Can You Use Essential Oils on Livestock??

essential oils livestock

I like to post a variety of content here on The Prairie Homestead, and for the most part, we keep it pretty light and fun. But every once and a while, I like to dive in a little deeper and explore the science behind some of my crazy natural choices. I am ecstatic to be welcoming Eric Zielinski back to the blog today. He is a health coach and skilled researcher who specializes in natural topics that are right up my alley! From time to time, he’ll be joining us and helping me out by digging into research, as is the case for today’s oily livestock post!

Essential oils… for Livestock??

This past year, the Journal of Parasitology Research highlighted the findings from an interesting study that surveyed Kenyans in Bungoma County to see which essential oils they used to repel brown ear ticks (Rhipicephalus appendiculatus) on their cattle. Evidently, they use essential oils quite a bit.

Can you imagine what a survey like that would look like in the U.S.?

They’d probably get a lot of blank stares and “I don’t use oils on my livestock” kind of answers! Well, after some digging around, they uncovered that Kenyans favor these eight to keep ticks at bay:

1. Southern cone marigold (Tagetes minuta)
2. Tree marigold or “Mexican sunflower” (Tithonia diversifolia)
3. African juniper or “Kenya cedar” (Juniperus procer)
4. Solanecio mannii (no common name in English)
5. African or “popcorn” senna (Senna didymobotrya)
6. White sage or “tickberry” (Lantana camara)
7. African violet tree (Securidaca longepedunculata)
8. Orange bird berry (Hoslundia opposita)

After testing the oils further, the researchers uncovered that they were naturally rich sources of chemicals like cis-ocimene, dihydrotagetone, piperitenone and some other ones that I couldn’t pronounce if I had to. So, what’s the big deal? Two things:

1. “The results provide scientific rationale for traditional use of raw products of these plants in controlling livestock ticks by the Bukusu community and lay down some groundwork for exploiting partially refined products such as essential oils of these plants in protecting cattle against infestations with R. appendiculatus.”
2. This is a wake-up call for all American homesteaders!

Why aren’t we regularly tapping into the natural power of essential oils for our livestock?

The research is out there, and we need start implementing essential oils in our daily livestock regimens!


Essential Oil for Livestock 101

To help all y’all out there who aren’t too familiar with research search engines and egghead stuff, I put together this article as an “introductory resource” to wet your appetite. Hopefully, you’ll be inspired to do you own diggin’ and search out more ways to enhance your animal production and health more holistically.


The far-reaching effects of peppermint essential oil has been proven to be quite effective for our pets and livestock. In an Italian study published this year, it was observed that dogs suffering from widespread dermatitis could greatly benefit from a mixture of bitter orange, lavender, oregano, marjoram, peppermint, and helichrysum in a sweet almond/coconut oil carrier. Of the major active compounds in the solution, menthol was listed as being one of the most prominent. What did the researchers discover? Not only did topical applications two times a day for a month perform as well as conventional medical cream, the benefits lasted for over 180 days. And with no side effects!


Flies present as a major health concern all across the globe. In fact, according to an article published in Parasitology Research in 2012,

The housefly Musca domestica L. is recognized as a public health pest causing a serious threat to human and livestock by vectoring many infectious diseases. Chemical control method commonly used against this pest, though effective, has some major disadvantages, such as development of insect resistance and bioaccumulation. Pest management strategies for populations of houseflies are needed.

So, to help offer a solution to this problem, Indian researchers set out to determine if peppermint, ginger, Indian gooseberry or cinnamon could rise up to the occasion. Here’s what they found:


• The highest larvicidal activity was observed by peppermint. It exhibited a 96.8% repellency at just 1% concentration.
• Peppermint also performed the best at deterring oviposition (egg laying) up to 98.1%.
• Ginger was a close second at 84.9% repellency and 98.1% oviposition deterrence.
• Cinnamon and gooseberry rallied up the caboose with some promising results of their own: 77.9% and 63.0% repellency, and 60.0% and 42.6% egg laying deterrence, respectively.


Just this past month, another Italian study was published evaluating how “10 of the most known and used commercial essential oils” controlled six bacteria strains supporting livestock mastitis including E. coli and S. aureus.

What were the 10 oils that they tested?

1. Cinnamon (Cinnamomum zeylanicum L.)
2. Bergamot (Citrus bergamia Riss)
3. Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus Labill.)
4. Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Mill.)
5. Marjoram (Origanum majorana L.)
6. Oregano (Origanum vulgare L.)
7. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.)
8. Winter Savory (Satureja montana L.)
9. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L. ct. carvacrol)
10. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris L. ct. thymol)


**Keep these on hand folks! They are easy to get and super helpful to prevent a slew of livestock health concerns. **

What did they uncover from their research?

• Winter savory and both thyme species achieved the best results.
• Of all the tested blends, a mixture of winter savory and thyme (Thymus vulgaris L. ct. thymol) as the most effective at killing that bacteria causing livestock mastitis.
• Also, a blend of both thymes proved to be a particularly strong defense against S. aureus and S. sciuri.


To test the how essential oils react with gastrointestinal parasites in sheep, Brazilian researchers recently published a study in the journal Veterinary Parasitology that specifically evaluated how lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) handles sheep nematodes. Egg hatch and larval development tests were conducted on 30 naturally infected sheep and the team discovered that the EO reduced worm activity by up to 56% in just 10 days!


