It's that buggy time of year again, and we always love to tell folks how effective essential oils can be as mosquito repellents on the body and inside spaces – AND how to choose and blend the best oils. (See blends at the bottom :)


Catnip Essential Oil

It's great to know that several essential oils are effective at repelling mosquitoes, and Catnip essential oil has been tested as 10 times more effective than DEET, the chemical found in many over-the-counter "unnatural" formulas. The reason this is good to know is that DEET has been called a safety concern for children (which really means "everyone" doesn't it?)

An Iowa State research group, which had previously found catnip essential oil repels cockroaches, presented the report at the 222nd National Meeting of the American Chemical Society. Below is a quote from Science Daily as to how the experiment was done:

Researchers put groups of 20 mosquitoes in a two-foot glass tube, half of which was treated with nepetalactone (our Catnip essential oil is 80% neptalactone). After 10 minutes, only an average of 20 percent — about four mosquitoes — remained on the side of the tube treated with the oil. The same tests with DEET (diethyl-m-toluamide) resulted in approximately 40 percent to 45 percent — eight-nine mosquitoes — remaining on the treated side.


The Catnip Herb

Repellency of DEET and neptalactone were compared on a scale from -100 to +100. A rating of zero means half of the insects would stay on the treated side and half on the untreated side. In the tests, catnip ranged from +49 percent to +59 percent By comparison, at the same doses, DEET’s repellency was only about +10 percent in this bioassay.

Researchers says nepetalactone is about 10 times more effective than DEET because it takes about one-tenth as much nepetalactone as DEET to have the same effect. Most commercial insect repellents contain about 5 percent to 25 percent DEET. Presumably, much less catnip oil would be needed in a formulation to have the same level of repellency as a DEET-based repellent.

Woo Hoo! So you actually need less catnip oil than deet in your formula. AND, we've also just added Eucalyptus Citradora, which is also a very popular insect repelling essential oil. Like Citronella, it has a very high level of cintronellal, but not quite that same lemony-grassy scent. Use of either is a personal preference.

Blends and Recipes

So you have many ways to use catnip and other oils to repel bugs during the Summer. You can make a lotion or a water (or even partially-alcohol) based spray, or simply let the oils run in a diffuser in your home.

Body Sprays and Lotions

If you'd like to make an effective body spray, you'll need to add a little "tween", a naturally derived compound that helps oils and water stay mixed. You'll find it on our mixing bottles page. Some folks say use an equal amount of Tween in your recipe as you're using essential oils, but we've found we can use much less (perhaps 1/4) if we don't mind shaking the bottle before we use it. So, here's 3 recipes you can try, or make up your own and see what ya get. If you want to make a lotion, use any uncented cream for your base, like our organic jojoba/coconut. You won't need Tween if you're mixing in a cream base. For each one ounce of total liquid, use the following:

Recipe #1
1.5ml Catnip Oil
1.5ml Eucalyptus Citradora Oil
0.5ml Peppermint Oil (use only 7 drops if the spray will be used on children under 12)
add perhaps 10 drops of Tween (don't be offended by the smell -- it actually is almost undetectable in about a day) and fill the bottle the rest of the way with water and/or alcohol (some folks find the alcohol mixes better, but we use water).

Recipe #2
1.0ml Catnip Oil
1.5ml Geranium Oil (A VERY popular ingredient in natural mosquito repellents)
1.5ml Citronella OR Eucalyptus Citradora
0.5ml Peppermint Oil (again use only 7 drops if the spray will be used on children under 12). The peppermint is not really a requirement, but we think the menthol may add repellent action.

Diffusing in your home

Because of the relatively high cost of catnip essential oil with a high concentration of neptalactone (like ours), you may choose to go with either none at all, or perhaps 1/10th of your entire formula being catnip, the rest being whatever you like to smell!  We recommend Eucalyptus Citradora, Citronella, Geranium, and a little Peppermint.  ALL these oils have been noted effective, and we think experimenting at home is fun. So for best long-term results, make a note of what you put in your diffuser each time along with the results. You'll make your own finest critter-repelling creation!