We looked at the hard evidence to see if basil or its derivatives were effective as a natural mosquito repellent and/or mosquito killer.
Summary of Scientific Research
On a homemade pizza or in a caprice salad, there’s simply no substitute for basil. But what about when it comes to deterring mosquitos from swarming around you while you enjoy the great outdoors? As it turns out, a moderate degree of professional research has gone into evaluating whether or not basil is a safe and effective natural insecticide alternative.
To this end, basil’s prospects appear fairly promising. For example, a 2009 study found that several compounds found in basil (known also as Ocimum basilicum) were “highly toxic” to a wide range of mosquito larvae. Along the same lines, a 2011 literature found that basil leaves alone provide a 79% efficiency when it comes to deterring several mosquito species. The same literature review also found a topical application of basil oil to be 100% at deterring mosquitos in a laboratory setting (2).
As far as drawbacks are concerned, the 2011 literature review identified a single ongoing risk from using basil as a mosquito deterrent. Therein, they highlight that basil is safest at a 0.07% concentration, which minimizes risk of exposure to a known carcinogen in basil oil known as methyl eugenol (2).
If you’re an at-home chef and you want to make the most of the herbs you grow, then you simply cannot pass up basil. While you’ll find hundreds of uses for it in the kitchen, you’ll be delightfully surprised at how effective it is when it comes to repelling mosquitoes. While basil isn’t the most effective natural alternative option based on scientific findings, it is certainly a prime option for those who want to maximize their herb gardening space.
Basil Forms and Where to Get it
- Basil plants – Growing basil plants can be easy, even if you’ve never grown an herb before. Whether starting from seeds purchased online or from sprouts bought at a local plant nursery, basil plants grow best in moist soil with a pH between 6 and 7. Basil plants need their space, though, so you should space them between 12 and 18 inches apart. Be sure they get between 6 and 8 hours of sunlight a day for best results (3).
- Essential oils – Basil oil is another worthwhile option when it comes to taking advantage of basil’s natural mosquito repellant properties. These oils tend to carry the scent of basil, making it important to delude it before applying it dermally. Otherwise, your scent may end up frightening away the folks around you in addition to the mosquitoes.
1 – Maurya, Prejwltta; Sharma, Preeti; Mohan, Lalit; Batabyal, Lata; Srivastava, C.N.; et al. “Evaluation of the toxicity of different phytoextracts of Ocimum basilicum against Anopheles stephensi and Culex quinquefasciatus”. Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology. 12 (2): 113–115. doi:10.1016/j.aspen.2009.02.004
3 – Bonnie Plants. How to: Growing Basil.
Other Plants & Herbs as Mosquito Repellents
Checkout our analysis of other plants & herbs as natural mosquito repellents: