, which makes sense because we know that ticks need moisture to survive. When you dry your clothes after washing them, they are wet and the dryer is full of moisture the whole time, which allows the ticks to survive. So you have to rely on a long period of high heat to kill them. See the difference?

Step 1: clothes in the dryer on low heat (or higher) for five minutes.
Step 2: wash and dry as normal, or don’t. Use the clothes line if you want!

And if you don’t have a dryer, try these ideas:
-closely inspect all articles of clothing inside and out
-make it a point to only wear light colored clothing, so you can spot the ticks
-hang on a clothes line (if dry outside) for multiple days, in order to encourage the tick to dry out and die, or to drop back to the ground

Removing and Disposing
If you find a tick on yourself, your child, or your pet- just remove it right away. I know they’re gross, but suck it up. Assess its difficulty to get out: can you see it and reach it? Do you need help? How imbedded is it? And most importantly, don’t panic! Before you start gouging and squeezing it, stop and get the right tool for the job.

They have some nifty new tick-removal devices you may want to check out, especially if you are squeamish. Plus, they are all designed to not “squeeze” the tick, causing it to release its disease infected juices back into you…

The Tick Key: not a tweezers, but an aluminum gadget that “pops” ticks right off. Plus, it clips to your key chain so you always have it on you. Looks simple and easy to use. It has a lot of rave reviews! I’ve got one in my amazon shopping cart right now.

TRIX Tick Lasso: neat idea- a little lasso that you slip down around the tick’s thorax. Reported to be especially great for long or thick haired animals.

Tick Twister: this is a two-piece set, one big and one small tool- for smaller ticks and larger engorged ticks. There are other tick twister tools listed, but Amazon reviewers claim there is one twister sold as a single piece, but it is too big and doesn’t work on smaller ticks. You just slide the tick into the slot on the end of the tick twister (kind of like when you use the claw end of a hammer to remove a nail) but then you just twist the device a couple times and the tick pops right off.

Don’t put Vaseline or some other substance on it and hope it will come out for air. Get that thing off you immediately!

According to the CDC, to remove a tick:
Use fine-tipped tweezers to grasp the tick as close to the skin’s surface as possible.

Pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t twist or jerk the tick; this can cause the mouth-parts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove the mouth-parts with tweezers. If you are unable to remove the mouth easily with clean tweezers, leave it alone and let the skin heal.

After removing the tick, thoroughly clean the bite area and your hands with rubbing alcohol, an iodine scrub, or soap and water.

And what do you do with it once you’ve removed it?
My favorite method is a trip to the sewer.

My skin is crawling as we speak!

Especially if you live in an area that has a high rate of Lyme Disease, I hope you take tick prevention seriously and do whatever you have to do to protect yourself, your family, and your pets.

And if ever you start to get lazy with your tick protection, just imagine them crawling up your legs while asleep in bed… that should light a fire under you!

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53 thoughts on “Natural Tick & Lyme Disease Prevention

    1. I have chronic Lyme disease and there is so much wrong information out there. I just read this and I can’t thank you enough for including all of the correct information. It was so well writtten and informative. Including the part of pets and esstential oils and cats not tolerating many that others are able to. Many essential oils can be toxic to cats. I was very pleased to read this complete article. Thank you.

  1. Thanks for this info. I live in the Pacific Northwest and am tired of the ticks too. I hate using deet. Definitely will try rose geranium oil and maybe a tick removal tool….I’m never sure if I got the whole tick with tweezers and I don’t want to squeeze it.

  2. Here in the northeast, Lyme disease is endemic. I have had it, luckily I caught it early. I use the rose geranium oil and the diamataceous earth. The oil seems to help a lot, for myself and my dogs but it has to be reapplied frequently. I didn’t realize the problem was rampant up your way too. Thanks for all the good information:).

  3. I’ve been searching for a natural ingredient to kill and repel ticks on our cat. We’ve been out working in the yard three times this year, and our cat goes with us. We have already found three ticks. I am extremely sensitive to pesticides and don’t want to use them on our cat, either. I was searching the internet and found a product called Wondercide. Certain cedar oils can be toxic, but it uses a specific cedar oil (no phenols) that is safe for cats, kids, dogs, etc., kills and repels ticks and fleas, and they even have safe yard treatments. I have no affiliation with them, and haven’t tried the product yet (I just ordered it), but I’m hoping it’s an answer to a difficult situation.

