Parasitic infections like malaria are serious business, especially in countries like Mexico, Venezuela, Equador, Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, where mosquitoes transmit the deadly disease at will. There are an estimated 3.4 billion people who live in an area that has a high risk of malaria transmission. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 198 million cases of malaria were treated clinically in 2013. WHO estimated there were about 500,000 deaths attributed to malaria that same year.
Malaria is a curable disease, if detected early. It is most commonly transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito. After being bit, a subject goes through a seven- to 30-day incubation period. When the parasitic infection takes hold, it may last one to three days or more. An uncomplicated case lasts six to 10 hours. The patient goes through sensations of shivering, leading to a hot stage of fever, headache, and vomiting, and finally climaxing to a stage of sweating and fatigue. If the parasitic infection complicates, it can cause organ failure and abnormal blood coagulation. This can lead to destruction of red blood cells, seizures, inhibited oxygen exchange, or acute kidney failure, among other fatal consequences.
Interestingly, two effective treatments for malaria are derived from plants. Artemisinin is derived from the Qinghaosu plant (Artemisia annua) and Quinine comes from the cinchona tree (Cinchona spp).
Similarly, natural essential oils from plants can be used to deter the mosquitoes that transmit malaria parasites. One very effective essential oil for mosquito repellent is lemon eucalyptus oil. This safe, natural plant oil contains p-menthane-diol, a plant compound that has been proven to be more effective than the leading chemical alternative, DEET (diethyltoluamide).
This is great news for those who want to repel mosquitoes without poisoning their own bodies. (DEET is a chemical poison in itself and can cause severe allergic reactions.)
Study shows lemon eucalyptus essential oil more effective than DEET
In the eye-opening study from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, United Kingdom, four mosquito repellents were put to the test. One was a mixture of several essential oils believed to have repellent properties. Another repellent was based in Neem essential oil, a natural plant compound. They also tested a repellent containing 15 percent of the controversial DEET chemical. The final product was a lemon eucalyptus-based repellent containing 30 percent p-menthane-diol, a natural compound. All repellents were applied at the same dose.
Both the Neem repellent and the compound essential oil mixture did not provide significant protection from the Anopheles mosquitoes. DEET, however, gave 84.81 percent protection in a four-hour period. In the same amount of time, the eucalyptus-based repellent provided 96.89 percent protection. This study debunks the theory that chemicals like DEET are more effective and necessary to stop mosquito-transmitted disease. Safer repellents containing lemon eucalyptus oil can be used effectively in place of DEET.
In another study, researchers found similar results. Lemon eucalyptus essential oil was just as effective as DEET in repelling Anopheles gambiae and Anopheles Funestus mosquitoes for at least six hours.
These studies prove that botanical mosquito repellents can be used with confidence. They can also be made right at home using ingredients as simple as lemon eucalyptus essential oil mixed in a medium like witch hazel and a botanical carrier oil like castor, olive, or jojoba.