The People's Perspective on Medicine

Catnip Wards Off Mosquitoes and Ticks

Bug insect itch west nile

Q. Recently you discussed how to avoid ticks and other creepy-crawlies in the summer. Some studies show that catnip oil is as good as DEET in repelling mosquitoes, and geranium oil likewise is effective for ticks. I use a combination of the two on my dogs and myself and we’ve never had any problems with ticks, fleas or mosquitos. I hope that helps someone else.

A. Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a plant in the mint family that is probably best known for its behavioral effects on cats. The oil from the plant, nepetalactone, has been found to be comparable to DEET in warding off some species of mosquitoes, ticks and mites (Phytochemistry, Jan. 2011). There is also research suggesting that catnip oil repels stable and house flies (Medical and Veterinary Entomology, Sept. 2009). Catnip oil may irritate the skin of some people.
Swedish researchers have found that geranium oil at a fairly high concentration is a good tick repellent (Journal of Medical Entomology, July 2006). Thanks for suggesting these natural approaches.

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    About the Author
    Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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    For catnip spray use 25 drops catnip oil ( 1/4 teaspoon) 4 ounces rubbing alchohol and 1teaspoon vanilla extract. The vanilla is just an odorant. Use spray bottle to dispense. Keep away from eyes,nose, and mouth.

    I work at a pet store and we sell catnip oil in a small spray bottle. Usually it is used to spray cat scratch posts or toys so cats will be attracted to them. You should be able to find it at most pet stores I would think.

    Can you use dried catnip in sachets in your yard to repel mosquitoes?

    I have grown Catnip in my garden and I must say it is really effective against mosquitoes, house flies and aphids. The only problem with catnip is that it has some behavioural side effects on pet cats :(.
    When my pet cat (meeow) goes near it, she starts rolling on the ground and becomes aggressive. Can anyone tell me how to deal with this?

    lemon eucalyptus oil sprayed on the skin works but has to be reapplied every half hour or so. neem oil works but it smells horrible. i use it mixed with water and a little bit of soap to keep spider mites off of my plants as well.

    I tried this a couple of summers ago. Grew my own catnip (in hanging pots to keep it out of reach of several neighborhood cats) – made sure it was the real-thing catnip. Found a recipe for the catnip mosquito spray on the internet. Don’t have the recipe any more, but the person who posted it said it worked, and the solution seemed pretty strong to me.
    It didn’t work to deter mosquitoes at all as far as I could tell. It did work to attract the neighborhood cats to me. One day I had a tiny piece of the freshly picked catnip in my pocket as I walking in the yard – a neighborhood cat that usually ignores me followed everywhere I went, meowing the whole way.
    To the original poster, have you tried to deter mosquitoes with catnip, in any form, without the DEET or other additive? Just wondering.

    I like the idea of a natural repellent but no directions were given. Where to get and how to use would have been nice to have included.

    Well, nothing ever bites me because of the supplements I take, including high-B complex and garlic… So far this summer I haven’t used repellant even once, kept windows open, have spent lots of time outside at night — and exactly one bite so far. (I admit, it’s much worse in the mountains… those blackflies would bite chunks of flesh off an elephant!)
    My cats love me, but they would love me SO much more if I were covered in catnip oil! Also, I wonder what would happen if one were in the woods and a bobcat or cougar came along… would catnip oil disarm their bad intentions? By the way, I think you can buy this oil at pet supply stores.

    Where do you get either one?

    Will you or other readers show more precise facts about catnip oil and west nile virus mosquito protection? Are there other negatives other than skin irritation that you indicated? What type of stores [local] sell catnip oil and how what recipe mix is suggested? How often does it need to be reapplied? — and so forth.

    Exactly how do you use catnip to repel mosquitoes? Rub it directly on the skin? Make a lotion or oil? Drink it in a tea?

    What about the use of these oils on cats?

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