Natural Insect Repellent:
A suggested natural insect repellent with links to website
Compared to other places I've lived in my life, Colorado does not have
mosquitoes, at least not the sort of bugs that threaten to eat one alive.
After moving here I stopped carrying a bottle of DEET insect repellent
in my backpack This has changed though with the arrival of
West Nile Virus (WNV). It once was that a few mosquito bites were
no big deal, part of summer, part of being outdoors. With West ,Nile
Virus rampant in the state, I'd prefer not to get bitten if I can help
it. But which is worse, West Nile Virus or the long term health
risks from using insect repellents made with DEET? I don't know
if anyone knows yet. I'd prefer not to have to run the experiment on myself.
Over the years we've tried various "Natural" insect repellents
and found them either repulsive, ineffective or both.
I had the good fortune or meeting a most interesting fellow, John
Ellas, and his son, up on the Wapta Ice Field in Canada earlier this spring.
We began talking because he was using a handheld ultraviolet water sterilizer
to purify their drinking water. I discovered that he manufactures
and sells a number of natural insect repellents. He impressed me and so
did the thought that if a repellent would work against a full blooded
Canadian Mosquito, Colorado mosquitoes wouldn't stand a chance.
He makes several different products, some which rely on a patented Swiss
oil extract which is absorbed into the skin and produce an odor aura which
mosquitoes don't like and others which rely on the unique aversion mosquitoes
have to catnip oil.
Here are links to his website. You will discover that he has his hand
in a number of other interesting business ventures. We are going
to order some of these products in the coming weeks and will be able to
sell you them at the listed retail prices.
The repellents come in two strengths, regular and extra-strength.
Here is a description of the regular:
Here is a description of the extra strength formula:
Here are some of the articles John has posted on his website describing
the research on these products:
-New England Journal of Medicine [http://www.deetfree.ca/images/NEJM%20Comparative%20Analysis.pdf]
This article compares DEET against the natural repellents and finds
most come up lacking staying power. The one that came in second,
what they refer to as "a soy bean based oil" is the patented
Swiss base used in these formulas. It doesn's last as long as
the DEET, having only a 90 minute action compared to the hours and hours
that strong DEET has, but it works...
-Johns Hopkins (pdf) a short summary review of the NEJM article
-West Nile Virus and Biteblocker (pdf) [http://www.deetfree.ca/images/West%20Nile%20virus.pdf]
A nice review article about West Nile Virus, history, signs, symptoms
and a mention of our Canadian product, referred to as BiteBlocker
-DEET (link about toxic encephalopathy) [http://www.deetfree.ca/images/West%20Nile%20virus.pdf]
A news article arguing that DEET maybe more dangerous than West
A news review on the research about catnip oil as a mosquito repellent:
CATNIP DRIVES CATS WILD, BUT DRIVES MOSQUITOES AWAY
AMES, Iowa -- Although it drives cats wild, catnip appears to be a big
turn-off for mosquitoes.
In research conducted at Iowa State University , catnip was 10 times more
effective at repelling mosquitoes than the compound used in most commercial
bug repellents. The finding was reported today at the 222nd national meeting
of the American Chemical Society in Chicago .
Chris Peterson and Joel Coats studied the effect of nepetalactone on mosquitoes.
Nepetalactone is an essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its odor.
In past studies, the researchers had found that catnip oils could repel
cockroaches. Peterson recently left a post-doctoral research position
at Iowa State and is now working as an entomologist with the U.S. Forest
Service in Starkville , Miss. Coats is the chair of ISU's Department of
The researchers placed groups of 20 mosquitoes in a glass tube treated
on one side with a high dose of nepetalactone. After 10 minutes, an average
of 80 percent of the mosquitoes had moved to the untreated side of the
tube. In a low-dose test, an average of 75 percent moved to the untreated
The researchers conducted similar tests with DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide),
the compound used in many commercial repellents. In those tests, 55 to
60 percent of the insects moved away from the treated side.
In the laboratory, repellency is measured on a scale from 100 percent
(all mosquitoes repelled) to -100 percent (all mosquitoes attracted).
In the ISU tests, catnip ratings ranged from 49 to 59 percent at high
doses, and 39 to 53 percent at low doses.
Peterson said it took about a tenth as much nepetalactone to have the
same repellency as DEET. "In other words, nepetalactone is about
10 times more effective than DEET," he said. "Most commercial
insect repellents contain about 5 to 25 percent DEET. Presumably, much
less catnip oil would be needed to achieve the same repellency as a DEET-based
Why catnip repels mosquitoes remains a mystery. "It might simply
be an irritant," said Peterson, "or they just don't like the
No animal or human tests are scheduled for nepetalactone, although Peterson
is hopeful that will take place in the future. Iowa State has submitted
a patent application for the use of catnip compounds as insect repellents.
The project was funded by the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment
Catnip is a perennial herb in the mint family and grows wild in most parts
of the United States . It also is cultivated for commercial use. It's
primarily known for its stimulating effect on cats, although some people
use the leaves in tea, as a meat tenderizer and as a folk treatment for
fevers, colds, cramps and migraines. The plant also is used to make light
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