    1. That looks like a pretty promising product- and I see it has great reviews too. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Hi, I was wondering if you know if the rose geranium oil is safe to use while in the early stages of pregnancy? I read that rose oil can be harmful in the first trimester, but not sure if that’s the same thing. Thanks for the great info!

    1. Hi Ashley- good question… and one that I am afraid there won’t be a clear answer for. Rose and Rose Geranium are two completely different types of plants, so no comparison there. I don’t see Rose Geranium on any of the “absolutely do not use if pregnant” lists. But oils haven’t really been studied in pregnant women as of yet, so it is hard to find someone with credible authority to tell you definitively that certain oils are safe (safety also depends on the quality of the oil, how you use it, etc).

      I think that you will find personal stories of individuals who have used Rose Geranium throughout pregnancy with no problems, like Jill from Prairie Homestead:

      And Jillee from One Good Thing:

      Hope that helps!

  5. Hey! Thanks for the really awesome post! We are about to move to a 5 acre property in prime tick zone in upstate NY – picked up a couple of the nasty buggers just at the inspection (guck!!). Anyway, much of the property is wooded with about 3/4 of an acre being cleared manicured yard. I’m wondering if besides building a rock or wood chip border, you’ve heard anything about planting the actual rose geranium plant? We’ll be trying to clear up the woods a bit (getting rid of low brush and gnarly brambles) and getting some hens at some point but I ‘definitely want to use any and all options because we have two active little girls and their big doggie sister and those ticks just gross me out beyond words and if someone got Lyme Disease I think I might just lose it.

    1. Well that’s a really good thought!

      I think there are some barriers that would make it really difficult though… Scented geraniums, like Rose Geranium are a tropical plant, so being in NY and growing them would be a challenge to begin with. To buy already grown plants (either at a local nursery or online would be probably $10+ each. If you wanted to grow from seed, you’d have to start them indoors, and probably in the middle of winter to have them ready by the spring for the start of tick season. And they wouldn’t survive the winter, so you’d have to start them new every year. I’m not sure how close you’d need them for a border, probably a foot apart and spanning the whole perimeter to make any difference. But ticks would still be carried in by animals anyways…

      I think your best bet is to wear the oil, keep the kids playing in short grass, in a sandbox or kiddie pool. Do lots of tick checks and tuck those pants! Hope that helps!

  6. Hi, I recently ordered Rose Geranium, making sure to get the Pelargonium capitatum x radens variety. It specified that it was that variety on the website, but when I got it in the mail, I noticed on the bottle it says Pelargonium graveolens. Should I return it? I want something to repel ticks, and if graveolens will work as well as capitatum, I will keep it. But if not, I’ll need to return it and keep searching for capitatum. Thanks for your help.

    1. Hmm… I have only used the capitum x radens, because that was the species reported to be best. I believe that other species of Geranium still do have tick-repelling properties, just not as much. But you never know! I might try it for a couple weeks and then return it if I don’t see the results. Best of luck!

  7. Thank you for all the wonderful information! Do you have any suggestions as what a pregnant woman could do to protect herself?

    1. Yeah, you definitely have to be careful with Essential Oils during pregnancy. The geranium oil I speak of is one of the “safer” oils- with some websites claiming it is safe to use in the trimesters 2 and 3. Of course, that will be at your own risk and warrants more research. Even better if you can “wear it” without putting it on your skin. Maybe consider one of those little clay diffuser pendants and lace it into your shoes?

      I would wear light-colored clothing, wear long pants and utilize the pant-sock-tuck a lot. If you spend a lot of time hiking and in the outdoors, I would spring for the Lymeez Tick Gaiters.

      Hope that helps! :)

  8. I have a tick removal suggestion that I learned in the ER when I had a large tick completely embedded in my leg and couldn’t handle it- the ER doctor used a method that has worked for me every time since. Here it is: He simply lathered his hands with a little soap and water and used one or two fingers to make tiny circles around and on the tick, with lots of pressure, until the simply let go! It works every time. It takes a full two or three minutes, but you are sure to get the head out.

    I never hear this method mentioned anywhere so I thought I would share. Congratulations on this wonderful site so full of useful information, and thank you for all the knowledge you’re accumulating and distributing! I would have loved to have a supportive source of information like this back in the eighties when I was raising my kids!

