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A Natural and Safe Insect Repellent: Nootkatone

Many of us do not use insect repellent (against mosquitoes, bed bugs, tics etc.) because of various reasons such as not able to remember every day or every time we go out, some individuals do not like the odor, some individuals are concerned about a chemical being placed on the skin, some do not like the greasy feeling, some are concerned about the harm insect repellents may cause and many more reasons. Whatever may be the reason of not using insect repellents, the result is contacting insect borne diseases such as Lyme disease (caused by tick bite), malaria, dengue, Yellow fever, West Nile Fever and other numerous insect borne diseases.

Researchers are trying to solve the problem of not using insect repellents, by developing a natural, non toxic, non greasy insect repellent (and thereby overcoming some problems associated with currently available insect repellents), which is safe enough to be consumed.

Nootkatone is one such safe, environmental friendly chemical developed by researchers for repelling insects. Nootkatone is found naturally in many citrus fruits (e.g. grapefruit juice) and yellow cedar trees and most of us have consumed it (in some citrus fruit).

Effectiveness of Nootkatone:

The effectiveness of Nootkatone was demonstrated by researchers by rubbing some of it into a hand and placing the hand into a cage containing 50 hungry mosquitoes. The mosquitoes try to escape away from the hand and after five minutes there were no bites on the treated hand.

Nootkatone not only repel insects but it also kills them and this was demonstrated by coating the inside of a jar with Nootkatone and placing mosquitoes inside the jar. Mosquitoes die within a very short time of less than 15 seconds.

The mechanism of action of Nootkatone is by blocking a neurotransmitter (octopamine) receptor. As humans do not have octopamine receptors, Nootkatone is safe for humans. Although there are concerns, as octopamine is adrenalin analogue in insects and researchers are still not clear whether Nootkatone will act on adrenalin receptors in humans and cause toxic or side effects.

There is high potential of use of Nootkatone as insect repellent as well as insecticide. But at present the major drawback is the high cost ($4,000 per kilogram for food grade highly purified product). But repellent grade do not need to be highly purified. Currently Nootkatone is used as flavoring agent in minute quantities.

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