Mosquitoes can spoil even the most perfect summer evening with their droning and biting, but you may be hesitant to douse yourself with a chemical-laced commercial mosquito repellent. Instead, chase away the pesky bloodsuckers with a repellent made from catnip (Nepeta cataria), which grows as a perennial plant in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 7 and is invasive in some U.S. locations.
An Iowa State University study found the components in catnip oil to be 10 times more effective in discouraging mosquitoes than the most common commercial product. The information was delivered at the American Chemical Society's 222nd national meeting, which was held in 2001.
Quick and Simple
When you're in hurry or don't want to make a catnip repellent spray, tuck sprigs of catnip in your hatband or in the neckline or cuffs of your shirt to repel mosquitoes. Crush the catnip sprigs slightly and rub them on your skin first to increase their effects.
Essential oil can be extracted from catnip in a number of ways, including baking the herb, making an oil immersion and making an alcohol immersion. Your choice of which method to use depends primarily on how patiently you can wait for results. Use fresh or dried catnip when extracting the essential oil.
Herb Baking Method
Chop fresh or dried catnip leaves coarsely. Place the chopped leaves in the bottom of the casserole dish.
Cover the catnip leaves with a carrier oil, such as olive oil, soy oil or another light vegetable oil.
Bake the mixture in an oven for two to three 2 to 3 hours at 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn off the oven, and leave the casserole dish inside it until the dish has cooled completely. Strain the mixture, which is infused catnip essential oil, from the casserole dish into a clean glass jar.
Oil Immersion Method
Using the oil immersion method to extract catnip's essential oil begins with chopping catnip leaves and putting them in a clean glass jar, filling the jar about halfway with the leaves. Cover the leaves with the carrier oil of your choice, and put a lid on the jar. Allow the catnip to infuse in the oil for two to six weeks, depending on the desired strength of the infused catnip essential oil.
Alcohol Immersion Method
The alcohol immersion method to extract catnip essential oil requires chopping catnip leaves and filling one-half of a clean glass jar with them. Cover the leaves with 100-proof vodka, and then cover the jar with its lid. Allow the leaves to steep in the vodka for two to six weeks, depending on how strong you want the infused catnip essential oil to be.
Use your infused catnip essential oil to create either an oil-based lotion to apply to yourself or a spray you can spritz on yourself when enjoying the great outdoors.
Make an oil-based lotion by pouring 40 to 50 drops of the catnip essential oil and 8 ounces of coconut or sweet almond oil into a glass jar and shaking the jar to blend the ingredients thoroughly.
The first step in making a spritzer spray is mixing 40 to 50 drops of the catnip essential oil, 4 ounces of witch hazel and 4 ounces of water in a glass jar. Shake the jar to blend the ingredients, and put the mixture in a spray bottle. Each time you want to spray the mixture, the spray bottle may need to be shaken again to blend the essential oil, witch hazel and water again.