Herbs to vanquish mosquitoes

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Herbs to vanquish mosquitoes

Apart from applying mosquito repellents on our bodies or spraying insect killers in the room, try growing herbs in your house that repel mosquitoes, advises Rashmi Shrinivas

Reports of Chikungunya and Dengue resurfacing in Bangalore and Mysore are disturbing a bit. Though we can take precautions such as not allowing water to stagnate in the under plates of the pots, discarded containers etc., thereby checking the growth of mosquitoes, the threat of mosquito bite that may often result in the epidemics referred above always persists.

We can protect ourselves from mosquito bites by using mosquito curtains while sleeping, applying mosquito repellents (available in the market) on our body or spraying insect killers in the room etc. It is not uncommon to find mosquitoes bred elsewhere taking shelter under the leaves of your garden, though your surroundings might be hygienic enough not to allow them to breed.

There is still another way to keep mosquitoes at bay. A number of plants, especially herbs, repel mosquitoes and your garden or home can thus be free of mosquitoes if you grow them. These plants are, in a way, a boon to us since they are easy to grow as well.

Lemon grass, commonly known as Majjige hullu is well known for its medicinal properties of releasing throat congestion when used in a concoction. What is little known to many of us is the fact that this plant also keeps away mosquitoes, besides being used in the perfumery industry and in aromatherapy. Belonging to the family Poaceae, it is botanically known as Cymbopogon. It is a big grass reaching a height of about 3 ft in city conditions. It can easily be grown in containers as well. Its sharp leaf blade when crushed on hand gives out a characteristic smell of its own which is disliked by mosquitoes. Hence the leaves are used in the preparation of mosquito repellents.

It grows in any kind of organically rich, well drained soil and grows into a bush. Its fibrous roots do not grow too deep. It can easily be propagated by dividing the bush into small plants of manageable size. Like any other city based garden enthusiast, I too faced a space constraint and hence this plant had occupied the narrow gardening strip by the side of my building and adjacent to the compound. Yet it grew luxuriantly, perhaps because my neighbouring site was vacant then and my plants got lot of sunlight.

Garlic, a close cousin of onion, is another mosquito repelling plant one should have in his/her garden. Belonging to the family Amaryllidaceae ( Amaryllis family), it is botanically known as Allium sativum. Bellulli is the Kannada name of this plant and in Sanskrit it is known as Lasuna. It has been in use in traditional Indian medicine in India since ancient times. Used also in cuisine, it is easy to grow even in pots. It grows in any kind of well drained soil. One clove of garlic is enough to raise a plant.

Since mosquitoes hate the smell of the garlic, they do not come anywhere in the vicinity. In fact, I had grown as many as 10 plants in different pots along with the main plants on the terrace of my previous residence. Believe me, my mosquito problem was considerably low at that time.

Marigold, commonly known as Chendu hoovu/Gonde hoovu in Kannada, is yet another easy to grow plant that can act as mosquito repellent, in addition to bearing attractive flowers that are offered to God as well. Mosquitoes hate the smell of marigold and thus your garden is protected from them by this plant. Botanically known as Tagetes, it belongs to the family Asteraceae or Compositae (Sun flower family). In fact, marigold is quite easy to propagate.

Interestingly, what is generally thought to be a flower is technically an inflorescence consisting of many flowers. Hence you can raise a number of plants from one flower. You can separate the seedlings when they are of manageable size. However, it is advisable to use a big pot for this plant since its roots are voluminous and take too much of space. It does not need any maintenance and hence convenient for those facing time constraint.

Then comes our own Tulsi or Basil (Occi­mum), traditionally grown in front of all Hindu houses. Though there are quite a few varieties, Shreetulsi (green coloured) and Krishnatulsi (bluish green coloured) are the most common ones in India. Religious importance apart, its crushed leaves are also used for treating insect bites. This plant is also known to keep mosquitoes at bay.

Though a number of other plants like Vetiver (Lavancha in Kannada), Eucalyptus (Nilgiri in Kannada) etc., are supposed to keep mosquitoes away, considering the large space required for these plants to grow and the limited space available to the city based garden enthusiasts, you can be content with any of the other plants discussed above and enjoy a mosquito free zone created by you in and around your residence, thereby protecting yourselves and your families from the deadly diseases caused by mosquito bites.

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