There are several different ways you can use essential oils for your animals and for your barnyard. Here are a few of my favorites:


Ready to take the Plunge with Essential Oils?

Whether you are wanting to use them for your family, your home, or your animals, I can help! There are all sorts of benefits to joining my team: including massive amounts of education, support, and free stuff!

Click here to get all the details about my favorite brand of oils >>


• Nardoni S, et al. Clinical and mycological evaluation of an herbal antifungal formulation in canine Malassezia dermatitis. J Mycol Med. 2014 Apr 17. pii: S1156-5233(14)00123-1.
• Fratini F, et al. Antibacterial activity of essential oils, their blends and mixtures of their main constituents against some strains supporting livestock mastitis. Fitoterapia. 2014 Jul;96:1-7.
• Ribeiro JC, et al. Efficacy of free and nanoencapsulated Eucalyptus citriodora essential oils on sheep gastrointestinal nematodes and toxicity for mice. Vet Parasitol. 2014 May 23. pii: S0304-4017(14)00305-7.
• Wanzala W, et al. Repellent Activities of Essential Oils of Some Plants Used Traditionally to Control the Brown Ear Tick, Rhipicephalus appendiculatus. J Parasitol Res. 2014;2014:434506.
• Morey RA, et al. Bioefficacy of essential oils of medicinal plants against housefly, Musca domestica L. Parasitol Res. 2012 Oct;111(4):1799-805.

Headshot_Zielinski_Eric L. Zielinski is on a mission to help people live the Abundant Life. His expertise as a health coach, public health researcher, speaker and writer are in demand all over America, but his primary focus is showering his three children and lovely wife with the tools that they need to be healthy and successful. Check out his website and follow him on Facebook.

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  1. Kimberly says

    Super helpful post, thank you so much! I’ve been spritzing our goats with the blend we use for mosquito repellent, but the dermatitis oils are new to me, and one of my does is in need of something.

    I’ve been using CleanWell botanical wipes for udder wipes – they’re thyme based and easy (I rinse before milking).

  2. says

    From reading the results of the study from Kenya citing control of brown ear ticks by using essential oils, I believe you may be misstating the study results.

    From, I quote:

    “The results provide scientific rationale for traditional use of raw products of these plants in controlling livestock ticks by the Bukusu community and lay down some groundwork for exploiting partially refined products such as essential oils of these plants in protecting cattle against infestations with R. appendiculatus.”

    The farmers were using raw plant products – not essential oils.

    • says

      Hi Laurie,

      Thank you for your comment! I can completely understand why you would interpret the conclusion of the Abstract the way that you did. I saw it in a different light because I am aware that Kenyan folk medicine has used EO for centuries. Also, when I reviewed the article in its entirety, I loosely interpreted the reference to “ethnobotanicals” (burning the leaves and using “volatiles”) to imply that the essential oils of the leaves were exploited as a bug repellant.

      For your convenience, I have included the link and quote below. :)


      “Use of tick-repellent plants in pasture lands or essential oils on hosts and their integration with other off-host or on-host tick control measures could be practical and provide economic ways of controlling not only livestock ticks but also arthropod vectors [38–40]. In our previous survey of livestock tick control ethnopractices among Bukusu community in Bungoma district, western Kenya, we found widespread use of ethnobotanicals derived from local/native plants to control tick infestations on cattle [41]. Blends of botanicals from one or more plants are used either as on-host suspensions or burnt and smoke used to fumigate cattle. Our follow up objective has been to assess the repellence of essential oils of some of these plants against R. appendiculatus adults in the laboratory, to characterize the chemical constituent profiles of the more repellent ones, and then to initiate both off- and on-host evaluation of their efficacy in controlling the ticks in the field. In the present paper, we report the results obtained from repellence assays of essential oils of 8 plants against R. appendiculatus adults and results of a more detailed study of two selected plants, Tagetes minuta L. and Tithonia diversifolia (Hemsl.)….

      In a previous study, we undertook a survey of indigenous knowledge of the Bukusu community of western Kenya on livestock ticks, the risks they pose and ethnopractices associated with their management [41]. The study showed that the Bukusu community has accumulated rich ethnoveterinary knowledge and practices and that on-host use of ethnobotanical suspensions and fumigation of host animals with volatiles from burning plant products (prepared from one or more of ~157 plants) constitute important methods of controlling the ticks.”

  3. Gabie says

    Thanks for the helpful insight! Any suggestions for a hen who has gone broody twice since late March and is loosing feathers? We live in Florida and I think the heat set off the second instance of broodiness. It has been 2 weeks and she still hasn’t started laying again as well as she just isn’t herself. She is a road island red and not quite a year old. I recently read an article about trauma in livestock and made an electrolyte recipe (water, salt, sugar and baking soda base) added to their waterer. Doesn’t seem to hurt but not sure it’s working either. She is certainly missing a component in her diet. Thanks!

  4. says

    Very interesting! So if peppermint was the most effective for fly spray…how would you use it…mix it with what? I wonder how much would be needed for 200 cows, 100 calves and 12 bulls? 😉 thanks!