Natural Mosquito Repellent (Sans Toxic Chemicals) May Beat DEET

Photo (cc) by John Tann

I love summer, but unfortunately, the advent of summer in northern Montana brings a very unwelcome guest: mosquitoes – and lots of them.

The area where I live, with its irrigated croplands, ponds and pools of sitting water, is mosquito heaven. In fact, Montana is one of the 10 worst states in the U.S. for mosquitoes. Any outdoor activity, including walking to the end of my long driveway to check the mail, involves spritzing my body with a DEET mosquito repellent, unless I want to be covered in itchy bites.

I don’t like using strong chemicals like DEET on my skin, but I do like its effectiveness in warding off mosquitoes. I use more natural repellents on my children, but I have to reapply them often, and they’re not nearly as effective.

But I could soon have a new, favorite mosquito repellent, and it’s all natural.

New research described in an American Chemical Society press release has confirmed that sweetgrass, a plant used in Native American traditional medicine, is effective in keeping biting insects, particularly mosquitos, at bay. The research was presented this week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society in Boston.

Sweetgrass is native to northern climates, including Montana.

“It gives off a sweet aroma that repels mosquitoes,” said chemist Charles Cantrell, who has worked with colleagues at the USDA’s Natural Products Utilization Research Unit at the University of Mississippi to test plants used in traditional therapies.

Cantrell steam-distilled oil from sweetgrass and used the compound alongside DEET to test mosquitoes’ avoidance. In one test, sweetgrass oil matched the repellent potency of DEET.

DEET is the gold standard for deterring biting insects, but its potential for environmental damage and toxicity to humans has been a concern, according to the Smithsonian. Cantrell said that DEET is not only effective, but it lasts for a long time.

“You see that the market is being flooded with natural products, essential-oil-based insect repellents,” Cantrell said. “There are some that work, but there are a lot of them that may only work for 20 or 30 minutes. What we’re ideally looking for is something natural and nontoxic that’s just as effective as DEET, that will work as an effective repellent for 10 or 12 hours like DEET.”

When broken down into its chemical components, sweetgrass has two chemicals – phytol and coumarin – that appear to repel mosquitoes.

Coumarin is an ingredient in some mosquito repellents, and the potential repelling activity of phytol has been documented in scientific literature.

Still, Cantrell said he’s happy that “we were able to find constituents that are known to act as insect repellents in a folk remedy, and now we understand that there’s a real scientific basis to this folklore.”

Cantrell plans to continue studying the long-term effectiveness of sweetgrass to see if it’s up to par with repellents like DEET.

It’s also important to note that not only are mosquito bites itchy and annoying, they’re potentially dangerous. Mosquitoes can carry diseases including West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis, malaria and others.

I would love to have an all-natural alternative to chemical DEET that is not only effective, but lasts longer than 20 minutes.

What do you think of using sweetgrass as a mosquito repellent? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
8 Products to Reduce Anxiety and Stress
8 Products to Reduce Anxiety and Stress

Current events have you feeling anxious? These Amazon products can take the edge off.

The 9 Best Home Insurers for Customer Satisfaction
The 9 Best Home Insurers for Customer Satisfaction

These are the only homeowners insurance companies to earn above-average scores for customer satisfaction.

Retirees Can Dodge Taxes on These 9 Types of Income
Retirees Can Dodge Taxes on These 9 Types of Income

There are lots of things Uncle Sam can’t touch — so long as you play by the rules.

9 Purchases That Will Make You More Productive
9 Purchases That Will Make You More Productive

These Amazon products can give you an extra edge at work and other parts of your life.

It’s Worth Paying More for These 7 Things
It’s Worth Paying More for These 7 Things

Sometimes, the difference in quality makes it worthwhile to open your wallet a little wider.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles
The 16 Cars Most Likely to Last 200,000 Miles

One automaker takes half the spots on a list of the longest-lasting vehicles.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

Will Stimulus Checks Increase Your Social Security Taxes?
Will Stimulus Checks Increase Your Social Security Taxes?

Could all those “free” checks prove costly down the road?

11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic
11 Products Now in Short Supply Due to the Pandemic

Many goods we take for granted have become tough to find in 2021.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday
9 Deep Discounts Available on Amazon This Friday

These items are all steeply discounted — but the deals won’t last long.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.