Mint, as it is commonly known in the United States, is in fact a large family of similar plants – Mentha – that are often typified by their toothed leaves and strong, sometimes pleasant off-gassed scents. While various mentha plants are used in culinary creations and confections around the world, mint plants (including subgroups such a peppermint) have been studied for their ability to abate bugs based on their strong odor.

At a base level, mint plants (in both their natural and essential oil form) have been found to act as an effective deterrent against common pests such as wasps, hornets, ants, and cockroaches (1). Studies performed on one particular mint type – Mentha spp. M. piperata or peppermint – even found that the plant can be effective at deterring mosquitoes for up to 45 minutes when applied topically in its essential oil form (2).

In this particular study, researchers in a laboratory study found mint oil to be nearly 100% effective at preventing one type of disease-carrying mosquito from biting. Though less effective, another study (in Bolivia) found so-called Japanese mint to be around 41% effective at keeping off one species of mosquitos (2).

Also, of note, not all members of the Mentha family are safe for use as a mosquito repellant (as a topical oil or otherwise). One particular plant from this family that should be avoided is Mentha pulegium, also known as pennyroyal. This plant is not safe for use at any level of concentration due its compositional toxicity.

Even compared to other natural mosquito repellant options, mint and its cousins hold some of the most multifunctional use beyond simply keeping bugs at bay. For this reason, they are a worthy addition to any garden that is looking to address a localized bug infestation. While current scientific research shows moderate results for its effectiveness on mosquitos, mint may be worth trying if your mosquito infestation has not responded to other natural solutions.

Mint can also be one of the most useful natural options when trying out natural mosquito repellants with children. This is because mint plants carry a generally soothing scent that is not as sharp or as pungent as other natural options (when crushed to their essential oil form). Also, children can apply mint oil directly from the plant itself by rolling the leaves in their palm and then applying it to their skin.

Forms of Mint and Peppermint & Where to Get Them

  • Plants

    As noted, mint plants come in a variety of subspecies, each with a different level of effectiveness on mosquitoes. That being said, though, all types of mint are pleasantly fragrant and require only light soil, good drainage, and partial shade to thrive. This goes for peppermint as well, which provides a unique scent compared to its cousins (3).

    In all cases, mint plants should be grown in a confined location. This is because their expansive nature causes them to become invasive if allowed to thrive unchecked. Mint plants can be obtained online as well as from local plant nursery sources.

  • Essential Oils

    As with other natural mosquito repellants, mint is best applied topically when used in its essential oil form. Mint oil carries an even more concentrated smell that has been found in several studies to be strong enough to cause certain mosquito species to go “nose blind” to the wearer’s presence. This oil can be obtained by rubbing the plants leaves in hand or online, often as a derivative of peppermint leaves.

  • Sprays

    Some mint users have also found that it is easier to apply its odiferous properties by means of a spray. This kind of spray can be made through the following steps:

    1. Crush several cups of mint leaves, preferably with a mortar and pestle
    2. Combine with rubbing alcohol at a proportion of 5 to 1 
    3. Pour into spray bottle — shake well before use

Sources

1 – Gwendolyn Bounds.”Death by Mint Oil: Natural Pesticides”. The Wall Street Journal. July 30 2009.

2 – Marta Ferreira Maia  and Sarah J Moore. Plant-based insect repellents: a review of their efficacy, development and testing. Published online 2011 Mar 15. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-10-S1-S11

3 – The Old Farmer’s Almanac. Growing Mint

Other Plants & Herbs as Mosquito Repellents

Checkout our analysis of other plants & herbs as natural mosquito repellents: