We looked at the hard evidence to see if sage or its derivatives were effective as a natural mosquito repellent and/or mosquito killer.
Summary of Scientific Research
As a member of the mint family, Salvia officinalis (commonly known as sage) has long been a staple in home herb gardens and creative kitchens. Some folks have taken their sage usage a step farther, though, and believe that the herb can be used to repel mosquitoes. While this belief is widespread, scientific evidence to back up this conclusion are sparse, at best.
A 2018 survey study concluded that this natural method of mosquito prevention is practiced primarily within the United States, indicating potential origins as a folk remedy (1). Even so, this prevention method has been tested. Using a close relative of common sage known as Salvia microphylla or cherry sage, a 2012 study found an essential oil made from the plant’s leave held ~60% efficiency at repelling aphids (2).
While sage shows some general insect repelling qualities, there are not currently any follow-up studies to correlate these preliminary findings with mosquitoes of any species. To the same extent, sage has not been tested in order to determine an effective concertation or a highlighted for potentially toxic side effects based upon dermal exposure. As such, its safety for use in this capacity remains unclear.
Though research into the uses of sage in this domain are sparse, it does show promise all the same. Clearly, sage possesses some type of insect repelling qualities that almost certainly derive from its strong odor, both when crushed and while still on the stem. While this cannot conclusively be called a natural mosquito repellant, it also cannot be ruled out as an option for those who have not found success with other natural methods.
Sage Forms and Where to Get it
- Sage plants – Sage plants are a common feature in most herb gardens due to its versatile culinary applications. This is also because growing sage at home is fairly easy, requiring only sage starters bought from a plant nursery or seeds purchased online to begin. Once you’ve selected from the 750 types of sage, sow the seeds or starter directly into warm soil after all threats of frost have passed.
- While growing, sage prefers dry soil accompanied by hot temperatures and direct sunlight. After growing to maturity, be sure to keep up with harvesting its leaves to maximize production (3).
- In addition to rubbing the leaves directly on the skin to transfer some fragrant oils, sage leaves can also be burned to release its repellant oils over a broader area (1). This method is used by Native American groups for sacred purposes, indicating its general safety.
- Essential oils – In order to avoid the need to grow sage from scratch in order to extract its fragrant oils, some cut to the chase and purchase sage oil online. After deluding the oil according to packaged instructions, users may apply this oil directly to their skin or spray it upon areas where mosquitoes have been known to spawn (as a means of olfactory deterrent).
1 – Emily Lucille Moore, Mary Alice Scott,Stacy Deadra Rodriguez,Soumi Mitra,Julia Vulcan,Joel Javierla Cordova, Hae-Na Chung, Debora Linhares Lino de Souza, Kristina Kay Gonzales, and Immo Alex Hansen. An online survey of personal mosquito-repellent strategies. Published online 2018 Jul 3. doi: 10.7717/peerj.5151
2 – Ikeura, Kobayashi & Hayata, Ikeura H, Kobayashi F, Hayata Y. Repellent effect of herb extracts on the population of wingless green peach aphid. Journal of Agricultural Science. 2012;4:139–144. doi: 10.5539/jas.v4n5p139
3 – Park Seed. Sage: Growing Guide and Planting Instructions
Other Plants & Herbs as Mosquito Repellents
Checkout our analysis of other plants & herbs as natural mosquito repellents: