By: Amy Grant
If you have a feline friend or two, you are no doubt familiar with catnip. So, what are the benefits of catnip and how do you use catnip? Read on to learn more.
What to Do with Catnip
Catnip herb plants are grey-green perennials from the mint or Lamiaceae family. They grow 2-3 feet (61-91 cm.) in height with fuzzy, heart-shaped, serrated leaves and are native to areas of the Mediterranean in Europe, Asia and into Africa. Introduced by European settlers, the plants are now naturalized and grown throughout North America.
Catnip is most often cultivated for our pampered feline companions, or rather to entertain us while they play with it. Cats respond to the active compound called nepetalactone that is released from the plant when the animal rubs or chews on the fragrant leaves. Despite the fact that some cats eat catnip, the essential oil acts on their noses, not their mouths. So, while cultivating catnip for Fluffy is an entertaining use of the herb, are there other catnip herbal uses that we can enjoy?
How to Use Catnip Plants
Catnip has been used in traditional herbal medicine for centuries and was first mentioned in De Vivibus Herbarum in the 11th century. It was infused into a tea and used to calm and induce restful sleep. It was also used to treat stomach ailments, fevers, colds and flu. It helps to soothe aches associated with fever when used in the bath.
While traditionally the major benefit of catnip is as a sedative, it also has strong insect repellent properties. In fact, catnip oil repels insects better than the synthetic repellent DEET but, unfortunately, catnip loses its effectiveness within a few hours.
All parts of catnip have been used in fold medicine with the exception of the roots, which have an over stimulating effect. Rather like some cats when they have had too much catnip, they can get rather aggressive.
Catnip can also be added into cooking to aid in digestion. It is also anti-fungal and a bactericide for Staphylococcus aureus, a common cause of food poisoning.
So, while catnip’s effects on humans isn’t the same as in cats, the plant certainly is a welcome addition to the home herb garden for its numerous remedies, especially as tea. Store it in an airtight container in the freezer to preserve its potency.
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Does Catnip Calm Cats Down?
Does Catnip Calm Cats Down? A cat’s behavior can change dramatically when they are introduced to catnip. Catnip also seems to make most cats more playful and more interested in toys. After a certain amount of time, cats under the influence of catnip seem to calm down and get sluggish and sleepy. Catnip has been found to be relatively harmless.
Catnip is a perennial herb and member of the Mint family Labiatae that is well known for its ability to make cats act a little funny. This compound takes effect when cats breathe in fumes that catnip gives off. We don’t really know why catnip has the effect it does and it has yet to be determined how exactly catnip makes your feline feel. This is much like the action of female cats in heat although catnip affects male and female cats alike. Another interesting thing to note is that some cats are not affected by catnip at all, despite their age or maturity level. After a certain amount of time, cats under the influence of catnip seem to calm down and get sluggish and sleepy. Some cats have also shown adverse effects from directly ingesting catnip leaves.
Is it OK to give cats fresh catnip? Is catnip safe for cats? There’s no evidence that catnip is harmful to cats or young kittens. However, if they eat a lot of the fresh or dried catnip leaves, they can get an upset tummy along with vomiting or diarrhea. In any case, catnip should be offered in moderation as an occasional, fun treat for your cat.
Can catnip calm a cat down? A cat’s behavior can change dramatically when they are introduced to catnip. Catnip also seems to make most cats more playful and more interested in toys. After a certain amount of time, cats under the influence of catnip seem to calm down and get sluggish and sleepy. Catnip has been found to be relatively harmless.
Will catnip mellow out my cat? A cat’s behavior can change dramatically when they are introduced to catnip. Catnip also seems to make most cats more playful and more interested in toys. After a certain amount of time, cats under the influence of catnip seem to calm down and get sluggish and sleepy. Catnip has been found to be relatively harmless.
Catnip Traditional Medicinal Uses and Health benefits
Active constituents that are found in Catnip include the following: terpene, Acetic acid, Alpha-Citral beta- Citral, Butyric acid, Citronella, Dipentene, Geraniol, Limonene, Nepetalactone, Nepetalic acid, Nerol, Tannin and Valeric acid . The combination of these constituents provide the claimed health benefits of Catnip although limited scientific research would support these claims.
Catnip is one of the herbal medicines that offer varieties of health benefits especially for digestive disorders and to relieve fevers due to colds and flu.
Catnip has been used to calm troubled stomach due to diarrhea, to prevent nausea such as in motion sickness and flatulence.
Decoction of catnip leaves are known to induce sweating thereby improving body temperature associated with fever, colds and flu while at the same time offering relief from headache and migraine.
Another health benefit that can be derived from catnip is its calming property that is beneficial against nervousness, anxiety, stress, restlessness and sleeplessness (insomnia).
Catnip has a soothing effect and has been used to treat headaches, hysteria, and insanity.
