Monday, May 25, 2009

You'd better really like cats


ScienceDaily (Aug. 28, 2001) — CHICAGO, August 27 — Researchers report that nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET — the compound used in most commercial insect repellents.


Why catnip repels mosquitoes is still a mystery, says Peterson. “It might simply be acting as an irritant or they don’t like the smell. But nobody really knows why insect repellents work.”

No animal or human tests are yet scheduled for nepetalactone, although Peterson is hopeful that will take place in the future.

If subsequent testing shows nepetalactone is safe for people, Peterson thinks it would not be too difficult to commercialize it as an insect repellent. Extracting nepetalactone oil from catnip is fairly easily, he says. “Any high school science lab would have the equipment to distill this, and on the industrial scale it’s quite easy.”

Catnip is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family and grows wild in most parts of the United States, although it also is cultivated for commercial use. Catnip is native to Europe and was introduced to this country in the late 18th century. It is primarily known for the stimulating effect it has on cats, although some people use the leaves in tea, as a meat tenderizer and even as a folk treatment for fevers, colds, cramps and migraines.

A patent application for the use of catnip compounds as insect repellents was submitted last year by the Iowa State University Research Foundation. Funding for the research was from the Iowa Agriculture Experiment Station.

I'll take being chased by cats because DEET is not good for you or for anything else...

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