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.
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.
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, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6172729