Catnip & Is It Giving Your Kitty a High Note?
We have catnip growing on our allotment garden here in the UK and I have seen visiting cats to the site enjoying a good sniff.
Most British cats are free to go outdoors and so, at the same time as they might be hunting for mice, they can have a bit of a party enjoying the catnip.
It is said that roughly half of all cats are sensitive to catnip so that when they come in contact they can become quite excited.
What is catnip?
I know the plant as Nepeta but the full name is Nepeta Cataria – see the link to cats there! It belongs to the mint family and is common across North America and Europe.
It has spikes of small white and purple flowers and will come back year after year, slowly spreading if allowed to – and the bees and butterflies love it too!
The flowers and the leaves of this herb are both used for medicinal purposes. And of course the dried herb is used as a filling for various cat toys as an irresistible treat.
Here is the catnip growing on the right. It is easy to grow in a sunny location. To harvest, simply cut the leaves off of the plant. They can be used as they are to fill cat toys or to make a tea.
Catnip benefits for your cat
- When sniffed by cats, catnip changes their behavior for up to ten minutes. They can be seen rolling or jumping, purring or head rubbing. Some cats might start drooling or show signs of aggression.
- When consumed by cats (or humans), it has a calming effect. It should not be given to cats to eat more often than once every two to three weeks.
- One idea is to use catnip as a tranquilizer for cats – for example before a car journey or visit to the vet – to reduce stress. Let them sniff or play with a catnip toy beforehand so that, within a few minutes, they will be more relaxed and avoid the stressful situation ahead.
- Another idea is to use catnip as a training tool for cats. For example, sprinkle a tiny amount of catnip onto a new bed to encourage your cat to move in or add a little to a scratching post to dissuade your pet from sharpening his claws on your furniture. Wait for a couple of hours between use as a training aid so it will be more effective.
- If your cat has an itchy skin and seems to be constantly scratching himself, gently apply some cooled catnip tea as a soothing remedy on the skin.
For cats, you can find catnip as a live plant, a dried powder or solid balls. It’s easy to find toys that already contain the herb while there is also a spray version available for using on bedding or toys.
How does catnip benefit humans?
- Stress relief. In the same way as valerian, lemon balm and chamomile, catnip is a herb traditionally used for its calming effects on humans. One way is by drinking catnip tea up to three times a day. Drinking the tea can also help with skin conditions caused by stress. One example is hives.
- Cough relief. With its antispasmodic and muscle relaxant abilities, catnip has a long history of beiong used as a natural cough reliever. For coughs, adults can take 2 teaspoons of a catnip tincture up to three times per day
- Sleep aid. With its chemical nepetalactone, consuming catnip can act as a sedative, helping with sleep and to relieve tension headaches.
- minty leaves are also known for keeping away mosquitoes
How to make catnip tea?
- Combine one cup of boiled water with one or two teaspoons of herb, using USDA certified organic catnip available from health stores or online. To keep it fresh, store it in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dry place. To maximize the strength of the fresh herb, crush it a little with fingers before serving to release the volatile oil.
- Cover the tea and allow to steep for at least ten minutes but even up to fifteen minutes.
- Drink two to three times a day. Don’t overdo it!
A few words of warning:
- Not to be taken by children or during pregnancy.
- Avoid taking with other medications.
- Avoid taking the tea if you suffer from PID or have heavy periods.
- Side effects of too much by mouth can include headaches, vomiting, stomach pain, irritability and sluggishness.