Folk Remedies Repel Mosquitoes

Posted November 5th, 2012 at 5:00 pm (UTC-5)
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Some people in Africa and India have traditionally burned oil from seeds of the Jatropha curcas shrub in their lamps to keep mosquitoes away. U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists now know why it works so well.

Chemist Charles Cantrell analyzed properties of the smoke and identified a number of active compounds that repel insects, including – for the first time, he says – triglycerides, a type of fat.

Cantrell is also looking at similar compounds in the breadfruit tree, hoping to combine the two sources into a more effective insect repellent.

Though native to America, Jatropha curcas is now found growing throughout the tropics, widely planted as a medicinal plant which does not take long to establish itself. It can be toxic, but the seed and plant extracts are used in a variety of folk remedies, for cancer, burns, toothaches and heartburn.