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Catnip: It’s Not Just for Fluffy!

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Catnip: It’s Not Just for Fluffy!

If you have a pet cat, you’re probably well aware of the dramatic effect catnip can have on felines. What you may not know is that the Nepeta cataria plant, also known as catswort or catmint, has long been used by human beings as a culinary ingredient and traditional remedy.

A member of the mint family, catnip is native to much of Europe and Asia and, is widely cultivated all over the world. The actual plant has velvety grayish-green leaves with white flowers. For cats, it is usually sold dried and crumbled into flakes. This preparation has no effect on humans, but extracts of the plant have been used for centuries to soothe any number of ailments. Contrary to urban legend, catnip is not closely related to Cannabis sativa, more popularly known as marijuana.

Catnip in bloom, shot with shallow depth of field.

Catnip in bloom.

Here’s a quick look at just a few of the medicinal uses for catnip:

Pain reliever: Can be taken orally to relieve headaches, including migraines, toothaches, or pain associated with injuries.

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Anti-inflammatory: Can be used orally and/or topically to reduce swelling from arthritis, soft tissue injuries, or hemorrhoids.

Muscle relaxer: Can be used orally or topically to relax and soothe aching muscles.

Sedative: Long used to fight insomnia and prevent nightmares.

Anti-anxiety: Can lessen nervousness and anxiety.

Anti-bacterial: Can be used topically to prevent infection.

Digestive aid: Can be taken orally to soothe an upset or painful stomach.

Insect repellant: In its pure form, catnip has been shown to be more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes, cockroaches, and termites. Unfortunately, it seems to lose its effectiveness when applied to skin.

Catnip extracts can be purchased in liquid or pill form, or you can buy it dried to brew into tea (make sure to buy human-grade catnip from a natural food store).

Some quick tips on how to grow this medicinal herb:

Featured image by By Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0,

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1 Mary Gill-Warren { 05.13.17 at 9:44 pm }

Our barn cats are always eating, rolling, and playing with catnip here on our farm….something no vet has been able to explain, is why our barn cats never have fleas. This is the only explanation I can come up with.

2 Sharon Bauer { 08.11.16 at 6:18 am }

Used catnip & fennel for colicky babies. All my family has used since 1911 or so. I swear by it. Don’t know if it’s still available but if it helps you sleep would be willing to try!!!

3 marie { 06.27.16 at 7:20 pm }

wonderfull Ideas.Thank you.

4 Leigh { 06.26.16 at 1:43 pm }

How does this differ from the catmint with purple flowers? Same effect? Slightly different?

5 Mary Ann { 04.01.16 at 3:05 pm }

Catnip has come up for years throughout my gardens. I dry it for the cats and have thrown the seed heads out because I just use the leaves for the cats. I just looked where I threw the seed heads last fall and there are catnip plants growing. The leaves are actually large enough April 1st that I could harvest already. Extremely to grow!

6 shirley { 03.31.16 at 7:15 pm }

How do you use it for cockroaches?

7 Morgaine { 11.10.15 at 4:54 pm }

Is catnip safe to use with amitriptyline?

8 Chris Greene { 07.29.15 at 12:02 pm }

In the cat aisle at your supermarket and at pet stores. You can also purchase seeds at your local hardware / nursery / garden centre and grow it yourself. Its not hard!

9 Susan Higgins { 07.23.15 at 3:32 pm }

Hi Ishnic Foster: We just ran a good article on natural ways to combat fleas here:

10 Ishnic Foster { 07.22.15 at 2:21 pm }

Hi everyone, I was just wondering if it works to ward off f
lees on dogs and humans ?I hate useing drugs on my animals and me , many have harmful side errects any ideas would be loved . Thanks Your friend Ishnic

11 kk { 07.16.15 at 2:29 am }

I should TRY this..fibromyalgia..chronic pain from auto accidents and anxiety!

12 Dave { 07.15.15 at 10:20 pm }

I have used it on both skin and clothes to repel mosquitos… I have found it to be quite effective. Love the smell also… But I don’t jet around the room…..

13 Betty Smith { 07.15.15 at 9:19 pm }

When my boys were babies, my mom made them cat nip tea for “hives”. (old wives tale). Now, going to try this for me. Don’t know ’bout extracts, but boil it, just like you would for tea.

14 cindy { 12.01.13 at 10:55 pm }

if you grow it will it attract cats to your yard

15 Penster47 { 08.08.12 at 9:55 am }

Yes, I grow it for my cat, but I would be very interested in using it topically as I have Fibromyalgia and my daughter in law was just dx with Lupus and Rheumatoid Arthritis.

16 Jayla SunBird { 06.08.12 at 3:33 am }

I remember dancing when I got my bottle of nip as a toddler I still enjoy the restful peace it gives the respiratory organs.

17 Jaime McLeod { 06.05.12 at 12:09 pm }

JP – if you grow it yourself, then it should be fine for your consumption. The only difference is how it’s prepared. The dried version they sell for cats may not be suitable for most applications for humans. You can do some online research about how to make teas, tinctures, extracts, etc. of various herbs.

18 JP { 06.04.12 at 7:05 pm }

I grow a lot of this…mostly for the kitties, but how does one make teas and extracts out of it… and what’s the difference between cat and human grades?

19 Mimi Alberu { 05.30.12 at 9:22 pm }

Actually, the essential oil is pretty effective in combination with lemon balm, geranium and neem in an herbal bug repellant.

20 GG { 05.30.12 at 9:15 am }

our family has used this to calm colicky babies. brewed as a tea and given in little teaspoons or with an eyedroper for nursing babies.
How does one use it topically for a muscle relazer?

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