Scared of using insect repellents made from harmful chemicals? The market might soon offer you a “purely herbal-based and health-friendly” mosquito repellent.
A breakthrough in this direction was recently achieved, claimed scientists at the Regional Centre of the National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR) at Bhowali.
“We discovered strong mosquito repellent properties in Almoria geranium, which is a hardy plant species,” Dr Kuldeep Singh Negi, an office-incharge-cum-senior scientist at the NBPGR’s Bhowali Regional Centre, aid. “The aromatic plant’s insect repellent properties were very health-friendly for humans. In fact, this plant itself is an insect repellent.”
Speaking to the Hindustan Times over the phone on Wednesday he said Almoria geranium is primarily an “exotic plant species, which can be grown anywhere in the country.”
Scientists first discovered that the plant species might be having some insect repelling properties when Vivek Joshi, a Almora-based farmer, informed them in 1988. “The farmer casually told us that he never saw insects ever coming near that plant,” he said while recalling their first meeting with him.
The laboratory tests of the plant’s essence that the scientists carried out later revealed the secret behind this property. Citronellol, a dominant compound was responsible for this. “This compound issues a strong smell that insects and mosquitoes find extremely repelling,” said Dr Negi. The Citronellol compound is “so dominant in this aromatic plant that even a slight touch or a blast of wind is enough for it to emanate a strong smell.”
“Even if a person has an Almoria geranium plant at home, insects and mosquitoes will stay away,” said Dr Singh. Encouraging the production of an ointment, he said a formula was presented to some pharmaceutical companies.
However, he admitted that the companies “have yet not started production of such an ointment as it is not cost-effective.
The cost of one kg of Almoria geranium essence in India is Rs 10,000 whereas the cost of the same product imported from China is around Rs 2,500.”
He also noted that production of the ointment would be “cost-effective only when farmers across the country would be encouraged to grow it on a large scale.”