MALAYSIA saw its first Zika virus case over a week ago and with the whole country on high alert, many are looking for ways to keep themselves safe.
The virus is primarily spread by the Aedes mosquito and can also be transmitted through sexual contact and blood transfusion.
The masses have begun hunting for methods to repel mosquitoes and having plants with mosquito-repelling properties around the house is becoming a popular option.
To find out exactly which plants have proven to be effective at repelling mosquitoes, we consulted a horticulturist with 30 years’ experience. He wished to be known only as Wanzab.
It should be noted that one key quality that mosquito-repelling plants have in common is the production of a strong, fragrant essential oil, which smell is what drives the insects away.
The lemongrass plant, also known as citronella grass or serai in Malay, is Wanzab’s top pick for the most effective and easily obtainable natural mosquito repellent in Malaysia. It is a fragrant lemon-scented plant from which citronella oil is obtained and it is fairly easy to care for.
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2. Pelargonium graveolens (Rose geranium)
Not to be confused with citronella grass or another genus of plants called Geranium, the rose geranium is sometimes known as the citronella plant. This is another highly recommended natural insect repellent. The leaves of the plant have a velvety feel and a strong rose fragrance. They are sold in small pots at some plant nurseries – just ask for the plant that can halau nyamuk (repel mosquitoes).
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3. Lantana camara
The lantana camara is a plant with lots of small, colourful flowers that sometimes makes for a beautiful addition to gardens. The plant has a sharp smell that might not appeal to everyone, but is said to be able to repel mosquitoes as well. It is easy to care for, but is also considered an invasive species and a weed in some countries.
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Marigolds are another widely available flower with the potential to keep mosquitoes at bay. Online sources describe some species as having a musky and pungent smell. It is quite easy to grow and care for, and makes for a beautiful addition to any garden.
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It is apparently possible to buy the seeds and grow catnip in Malaysia. The plant is reputed to have a minty smell and can repel several types of insects. However, as the name suggests, cats are strongly attracted to the plant, so you might attract stray cats if you plant catnip in your garden.
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6. Tea-tree (Melaleuca)
Species of the tea-tree plant, popularly known by its genus name Melaleuca, is very common in Australia and can be obtained and grown here. Tea tree oil or melaleuca oil, said to have an odour similar to camphor, is obtained from it.
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On its own, cloves are not an effective insect repellent as they are usually sold dried, but the plant does produce an essential oil that repels certain insects. While we cannot confirm that studding a dozen dried cloves into a halved lime will be an effective repellent, it might be more effective to grind the cloves and mix it with lemon or lime juice in a bowl to enhance the smell.
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Although it does not have the most pleasant smell, garlic is said to be able to help repel mosquitoes and be used as an antiseptic for insect bites and stings. Garlic oil seeps out through the pores of our skin when we eat garlic, and this is said to keep mosquitoes away. It can be rubbed on mosquito bites shortly after they appear, to reduce itching and swelling, though some online sources say that it causes a stinging sensation.
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9. Lemon eucalyptus oil
Eucalyptus trees are probably too big to be considered as an addition to a home garden, but eucalyptus products generally have a good reputation for being effective mosquito repellents. Products involving the lemon eucalyptus oil in particular would be a good place to start.
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10. Lamiaceae (mint) family
Many plants from the Lamiaceae family are reputed to have insect-repelling qualities of varying effectiveness thanks to its range of fragrant smells, though Wanzab disputes the effectiveness of such plants. Some examples of plants from this family reputed to be good for repelling mosquitoes include basil, rosemary, lavender and lemon thyme.
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