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Natural Insecticides for the House (Part 1)



An Insecticide or insect repellent is a substance applied to skin, clothing, or other surfaces which discourages insects from landing or climbing on that surface. Most commonly we use synthetic repellents, as they tend to be widely available, and easy-to-use. They are also viewed as being more effective and/or longer lasting than “natural” insect repellents. The negative aspect of such synthetic repellents is that they can be quite corrosive and harmful to us, and the environment.

Have you ever thought of alternatives to the harmful insect repellent sprays, coils and mats that we use at home to keep away simple insects like ants and mosquitoes? If you have not, allow me to suggest easily available products in the market – which are natural and definitely not harmful to humans or the environment. We’ll look at the first one in this post.

Benzoin Resin (Sambrani)

Benzoin Resin, or more commonly known as Sambrani in South India, is obtained from the bark of several trees of the genus Styrax. The trees are aromatic with sweet, vanilla-like aroma, and hence, used in making natural incense or perfumes. The trees also have medicinal properties, and so used in the manufacture of medicines.

Sambrani has been used in ancient India and is still used in many households for rituals. It has an important use as an effective insecticide. By fumigating the house with Sambrani in the evenings, we can keep away mosquitoes, houseflies and other insects. It is very simple to use: either we buy sambrani powder, sprinkle it on burning hot coal and move the coal around the house to spread the smoke and essence of the sambrani, or we could buy the low-smoke varieties, and burn them directly around the house. In few households, the sambrani smoke is used to dry the hair of women and to warm the infants right after their baths.

There’s no need to be worried about the effect of the smoke on any children in the house. By inhalation, benzoin is used to treat infections of the respiratory system like hoarseness (laryngitis), croup, and other respiratory conditions. So it is actually helping children by cleaning out any mild infections they may have in their respiratory systems.

About the Author
Smitha Daniel completed her Masters degree in Zoology, and had a stint with the Centre for Environment Education, Ahmedabad. After managing an International wildlife project, while at the Asian Nature Conservation Foundation (in association with the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore), she is currently studying the behaviour and ecology of the Loris lydekkerianus malabaricus, the Malabar Slender Loris, in the jungles of North-Eastern Kerala.

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