All cat lovers know the catnip plant (Nepeta cataria) well, considering how their feline friends adore it. That said, did you know that this plant has many properties that humans can benefit from as well? It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and can be used for children and adults alike. Read on to discover why the humble-yet-mighty catnip plant has been treasured by herbalists for centuries.
From fierce leopards to our domestic pets, Nepetalactone easily takes cats in. It’s the volatile oil found in catnip’s leaves and stems, and like bees to a honeypot, felines can’t resist it. For a cat, catnip smells like pheromones of the opposite sex and it triggers brain areas that cause them to get “high”. The effect lasts anywhere from 5-15 minutes and only affects two-thirds of cats who are genetically predisposed to enjoy it.
Did you know that the catnip plant has also been used by humans as a tea, tincture, infusion, and poultice for centuries? It’s been used for ailments such as headaches, anxiety, and colic in babies. The catnip plant is also used in herbal smoking blends to help someone quit nicotine. That’s because although catnip gets our feline friends in a frenzy, it actually has the opposite effect on humans.
Rather than winding us up, it makes us feel relaxed. Although humans can’t get high from catnip like our feline friends, it’s good for us in many other ways. Here are 25 reasons to grow a catnip plant, today!
1. Insect Repellent
If your cat ingests catnip on a regular basis, it may deter fleas and ticks. It and can do the same for humans. Nepetalactone, the oil in catnip that gives the plant its minty scent, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET.
Just take some of the leaves and rub them over exposed skin the next time you’re in the garden and mosquitoes are biting. Your cat will give you lots of love when you see them next!
2. It Distracts Cats
This is a different use than just getting them extra happy. If you need to distract your cats for any reason, like an upcoming vet visit, or even from disturbing your bird feeders (and subsequently your feathered friends) catnip could just do the trick. For one woman, planting catnip even helped her keep neighborhood cats from pooping in her yard.
3. You Can Cook With It
Catnip is part of the mint family. Therefore, you can use it in your kitchen in both sweet and savory applications, just as you would mint.
4. It Supports Kids’ Wellbeing
Since it’s known as a soothing herb, it’s good for kids dealing with teething, over-exhaustion, ADHD, and trouble falling asleep. It also helps mild situational anxiety (like a speech or performance), as well as headaches.
My daughter doesn’t really like the taste of mint, so I usually combine the catnip with chamomile (another relaxing herb) and honey when I make it for her.
In this article from Herbal Academy, you can learn how to choose other safe herbs for your kids.
5. Could Help You Sleep Better
Catnip tastes good—better than some other herbs used for a good night’s sleep, like valerian. Make a tea from catnip leaves and sip it before you go to bed and it could help you have an easier, more relaxed sleep.
6. Quit Smoking Aid
If you’re addicted to the ritual of smoking, you could try replacing at least one cigarette a day with an herbal smoking blend. Catnip is gentle and can be effective in taking the edge off the craving for tobacco.
7. Soothes the Body
Brew a strong batch of catnip tea (called an herbal infusion), and pour it into your next hot soaking bath. It elevates relaxation and smells good, supplying the added benefit of aromatherapy.
8. Soothes Your Nervous System
Herbal communities recognize catnip as a gentile nervine. This means it’s good for nourishing and supporting the nervous system.
9. Helps with Motion Sickness
The nervine qualities of the catnip plant’s oils calm the nervous system, which may offer some relief if you get queasy on long journeys.
10. Reduces Fever
Catnip is a known febrifuge. Herbs in this family cool the body by inducing a sweat. This is another great reason to keep some dried catnip around. Check out DIY Natural’s Fever Tincture
11. Soothes Menstrual Pain
Due to its relaxing qualities, catnip soothes muscles in the body that cause menstrual pain in women, thus alleviating the discomfort. It has also been used traditionally to induce menstruation.
12. Helps Wounds Heal
Catnip oil has antibacterial properties, and can help repair damaged tissues.
