(Beyond Pesticides, July 22, 2004)
A recent study published in the July 14 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that cinnamon oil is an effective way to kill mosquito larvae.
Researcher Peter Shang-Tzen Chang and colleagues tested eleven compounds in cinnamon leaf oil for their ability to kill emerging larvae of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito responsible for transmitting yellow fever. They found that four compounds, cinnamaldehyde, cinnamyl acetate, eugenol, and anethole, exhibited the strongest activity against the mosquitoes.
Cinnamaldehyde is the major constituent of cinnamon leaf oil and provides the distinctive odor and flavor associated with cinnamon. It is used worldwide as a food additive and flavoring agent, and the FDA lists it as “Generally Recognized as Safe.” A formulation using the compound could be sprayed like a pesticide, but without the potential for adverse health effects of many insecticides – plus the added bonus of a pleasant and familiar smell. Other common essential oils, such as catnip, have shown similar promise in fighting off mosquitoes, but this is the first time researchers have demonstrated cinnamon’s potential as a safe and effective pesticide.
Although the team only tested the oil against one species of mosquito, they believe that cinnamon oil should prove similarly lethal to the larvae of other mosquito species. In further studies they plan to test cinnamon oil against other types of mosquitoes as well as different commercial pesticides.
So far, the research has only concentrated on killing mosquito larvae, and not adult mosquitoes. Yet the researchers hope that cinnamon oil will prove equally as effective for the adults. “We think that cinnamon oil might also affect adult mosquitoes by acting as a repellant,” Chang says. The researchers haven’t yet tested this theory, but they plan to find out in the near future.
Besides being a summer nuisance, mosquitoes pose some public health problems, particularly West Nile virus. While conventional pesticide application is often effective in controlling mosquito larvae before they hatch, repeated use of these agents has raised serious environmental and health concerns. Targeting the mosquitoes at the larval stage is generally more effective and requires fewer chemicals than adulticiding (killing adult mosquitoes) does.
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