Catnip is not just for cats: U

Who would have known? Whiskers’ ‘drug’ of choice is also a useful mosquito repellent. Image: Adobe Stock

Catnip is not just for cats: Use it to send pesky mozzies packing

Mozzies driving you nuts at night? Scientists say catnip oil is a natural mosquito repellent that’ll send the little critters on their way.

Catnip is not just for cats: U

Who would have known? Whiskers’ ‘drug’ of choice is also a useful mosquito repellent. Image: Adobe Stock

There is nothing worse than the annoying buzz of a mosquito keeping you from sleeping at night. There are plenty of insect and mosquito repellents on the market. However, if you prefer something more natural, it’s time to give catnip oil a try.

Studies have found that the herb that drives your cat into a frenzy of excitement contains an active ingredients that will ward off mosquitoes.

Catnip contains a powerful active ingredient

Researchers at Iowa State University found that essential oil of catnip, nepetalactone, may be up to 10 times more potent than standard repellents in warding off mosquitoes. Nepetalactone is the active ingredient in catnip (Nepeta cataria) that affects cats by causing them to roll in, lick, chew and rub themselves on the catnip and sometimes even fall asleep.

Part of the mint family, the herb is particularly odorous to felines and can have different effects on cats, from making them calm and laid-back to aggressively playful.  

An effective natural mosquito repellent

Diethyl-m-toluamide (DEET) is the main ingredient in many commercial insecticides. Researchers compared DEET to nepetalactone some years ago and found that the catnip oil was more effective than DEET in repelling mosquitoes.

According to the study, the essential oil prevents mosquitos from spotting you with their hypersensitive olfactory organs.

Lab tests showed the essential oil of catnip would be effective in repelling mosquitoes when sprayed on clothing or mosquito netting. Better natural alternatives to repel mosquitoes have become available in recent year.

There have been reported health problems with DEET, ranging from brain swelling in children, anaphylactic shock, low blood pressure and possibly even death.

A wealth of benefits

Catnip oil, which is extracted from the aromatic herb, has been used for centuries as a soothing tea for conditions like indigestion, coughs, menstrual cramps and insomnia. Catnip oil is available from health stores and companies that sell essential oils for aromatherapy and herbal treatments.

Growing catnip at home

Catnip is a great addition to your garden and very easy to grow, according to The herb is in the mint family, and like its minty relatives, is a herbaceous perennial with square-shaped stems and subtle blossoms.

Catnip leaves are grey-green in colour with a slightly velvety feel. The herb will happily grow and spread in a variety of soil conditions. Catnip is best grown in a hanging pot if you want it to survive the neighbourhood cats.

Catnip blooms from mid-summer to early autumn, and the fragrant white flowers attract pollinating bees to the garden.

Other plants that make good mosquito repellent

Other plants that also act as natural mosquito repellents include citronella, eucalyptus, mint, marigold, lemongrass, lavender, marigold, rosemary and garlic.

ALSO READ: Ten easy-to-grow herbs you should have in your garden