Catnip: A Sustainable, Botanical Mosquito Repellent To Protect Against Malaria

Photo credit: Pixabay

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), World Malaria Report 2018, there were 219 million malaria cases and 439,000 related deaths. Over 90 percent of cases and deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa.

Children and pregnant women are most vulnerable. Notably, children under the age of five years old are nearly two-thirds of the victims.

The culprits are infected female Anopheles mosquitoes. The mosquitoes are typically busy at night, devouring up to 75 bites per night.

As with any epidemic, or some may consider malaria an endemic, preventing the disease shows better results than treating the disease.

Sleeping under insecticide-treated nets worked for a period of time.  As with all predators, the mosquitoes adapted, changed their biting habits, and built a resistance to certain insecticides.

Mosquito repellents  containing DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) are effective for up to 7-hours of protection, but they’re cost prohibitive to rural sub-Saharan populations.

Essential oils from plants indigenous to Kenya showed promise under trial conditions. They worked better than DEET and have the potential to stimulate the local economy.

One particular standout was essential oil of Nepeta Cataria (N. Cataria), a perennial plant widely known as catnip or catmint. The major constituent of catnip is Nepetalactone (NPL), which is found in the leaves and stem. It’s a better topical repellent than DEET. It also showed 8-hour protection against insects compared to DEET’s 7-hour protection.

According to Big Cat Rescue, when inhaled, catnip is known to make big cats like tigers, lions, leopards, lynx, jaguars, as well as small house cats act unusual. They become happy, euphoric, excited, hyper, playful, intoxicated, and sedated.

This got me thinking – are Anopheles mosquitoes crazy for catnip like cats? Once inhaled, does it have a sedative effect on the mosquitoes causing them to bite less frequently? Do they experience intoxicated drunkenness? Hmmm…I digress.

Needless to say, catnip is safer than DEET and the locals are more receptive to applying the essential oil mosquito repellent.

Growing, harvesting, and extracting the essential oil of N. Cataria plants are a viable source for Anopheles mosquito repellent. The essential oil can be used in lotions, soaps, perfumes, and indoor sprays.

One important fact, essential oil mosquito repellent used in conjunction with insecticide-treated nets reduce malaria by 80% more than just sleeping under the net.