It seems there is scientific reasoning in using old folklore remedies, and it has been found that sweetgrass is the easy solution to your mosquito problem that is both pleasant and safe. There is extensive research into the field of repelling biting insects that not only make our summers more irritating, but also may carry diseases.
A team of U.S. researchers delved into the remedies often used by Native Americans, who decorated their homes with Hierochloe odorata, otherwise known as sweetgrass, in order to repel mosquitoes and other insects that might’ve inflicted itchy bites.
Through steam distillation, the researchers have extracted the oil from the mosquito-banishing plant and tested the effect of each compound until they narrowed down the list to two useful substances that could be used in future products. Their test subjects were observed as they responded to the various samples.
They used a red substance that mimicked blood and was used to allure mosquitoes, sealed in vials that were covered by a thin membrane to simulate human skin. Each membrane was then coated with compounds from sweetgrass oil, insect repellent, N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET), ethanol solvent control and other extracts from distillation without using steam.
The mosquitoes were allowed to bite the membranes of the vials, after which the count was made and the tiny insects were killed in order to properly detect which one had a bigger intake of red dye. According to research chemist Charles Cantrell of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, two compounds stood out of the fold: phytol and coumarin.
Both substances are known to have mosquito repelling properties, and yet neither are commercialized with that goal in mind. However, the study has proven that they are well on part with DEET as far as their capabilities are concerned.
In fact, coumarin was reportedly used in the 1990’s by Avon in their ‘Skin So Soft’ product, which has proven to unknowingly have quite a warding off effect on mosquitoes, and has further led the cosmetic company to develop products precisely with that specific goal in mind later on.
Phytol, on the other hand, while is well known for its insect repelling properties is rarely used and often featured in essential oils made from plants. In spite of their results, neither are featured in products made for keeping mosquitoes away.
Cantrell noted, however, that both compounds were highly successful during the 3 minute long trial, and further research is needed before they can properly attest that will be effective for longer than that.
No plans have been made about creating products for the public just yet, but if their tests prove beneficial, it should be expected to appear within the next year or perhaps two.
Image source: ibcworldnews.com