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Catnip: It’s Not Just for Fluffy!

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 has long been used by human beings as a culinary ingredient and traditional remedy.


What Is Catnip?

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 (Catmint, Nepeta faassenii, has lavender flowers and is considered more of a garden ornamental than catnip). For cats, it is usually sold dried and crumbled. This preparation has no effect on humans, but extracts of the plant have been used for centuries to soothe any number of ailments.

8 Medicinal Uses for Catnip:

  1. Pain reliever: Can be taken orally to relieve headaches, including migraines, toothaches, or pain associated with injuries.
  2. Anti-inflammatory: Can be used orally and/or topically to reduce swelling from arthritis, soft tissue injuries, or hemorrhoids.
  3. Muscle relaxer: Can be used orally or topically to relax and soothe aching muscles.
  4. Sedative: Long used to fight insomnia and prevent nightmares.
  5. Anti-anxiety: Can lessen nervousness and anxiety.
  6. Anti-bacterial: Can be used topically to prevent infection.
  7. Digestive aid: Can be taken orally to soothe an upset or painful stomach.
  8. Insect repellent: In its pure form, studies show catnip is more effective than DEET at repelling mosquitoes, cockroaches, and termites.

Fact: Contrary to urban legend, catnip is not closely related to Cannabis sativa, more popularly known as marijuana.

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. Penn Herb is a good source.).

How To Grow Your Own Catnip

Growing catnip, Nepeta cataria, is easy, but there are a few things you need to know:

Catnip can be planted in your garden in spring or fall, from seed (it will sprout in about 2-3 weeks) or plants.

If you grow it from seed, you will need to cold stratify (damage) the seed coat first to facilitate sprouting. To do this, place seeds in the freezer overnight and then in a bowl of water for 24 hours. Seeds should sprout in 10-20 days and then you can plant them, indoors or out, 18-20 inches apart.

Even though catnip is not a perennial, it will likely reseed. In fact, like other mint herbs, it’s invasive and will spread, so it’s best to plant it in containers.

Sun: Catnip likes full sun and well-drained, slightly alkaline soil. But they can grow anywhere that’s not too wet so be careful not to overwater.

Fertilize: No fertilizer is needed.

Cutting the plants completely down after the first bloom set will allow enough time for them to regrow and bloom again. To get a nice bushy plant, pinch them often.

Pests: The one creature bound to destroy your catnip plants are cats. To avoid damage, consider protecting your catnip with some type of enclosure. Insects and other pests usually stay away from catnip.

Harvest: Harvest catnip when it flowers. To dry it, cut off the whole plant at the base, and hang it upside down as soon as possible in a dark, dry, well-ventilated room (away from Fluffy!).

Do Big Cats Like Catnip?

Featured image by By Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6172729

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  • Char says:

    Thanks for sharing information I found it very interesting!

  • Mary Gill-Warren says:

    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.

  • Sharon Bauer says:

    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!!!

  • marie says:

    wonderfull Ideas.Thank you.

  • Leigh says:

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

  • Mary Ann says:

    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!

  • shirley says:

    How do you use it for cockroaches?

  • Morgaine says:

    Is catnip safe to use with amitriptyline?

  • Chris Greene says:

    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!

  • Ishnic Foster says:

    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

  • kk says:

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

  • Dave says:

    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…..

  • Betty Smith says:

    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.

  • cindy says:

    if you grow it will it attract cats to your yard

  • Penster47 says:

    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.

  • Jayla SunBird says:

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

  • JP says:

    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?

    • Jaime McLeod says:

      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.

  • Mimi Alberu says:

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

  • GG says:

    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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