Permethrin is a synthetic chemical invented in the 1970s, but the chemistry that eventually led to its development goes back many centuries. Around 400 B.C., the ancient Persians discovered the insecticidal properties of pyrethrum, a chemical found in certain flowers in the chrysanthemum family. There are accounts of similar substances being used in China during the Chan Dynasty as well. Reportedly, Napoleon used insect powder made from pyrethrum to help control the flea and body lice infestations that afflicted French soldiers. The first commercial product using pyrethrum was made in 1828. Modern permethrin was created in 1973 and registered as an insecticide by the EPA in 1979. Permethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid — a manmade substance with chemical structures that are similar to pyrethrum. It works by attacking the central nervous system of insects and is usually fatal to dangerous pests like ticks. Today, permethrin is available in a few different formulas and forms, including sprays and pre-treated clothing, and is primarily used to help repel harmful insects such as ticks while outdoors.