    1. I’ve never heard of that technique before- thanks for sharing! That sounds like a good one to keep in mind if the tick is really REALLY far in and there’s not much to grab hold of (if its not deep, I’d still use a tweezers or tool to grab the head and get it out ASAP).

      Thanks for all your kind words, they mean a lot! -Crystal

  9. We Are a bad tick/Lyme hotspot inSW Va, yuck.
    I read the other day to go over your clothes with a lint roller before coming inside to pick up any on your clothes. I thought this was a great idea and will be stocking up! We have had 3 cases of Lyme in our family so I really appreciated the info on your blog.
    Are there plants or flowers that you could recommend to plant in your yard that ticks hate?

    1. Oh no- Lyme is so scary!

      Unfortunately I don’t think there are any plants that will keep ticks away… mostly because the ticks are being carried into your yard on animals. Otherwise they are hatching in the leaf litter in shady places – so your time is better spent cleaning up woodsy borders and repelling the animals that are giving them a ride in. I wish there were something to plant, I’d plant a whole border of it!! :)

      1. My husband and I bought 5.5 acres last year at the end of Aug. The spray we were using seemed to work well until the ticks came out hardcore in late Oct. The land we bought was somebody’s farmette until about 6 years ago and hasn’t had anyone living there since, so it’s pretty overgrown with grass, weeds, brush, trees and dead trees. We’re planning to build either later this year or early next year, and I’m hoping to plant some plants there that will deter the deer instead of the ticks (since our neighbor is baiting deer, and they go right through our land to get from the woods to his bait). I think you’re right that trying to plant plants to keep ticks out won’t work. But keeping the deer out will naturally keep ticks out! And if we use a rock or wood chip border plus the plants, then we’re hoping that we can truly keep a safe area within our yard. I’m reading that lavender is an excellent choice, so that’s going in this year for sure!

  10. Great post!!! I hate ticks too. This is the first year we’ve actually had to deal with them and they’re miserable, our youngest has had 2 on the back of skull that were both there at least 30 hours, fortunately they were 10 weeks apart. Thanks.

  11. I just wanted to offer that you can DEFINITELY put collars on outdoor cats! :-D

    The collars just need to have a breakaway safety on them, that will break apart and open the collar, should the cat end up in a situation where it has caught its collar and is potentially going to hang itself! =:-O Our three indoor-outdoor cats have been wearing silver Vedante reflective collars ( for many years, and one two occasions (maybe three?), we’ve had a cat come home collar-less. We found one of the collars once– hanging from a tree branch, broken open. There are lots more options for reflective, breakaway collars for cats now, and we’re going to buy softer fabric ones so we can apply geranium essential oil to the fabric, instead of the cats. I hope this info is helpful to someone out there, battling the cats + ticks situation.

    1. Thanks Sherri- great tip about the breakaway collars!

      When writing this article originally, I couldn’t find info regarding if just the smell of rose geranium oil was enough to be harmful to cats. I hope it’s not! -Crystal

      1. Update– we’ve been using 1-2 drops of undiluted rose geranium essential oil on breakaway fabric collars on all three of our cats for a couple of months now. The scent (i.e., volatiles from the oil) doesn’t bother the cats after it fades for a couple of days, but if we put the collars on them without waiting those couple of days after dosing them with the oil, the cats lick at the collars, trying to clean off the scent… and then two of them–but not the third!– break out in tiny bumps on their bellies and chests (hives?!). But, as long as we wait until the scent is not so strong (to our noses, anyway), the cats don’t lick, don’t have any reaction we can detect, and don’t seem to mind wearing their homemade tick collars at all! :-D Best of all, none of them has brought home a single tick since we started using these collars!

        But, if anyone decides to try this on their own kitties, please proceed with caution: don’t use much oil at all, let it dissipate for a few days until the scent is pretty faint, then carefully monitor your cat(s) for any problems… and be prepared to take them to a vet in case of an adverse reaction. I hope this works for others as well as it’s been working for us! :)

  12. Love this info, thank you for posting. Turns out I have the wrong type of geranium oil after reading. I have one problem with geranium & or lemongrass oil. I used in my yard while planting & it attracted my honeybees way too much! My daughter & I had to go inside because the honeybees were clearly attracted to the scent & don’t normally behave like this. I’m wondering which oils don’t attract bees? Lemon eucalyptus maybe?

