For centuries there have been certain naturally derived potions used to protect people from insect bites…some more effective than others. In fact down the years it has been observed that some animals and birds will anoint themselves with secretions from plant leaves and even other insects and smaller animals. Indeed a recent studyproved the repellency of millipedes as favoured by Venezuelan monkeys.
Mosquitoes are accredited with being around for millions of years (they even get a mention in Jurassic Park movie so it must be right) so its equally possible that methods of keeping them away have been sought since mans early days. There is a recorded use of repellents by Egyptian fishermen in the writings of Herodotus (484BC – 425BC) whilst the Romans also appeared to have used various creations to mitigate their problem. Apart from topically applying a mixture of oils and vinegars they also burnt such herbs as bay and oregano. Later ancient Sanskrit translations reveal the use of burning several plants or tree leaves and bark, including Neem (Azairachta indica). Native Indian tribes of America are also known to have rubbed on thecommon cow parnsnip blossoms whilst also burning the leaves and stems of Common Yarrow. You wil also find evidence today of successful use of cocnut husks, papaya leaves, mango wood, ginger leaves, and the African Khaki bush.
The oil from certain crysanthemum flowers (pyrethrum) has been around for hundreds of years. Thought to have been first recognised by Hindus, Buddist and followers of Confucius, it is believed to have spread down the Silk Route to Europe and is it noted that Dalmation Powder (from crysnathemums grown in that area) were used in Napoleonic Wars – although to combat lice and not mosquitoes.
More recently peole have discovered the insect repellency qualities in such trees as the Cedar and Tauroniro trees whilst Eccalyptus derivatives has actually been registered as insecticdes.
As far as ingredients are concerned there are very few ‘new’ ones as all seem to have been used locally for hundreds if not thousands of years -however what is new is that some blends of new natural ingredient insect repellent products can provide the necessary protection for much longer periods than previously achieved, making them as effective and a credible alternative to DEET based products.
Nevertheless,the big question is, with the new rules and regulations regarding insect repellents both in Europe and the USA / Canada, will these alterantives ever reach the shelves? To conform to these rules is becoming prohibitavly expensive in both time and money -despite the fact they could have a historical basis going back centuries!