13 Conditions Hair
Pour catnip tea over your hair the next time you take a shower, or just bathe in it, and it will make your hair feel stronger. This is most likely due to the antioxidants present in the catnip plant.
14. Helps Slow the Aging Process
If you are concerned about keeping a youthful visage, catnip can help. Since it’s high in antioxidants, it helps to repair the skin. It’s recommended that you drink two cups of catnip tea per day for this effect
15. Reduces Inflammation
Use topically or drink catnip tea to help with inflammation. In contrast, women with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or those with heavy menstruation shouldn’t take catnip, as it can aggravate both symptoms.
16. It May Ease Digestive Issues
Use catnip to help colicky babies, and many adults use it to ease upset stomachs, too. Catnip is a carminative, which means that it helps remove air stuck in the intestines, pushing it downwards until it’s expelled from your body.
17. Perfect Companion Plant
Grow catnip with potatoes, pumpkins, and other squashes to keep squash beetles at bay. Plant with anise hyssop and see how the pollinators rush to your garden. Both also have small blue flowers, which make for a pretty border.
18. Deters Pests
Catnip repels aphids, Japanese beetles, ants, and squash bugs. In addition, although it may not deter them entirely, it is deer resistant.
19. It’s a Perennial
It’s a hardy plant, like others in the mint family, and will come back year after year if left to its own devices.
20. Attracts Pollinators to the Garden
In addition to cats, bees, butterflies, and birds love catnip because it produces a lot of nectar. So plant some in your garden when you want to attract pollinators.
21. It’s Drought Resistant
This makes catnip a great candidate for your garden if you have water bans or very dry summers.
23. It Repels Rodents
Rodents don’t like the smell of catnip, so it’ll keep mice, voles, shrews, and squirrels away from your garden. You can try planting a border around your home as well to deter them.
23. It Grows in Most Planting Zones
Catnip can be grown easily from zones 3 to 9, and can also grow in a variety of soils provided the earth is well drained.
24. Ideal for Container Gardens
Grow your catnip in containers and pots! All members of the mint family can smother everything else you’re growing, and are difficult to remove. As a result, it’s best to keep it contained. Be sure it gets enough sun, and try planting it in a hanging basket to keep it away from any felines that might be about.
25. A Source of Income
Most herb dealers will pay from 30¢ to 40¢ per pound for good-quality catnip and only a quarter-acre can yield around 800-900 pounds of catnip each per year.
How to Grow Catnip:
As mentioned, catnip is part of the mint family, and is sometimes called “catmint”. Keep it contained so it doesn’t completely take over your garden. In the US, catnip (Nepeta cataria) usually refers to the herb, whereas catmint (Nepeta mussinii) is more ornamental and less attractive to cats.
Grow catnip from seeds or plants starting in the spring or fall. Plant them about 20 inches apart so they are able to spread and grow (they make a fantastic ground cover). No need to fertilize catnip, since fertilizers tend to damage the plants and decrease their scent and flavor.
It blooms from late spring well into the autumn, and you can harvest it both in early summer and then again in the fall. The plant has heart-shaped leaves and small white, blue, pink, or lavender blooms, which sprout from the end of the plant’s stems.
Plant your catnip in full sunlight for best results, but it can also do well in partial shade.
Dry Your Catnip Plant for Tea
Catnip is easy to dry at a low temperature in a dehydrator, or you can hang the stems in small bunches to dry in a warm, airy place. If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can easily dry them in your car on a hot afternoon. Try this recipe for simple catnip tea from Do It Yourself:
Place 3 teaspoons of fresh catnip or 1 teaspoon of dried catnip in a mug. Take the water off the heat and pour it only after it has stopped bubbling. Boiling water is believed to destroy some of catnip’s beneficial effects.
How long you should let catnip tea steep varies depending on whom you ask. Steep longer if you’re trying to get the most out of your catnip plant, shorter if you’re just after the flavor. Steeping time should range from 5 to 20 minutes. Serve over ice for a delicious cool alternative.