Herbal alternative helps you get rid of mosquito menace

We don’t once think about how chemical-laden repellents affect our health. But John Thomas, founder of Herbal Strategi, is among those who have found a way out.

Come summer and mosquitoes become ubiquitous. Dengue, malaria, chikungunya and other mosquito-borne diseases become an impending threat. So, we buy sprays, coils and gels to get rid of mosquitoes along with cockroaches, bed bugs and termites. However, we don’t once think about how chemical-laden repellents affect our health.

But John Thomas, founder of Herbal Strategi, is among those who have found a way out. Herbal Strategi’s repellents are non-toxic and biodegradable. They are made exclusively from natural ingredients and plant extracts. The products are never tested on animals. They are completely safe for kids and cause zero side effects, says the company.

“In 2009, I had suffered from an upper respiratory tract infection. The doctors told me to stop using vaporizers,” says Thomas. Determined to switch to eco-friendly and safe repellents, he searched online for alternatives but found nothing. His Master’s degree in Aquaculture at the Punjab Agriculture University came in handy. “I asked my colleagues and they referred me to the Central Institute for Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (CIMAP) in Lucknow. We went there and they gave us environment-friendly formulations that kept mosquitoes away for 10 to 12 hours to test. Since Kerala has 400 types of mosquitoes, we went there and tried the different formulations for one-and-a-half years. We then went to Kochi, Hyderabad and Bengaluru to find out if people were interested in herbal repellents. Thirty per cent said yes and out of that 30 per cent, 65 per cent were new mothers, with small kids and who wanted safe repellents.”

Further research revealed that there were players in the market for herbal care. But, Thomas adds, “Most of the herbal companies were present in the personal-care segment and healthcare segments. There were no herbal players in the home-care segment.”

Thomas returned to Bengaluru and applied for a license from the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga & Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (Ayush). He then started manufacturing his products in July 2011 and took them to sell in Kerala. He noticed that by December his products stopped working. “Customers were returning them. I realized that we had bought aromatic oils from local traders. Initially, the aromatic oils they supplied were good but over time they gave low-quality oils. In December 2011, we recalled all the products. We lost a lot of money. But we started working from scratch and purchased raw material from the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research–Indian Institute of Integrative Medicine (CSIR–IIIM). From a single product launched in 2013, we now have more than 50 Herbal Home Care products in the Herbal Cleaners, Herbal Fresheners, Herbal Hygiene, Herbal Repellents and Herbal Fogging solution.”

The repellents of this company include (i) Herbal Mosquito Repellent Room Spray - made from citronella, lemongrass, cedarwood and neem; (ii) Herbal Mosquito Repellent Body Spray - made of natural extracts and herbal oils. Being water-based, it can be sprayed on the body and on clothes and does not stain. Mospray is made from lemongrass, palmarosa, tulsi and eucalyptus to ensure a subtle yet fresh fragrance; (iii) Natural Agarbatti - a substitute for mosquito coils. It is made from lemongrass, eucalyptus, palmarosa and neem; (iv) Natural Mosquito Oil - made from citronella, lemongrass, cedarwood and neem; (v) Natural and Herbal Indoor Mosquito Repellent Vaporizer - an alternative to chemical-based repellents. Made up of herbal products available in nature, this mosquito vaporizer is a blend of extracts from plants such as eucalyptus, lemongrass and neem, among others, and many other aromatic oils.

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