A new, highly effective mosquito repellent candle developed by the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) may hit the shelves this July. The candle contains a unique essential oil extracted from an indigenous plant, Lippia javanica, which has traditionally been hung in houses to repel mosquitoes.
For more than a decade, the CSIR has been investigating them properties of herbal remedies used by traditional healers, and one of the products is the new essential oil, initially known as BP1 (bio-prospecting 1). After much research, the candles are being registered with the department of agriculture, and this process is due to be completed in June.
The candles can then be sold in South Africa. They will be sold under the brand name of ‘Ulwazi Botanicals’. This brand has been developed for local and international sales of medicinal and aromatic products cultivated and processed in local communities. The candle is truly a home-grown product, as the plants are cultivated by community-owned businesses around South Africa and three essential oil distillation plants have been set up alongside some of the cultivation sites.
Last August saw the launch of the pilot Hi Hanyile factory in Giyani, Limpopo which should manufacture about 400,000 candles each year. The candle has been proven in trials to repel at least 95 percent of mosquitoes from a chamber where the candle is burning, compared to only 42 percent of mosquitoes repelled by candles already on the market.
However, not all Lippia javanica plants yield the precise essential oil that is so effective at repelling mosquitoes – there are seven identical-looking but chemically different plants of this species (chemotypes), only two of which repel mosquitoes. Traditional healers identify the correct plant not only by its appearance, but also by the specific texture of its leaves and their individual smell.
The effective ingredients of the essential oil have been patented, and the CSIR hopes to commercialise the repellent all over the world. In terms of a benefit-sharing agreement signed between the CSIR and traditional healers, royalties from the sale of products containing the essential oils will be fed into a trust fund. Projects that benefit the entire community, such as health and education facilities, can then be financed through the trust.