Catnip oil is used in aroma therapy to promote relaxation and calmness.
Decoction of catnip can also offer health benefit for menstruating women, by promoting menstrual flow and relieving stomach cramps.
Decoction made as tea from catnip leaves and flower is found to have strong antispasmodic action that can relieve muscle spasm.
Poultice from leaves and flowers are used to relieve inflammation associated with arthritis, hemorrhoids and soft tissue inflammation.
Decoction of leaves and flowers are also known as diuretic that promotes urination.
Catnip was a remedy for infantile colic (antispasmodic) and flatulence (carminative). It was also stated to cure hiccups.
Catnip poultices were applied to the sore breasts of a nursing mother and to the neck for tonsillitis.
Other uses for catnip have been as a cold remedy, for hives, as a diaphoretic (induces sweating), a refrigerant (cools the body), and an anodyne (relieves pain).
Catnip has also been used as a tonic for whooping cough and measles, В yellow fever, scarlet fever, smallpox, and jaundice.
Catnip has been smoked to relieve respiratory ailments such as asthma, cough and bronchitis.
Catnip was used as a hallucinogenic drug in place of marijuana or as a filler in marijuana. Catnip produces visual and auditory hallucinations that makes people feel happy, contented, and intoxicated, like marijuana. It has not been used recently because marijuana seems to be more readily available and is more dependable in its effects.
Medicinal Uses of Catnip
There is very little research available on catnip so there is little formal evidence that it works. But it has been used for an astonishing number of ailments.
One use that everyone agrees on, is it's mild sedative properties. It is used everywhere catnip is found as a relaxing and soothing tea. This is probably it's main claim to fame. Valerian which contains similar active ingredients, is often included in herbal sleep potions. Valerian as an ingredient looks a lot more convincing that Catnip because of its rather strong odor and higher price, but the effects are probably just about the same using catnip, and much cheaper.
Because it is soothing and relaxing (antispasmodic) it is also used for digestive upsets (nervous dyspepsia) where the main cause is tension. In that context catnip is recommended for muscular pain, cramps, colic in babies, spasms and tics and stomach pains. It is also helpful in headache where tension is mainly responsible.
Catnip's soothing effect is also useful in reducing menstrual pain.
It has mild anesthetic properties (try it by chewing a leaf, or just bruising a leaf in your mouth, it will feel mildly numb) and has been used for tooth and gum aches.
Although it is mostly used as tea and poultice, it was sometimes smoked for asthma. There is no evidence that it works. It was also smoked by hopeful hippies as a mild hallucinogenic.
It has been used as a mild antibiotic. As a poultice, it is said to help heal and prevent infection. It also has anti fungal properties. An in vitro (not clinical) research project showed that an extract of catnip was active against Staphylococcus aureus and some fungi. Here is a link to the abstract. "The effect of Nepeta cataria extract on adherence and enzyme production of Staphylococcus aureus."
Recent research has suggested that it does help reduce fever.
It is claimed that it is diuretic, and reduces gas (carminative). Furthermore it has been used to treat colds, upper respiratory affections, particularly where there is a feeling of congestion the airways, sinuses or middle ear.
Catnip in large doses has been observed to be emetic (makes you vomit).
It's been recommended for a number of "female ailments" helping the onset of late menstruation (used in tincture form). Pregnant women should avoid catnip as a precaution only since there is no evidence that it is harmful
In the folklore, Catnip root is said to have the opposite effect than the stem and leaves. It is supposed to make a normally placid human, aggressive and bloodthirsty.
None of these claims have been demonstrated in formal research except for the mosquito repellent quality, and the anti-fungal anti-staph qualities. There is probably enough experience to accept that it is calming.
Other non Medicinal uses of Catnip
Thymol extracted from catnip has been shown to be fungicide.
It can also be used as an aromatic herb in cooking & salads. It was drunk in England as a tea before Chinese tea was available.
Some people have used it as a meat tenderizer.
A light yellow dye can be made from Catnip. There are countless recipes for herbal hair dye and some include catnip.
Catnip has been used as an ingredient of love potions or as part of bonding rituals. It is said that any leaf used during the ceremony must be carefully kept otherwise the spell will break!
Catnip Herbal Folklore and History
It was once believed that smoking Catnip leaves would produce a mild hallucinogenic effect. Although this use has since been dispelled, it may work in some individuals. Catnip was also believed to deter the (evil-eye) from children given to fits, this because of its ability to calm an extremely agitated child and diminish nightmares.
Catnip Herb Tea Recipe
To 1 cup of boiling water add 2 tsp. dried catnip steep for 10 min. give warm in cup doses-? cup for children 1 tbsp. diluted or in milk for babies. Mintcream: Add 3 tbsp. to 1 cup heavy cream use in cocoa or coffee.