Neem for Ticks/Mosquitos

A few weeks ago I was reading about photographer Anton Sorokin’s recent experience with leishmaniasis (from sandflies).

A Twitter user suggested a safer homemade bug repellent made using a 1:3 ratio of natural neem oil concentrate and coconut oil.

Has anyone ever heard of/tried this? As a breast cancer survivor I generally avoid using DEET, etc. but wish to avoid mosquito/tick-borne illnesses. Any thoughts?


I tend to be sceptical when somebody sells something as “natural” and equates it with “safe” , the only way to be remotely sure is to look at research. Apparently it is efficient atleast as a mosquito repellent, but i dont know how safe it is compared to other stuff. quick google scholar points into it being antimutagenic, but possibly spermatotoxic? IANAD so do your research.


Having had leishmaniasis (from sand flies), having dealt with ticks, mosquitoes, and all sorts of other biting and stinging insects, and currently working in the jungle in SE Asia my recommendation is to wear full coverings (minimize exposed skin), to stick with the potent stuff (like DEET), and to reapply it frequently.

All the oils and such smell nice and some of them work a little bit for a short time, but aren’t all that effective (at least in my experience).

Now, if you’re in the US you don’t really have much to worry about from mosquitoes, so whatever you use there is going to be fine (as long as you don’t mind a few bites). Ticks, that’s mainly a matter of checking yourself frequently.

If you’re in the tropics, stick with the potent stuff. The biting insects are vectors for too many nasties to take extra risks.


I personally wouldn’t recommend using on your skin until the CDC identifies the practice as safe and effective. Could be fine, but given there are products on the market that are safe and effective, I wouldn’t risk it. I was curious so did a bit of searching for articles on the topic.

Field Studies on the Mosquito Repellent Action of Neem Oil

Repellent efficacy of DEET, MyggA, neem (Azedirachta indica) oil and chinaberry (Melia azedarach) oil against Anopheles arabiensis, the principal malaria vector in Ethiopia

Repellent Action of Neem Cream Against Mosquitoes

Neem oil poisoning: Case report of an adult with toxic encephalopathy


Welcome to the forum!

I’ve gotten good mileage out of permethrin treated clothing; does a great job against ticks in my experience (less against mosquitoes). I also use Repel lemon eucalyptus (there are other brands too). It is probably not quite as good as Deet-based stuff, BUT you can spray it on synthetic field clothes without destroying them (which Deet definitely does). But yeah, if it were a matter of serious health concern and not something I’d be using on an everyday basis, I’d go with the Deet.


We have used vinegar as mosquito repellent before. It works pretty well, for a couple hours, then you need to reapply.

Deet is a chemical compound that may contain carcinogenic compounds. Please do not spray it directly on your skin, as it increases the risk over time for skin cancer. Neem oil has not been approved by the FDA nor the CDC, so please do not use potential “solutions”. Cedar oil works for ticks and mosquitoes, but again you should not spray on your skin. Something “natural” or “homeopathic” can cause many different issues, like a mutagenic, carcinogenic, spermatotoxic, and other issues. Leishmaniasis is a protist carried by a vector such as sand flies and mosquitoes. You should get vaccinated before you go to a foreign country, and apply a CDC approved, non-carcinogenic bug spray, wear full coverings, and get tested every two weeks for malaria, dengue fever, West Nile Virus, chikungunya, leishmaniasis, and other bacterial, viral, fungal, protistal, parasites, and even chromist, plant, excavate, amoebazoans, and choanoflagellates.
Stay safe please.

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I wouldn’t say “nothing to worry about in US” about mosquitoes. Have you ever worked in the swamps of Louisiana? We may not have malaria, but we have plenty of other diseases.

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I don’t know anything about the safety of neem oil, but I would be reluctant to trust my health to ‘a Twitter user‘ unless I had good reason to believe the person had expert- level credentials in human biochemistry.

I use Babyganics insect repellent; sometimes along with insect repellent clothing. Babyganics is a mixture of different essential oils. It smells pretty nice. That said, I am not usually in areas with ~lots~ of biting insects. I like Babyganics sunscreen, too. It is just about the only sunscreen that doesn’t bother my eyes. (I have no relationship with Babyganics other than as a consumer).

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Obviously said by someone who doesn’t live in Minnesota where the mosquito is laughingly considered our unofficial state bird. People who don’t travel much outside of the state don’t believe me when I say that other states don’t have this problem.

We also have a significant problem with deer and horse flies. I went years ‘not minding a few bites’ but it appears I have developed some kind of reaction to various bug bites and they can get angry, red, swollen, inflamed and prone to develop into cellulitis. Just as I’m wanting to spend more time outdoors, I almost see it as an enemy I need to ward off.

So, no matter how hot it is, if I wish to be outside where bugs are present, I wear long pants (or trousers to the Europeans among us!). We spray them with permethrin (not while wearing). You let that dry and you can wear them for a certain number of washes and/or weeks with maintained efficacy. We have dedicated pants for this and they come off immediately upon getting home and put somewhere away from other clothing or living areas (precaution against ticks).

I find wearing a hat helps a little (and we always wear one in the sun) and we often spray our hats with repellent. Long sleeves also help as do neck gaiters if the flies are biting.

If it’s too hot to be outside in these clothes (and today’s projected heat index is 105C), I don’t go into buggy, natural areas.

@ catttailsandcobwebs , I know you don’t want to use deet or regular repellent so this doesn’t address your question. But I wonder if spraying dedicated clothing with permethrin outside (on a non windy day) and treating the pants with care, could be some kind of compromise? Perhaps not. And I will say, we only use permethrin on our clothing… on our skin, we use other commercial insect repellents.

For parts of Minnesota, one can buy specialized gear for people who want to be out without getting eaten alive (as we call it here). like this:

But I don’t know what kinds of bugs you’re hoping to avoid. I doubt this kind of gear works for sandflies. :-) I’ve often considered leg gaiters (for ticks) and headnet (for swarming flies and mosquitoes - not sure they’d work on midges and gnats. Depending on the bugs you’re avoiding, there may be similar gear that provides a physical barrier rather than a chemical one. I might have worried about looking silly when I was younger. Now, I care quite a bit less. I’m already the odd person prowling around in vegetation looking for spiders and moths and drone flies. I might as well embrace the nature geek.


I often walk through grasses or brush where there are ticks. For ticks, I recommend wearing long pants and shirt, and wearing gaiters. Gaiters will keep the ticks on the outside of your clothing longer, so you can stop and check yourself often. When I get to a clear spot for a break, I strip down completely and check more carefully, especially the nape of your neck, arm pits, and groin areas. I would consider the permethrin coated clothing if the ticks are especially bad.

Gaiters are often made for snow, but they work fine in grassland, and help keep the grass fruit and sock destroyers out of your sock also.

Good luck!


Thank you to everyone – as I said above, I’m really only wishing to avoid mosquitoes and ticks. I’m in Pennsylvania, so yea…no worries in regard to tropical beasties. However, in PA Lyme disease is a real concern from ticks…and, in my own backyard the white-footed woods mosquito delivers a painful bite as well as the ever-annoying Asian Tiger-mosquito.

Me, too! Love it. :)

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I never intended to say that the United States does not have mosquito diseases, I just meant to say especially in other countries.

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