The oil has the same level of protection as DEET (diethyl-meta-toluamide), and its protective effects last longer, researchers from the University of Nebraska have discovered.
DEET has been considered the 'gold standard' of insect repellents since its commercial launch in 1957—but it comes with health risks, especially for infants and pregnant women.
It also provides just 10 hours of protection against mosquitoes—but coconut oil can provide protection for up to two weeks, the researchers discovered. The fatty acids in the oil also provide protection against other blood-sucking insects such as flies, ticks and bed bugs.
The researchers created a concoction of coconut fatty acids mixed with water and starch that they tested against DEET.
The compound protected against biting flies and bed bugs for two weeks, and against ticks for one week. It was also used on cattle, and it protected them against biting flies for 96 hours, or four days, during a very hot summer. The researchers say it is "the longest protection provided by a natural repellent product".