    1. We haven’t had a problem with our bees being attracted to the Geranium oil… hmm. We only use it when we are going to be working in the woods, or where the wooded area and untamed land meet the cut grass. And I only use a couple drops on the bottom half of my pant legs and shoes.

      I wonder if you were using it in a time of dearth and the bees were desperate for anything? I could see them be attracted if you were working close by the hives, also. I’m not sure about which oils might repel ticks and not be interesting to honey bees, sorry! I’ve never found anything even half as good as the Geranium though.

      Good luck and let us know what you find out! -Crystal

  13. Hi,
    Thank you for the informative article. We live in Rhode Island wear Lyme is very prevalent. I just found 6 ticks on my dog this weekend. Last year I only found 1 the entire summer! The grassed area he has access to is very short and just off our deck with nothing else around it. Not sure how or why ticks are getting there. We do have loads of wild rabbits this year that are coming close to the house…maybe they are carrying them?
    I am going to try the rose geranium oil on him. He usually wears a bandana everyday. I was wondering if you thought spraying the bandanas with the oil would do the trick or should I just put it directly on his skin? I liked the idea of putting in his shampoo too.
    Thanks for the great advice!

    1. Thanks Jen! Yes, I think just putting the Rose Geranium oil on his bandana is worth a try. I would give it a test run for a week or so, checking the dog very well every night for ticks. If you are still finding them, then it probably isn’t strong enough there… you might even have to experiment with putting the oil on him in different areas- like the base of his tail or on the bottom of his legs, to see what works best for him. Hope it helps! -Crystal

  14. Hello,

    I am interested in trying the diluted oil spray:

    8oz distilled water with 2 Tbs witch hazel or vodka and 10-30 drops of Rose Geranium Essential Oil.

    Can you tell me whether it makes a difference if the witch hazel is alcohol free or distilled?

    Thank you.


    1. I’m not a witch hazel expert, but my guess is that the Witch Hazel needs to have alcohol in it, otherwise the essential oils won’t dissolve in it. Oils will dissolve in alcohol, but not water. Hope that helps! -Crystal

  15. While I appreciate your research and advise, I have also done my own and every other article (which is many) that I have read lists Cinnamon as a definite NO for cats. It is on the toxic list of every other article I have seen because it contains phenols which are known to be toxic to cats. Please don’t recommend Cinnamon as a safe oil for cats.

    1. Hi Margo- thanks for your information. The brands I mentioned make the claim that they are safe for use on cats- I am guessing because the cinnamon oil level is very low and diluted.

      Anytime you put something on animal, it is never without risk, which I tried to convey in my post. If it is between one of these sprays and something like Frontline, maybe this is the better choice/lower risk?

  16. We recently moved, and have had an issue with ticks on our dogs. They are indoor dogs, but go out to potty and sometimes like to stay out and play for awhile (fenced in area). How often does the oil need to be applied?

    1. I think it depends a little bit on your dogs and the area they are in. If you can keep the grass in the fenced in area cut short and avoid debris, leaves, etc… then hopefully they won’t need much of the oil. To be effective, it probably needs to be applied every day, possibly more. Hope that helps! -Crystal

  17. Many thanks for the plethora of useful information. I had a tick on the upper side of my index toe after jogging in the forest (here on the Danish – German border) which I only discovered the next morning. After my mom had one on the inner side of her forearm the next day I bought black cumin seed oil as a natural repellent and agent against Lyme disease. Can’t say yet if it works as I have only been taking the oil for 3 days now, but it’s being promoted as a natural repellent here and I wondered if you heard about this this or made any first hand experience? All good wishes!

    1. Hi Svend!

      Are you taking the oil internally? It is a potent anti-microbial, so I can see why it would be suggested to take if you’ve been bitten by a tick- to improve immune function and help your body fight the possible infections.

      I haven’t heard of it being used topically to repel ticks though. Sorry, no other first-hand experience with it!

      1. Hi Crystal!

        Yes, I am taking cold-pressed black cumin oil internally, 2 tablespoons a day. It’s meant to repel those tedious little suckers as well as be effective against Lyme disease itself. I am rolling around in the forest on a daily, basis, I will check back in if I make it through the season without any more ticks…

        All good wishes!

  18. I purchased the brand of rose geranium oil specified, then used “straight” as recommended by author – no effect whatsoever, then I tried mixing a few drops with jojoba as a carrier and tried that for over a week, refreshing every other day. Nothing. I am picking ticks off my golden doodle morning AND evening. This natural, miracle fix, unfortunately, is not a fix for us.

  19. Could you suggest a natural insecticide that could be sprayed on lint that would be put in toilette paper rolls. Those would be placed in various locations on the property. Rodents would then use this material for their nests…the material would kill the tics and not hurt the rodent…but keep the tic population down. Obviously, would need a liquid….Thanks for any thoughts…
    Also, since chickens eat tics, can they get Lyme and other associated diseases…so then can we get those diseases from them?
    I am very concerned about tic born illnesses…Have two young friends who have Lyme, etc. The one is about 40 and can only work from home and not at all full time…using a multitude of processes to get well….The other is 19 and is wheelchair bound…both women….

    1. Hi Valerie!

      I don’t know of a “natural” insecticide that would work for the tick tubes. Permethrin is what would typically be used- very effective against ticks, and has a pretty low toxicity in mammals… so not a terrible choice. Also, using it in the tubes (as opposed to spraying it around in a broad fashion) would also greatly limit its potential affects on other bugs (for example, bees wouldn’t really be at risk here).

      It doesn’t appear that Lyme disease has been studied much in chickens… I can tell you that they wouldn’t get it from eating ticks though, the ticks would have to bite the chicken in order to transmit the disease to them. Let’s say that did happen. The only way that you could get Lyme from a chicken would be if its blood came in contact with your blood. For example, if you had a cut on your hand and you cleaned up chicken blood. In my opinion this is an extremely minuscule risk… practically non-existent.

      I am also very concerned about ticks and the illnesses they carry- I’ve met many people whose lives have been severely impacted by Lyme Disease. It’s one of my biggest fears- which is why we focus our efforts on keeping them out of the yard (I’ve been thinking of trying the tick tubes too, actually!), protecting ourselves, and keeping our bodies as healthy as possible. Hope this helps! -Crystal

    2. Hi I’m a nurse and I have a patient who believe Lyme disease lead to his debilitating illness. He is wheelchair bound on a vent to breath. It could be ALS as well but I have not personally heard of other case where such debilitation has happen From Lyme .
      Then to I’m just learning about Lyme in the last few years. I was wondering about your friends and what their condition is. I just read a study that shows stevia extract was shown to kill the bacteria that cause Lyme in lab tests. I’m hopeful this could benefit my patient who has tried everything but has only gotten worse. The studies I read have shows that long term antibiotics are really needed because the bacteria changes form and persisters are left and they can rebound later. They found that after antibiotic tx the bacteria was still found in joints and tendons,base of heart where collegen is. The brain who know if abx is affective against bacteria there. So I think if Lyme did cause his illness the lack treatment for years has lead to the severity of his illness.

      1. I think a good motto to follow when dealing with Lyme is that, “Lyme can cause anything.” It can absolutely be completely debilitating and life-stealing… especially if it goes a long time untreated. Hope your patient finds some relief- sounds like you will be a great help to him! -Crystal

    1. Hi Sarah- I don’t have a source for that info. It was mostly from (many) n=1 personal accounts of people trying it, along with reviews of different oil brands and types. I don’t doubt that Pelargonium graveolens works too. I read the article you mentioned- they only tested Pelargonium graveolens and didn’t compare it to Pelargonium capitatum x radens (darn, wish they would have!). They also only tested one type of tick, the Lonestar.

      However, they did seem to make a compelling case for Pelargonium graveolens, so if you already have that on hand it is certainly worth trying!

      In dealing with so many biological factors I think the only thing anyone can say with certainty is that every situation will be different. The type of tick, their desperation for a blood meal, your smell, the species of rose geranium and not only that, but maybe even more importantly how it was grown, distilled, processed… All we can do is try for ourselves and see what works. -Crystal

  20. Wow, I had no idea that ticks rely heavily on their sense of smell. My sister has a dog that she is worried about in terms of keeping him free of ticks, but she also doesn’t bathe him a whole lot. I bet if she started doing that then that would help decrease his risk of getting bitten.

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