[ Crazy for Catnip ] ~ from Monterey Bay Herb Company
Catnip is one of the marvels of the vast mint family, and one of 250 species in its genus. Like its botanical cousins, it is easily recognized by relatively tall, square-stemmed stalks that support dual-lipped white or pale pink flowers and heart-shaped, toothed, hairy, grayish-green leaves.

As its name implies, cats have a penchant for the herb. A pinch of dried catnip is enough to make most house cats go ga-ga, some even to the point of aggression. When ingested, however, nepetalactone seems to have the opposite result in people than cats.

[ Crazy for Catnip - Chasing Your Tail ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

the cat's meow

Catnip (Nepeta cataria), also known as catmint and catswort, is a member of the mint family that is native to Europe and Asia and naturalized throughout North America. It is a common wayside "weed" also cultivated as an ornamental and culinary herb. Of course, as its various names suggest, the herb is highly attractive to cats. In fact, an encounter with catnip will make nearly any feline chase its tail, rev its purr-engine as if yelling "fire!" and drool like a drunken sot.

That's the way it looks to us, anyway. In truth, a catnip-induced cat exhibits behaviors attributed to "queens in season," which is a delicate way of saying "in heat.” So, fear not; your feline is not in need of a support group or rehab, and exposure to or consumption of recreational catnip is completely safe and non-habit forming.

[ Crazy for Catnip - To Sleep Or Not to Sleep ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

house cats, lions, and tigers, oh my

About 75% of all adult cats display signs of euphoria in the presence of catnip, while the other 25% and kittens under the age of six months are immune to the stuff. The "wild thing" response is simply hereditary, triggered by a terpenoid compound called nepetalactone in the essential oil of the leaf of the plant that binds to olfactory receptors in the olfactory epithelium, the tissue that lines the nasal passages. House cats are not the only feline species affected either. Their larger cat cousins, like tigers, cougars and leopards, also enjoy a good stiff whiff.

Once nepetalactone molecules enter the nasal passages, they continue on their journey to the hypothalamus, the area of the brain that regulates sleep and mating behaviors. This is when kitty’s inhibitions come tumbling down, evidenced by rolling, rubbing against things and generally displaying signs of excess stimulation.

When ingested, however, nepetalactone exerts a mild sedative quality. Although humans are not affected by the scent of catnip, ingesting the herb provides this effect in both humans and cats.

[ Crazy for Catnip - dall'Italia Nepeta Cataria ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

catnip is for people too

Like many other of its minty mates, catnip has a myriad of uses that benefit humans. You might be surprised to learn, for example, that catnip is edible. The dried flowering tops and leaves add a mild and refreshing taste to tea blends, sauces, soups, stews, fruit salads (goes especially well with grapefruit) and is even incorporated into baked goods.

The dried herb is also used as a seasoning throughout the Mediterranean region, from which catnip originates. It is particularly popular as a culinary herb in Italy, where the herb is known as “cataria.” In fact, the plant’s generic name of Nepeta is thought to come from an ancient town of the same name in central Italy known today as Nepi.

Catnip has a long history of use as a digestive, carminative, relaxant, diaphoretic, febrifuge, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and tonic that dates back centuries. Modern herbalists most commonly recommend catnip tea to help induce sweating to break a fever, as well as to stimulate digestion and ease a sour stomach. In Europe, catnip has long been used to promote sleep during bouts of insomnia and/or nervousness, and to counter colic in children. In addition to tea, the herb is tinctured, prepared as a poultice, or dried and encapsulated as a dietary supplement.
One caveat: because catnip may stimulate uterine contractions, it should not be used during pregnancy.

[ Crazy for Catnip - To Sleep Or Not to Sleep ] ~ from Monterey Bay Spice

other uses of catnip

Catnip contains several active compounds, including geraniol, citronella and nepetalactone, all of which are potent insect repellents. Nepetalactone, in particular, has been found to repel cockroaches, flies and termites and several species of mosquitoes with efficacy up to 10 times that of DEET.

The essential oil of catnip is used in aromatherapy to stem anxiety or nervousness originating from an inability to express emotion. It’s either diluted in a carrier oil and applied to the skin during massage or acupressure sessions, or inhaled through the use of a diffuser. The oil is also used in perfumery and in soapmaking. A drop or two diluted in a teaspoon of carrier oil and rubbed across the temples and forehead is a time honored way to chase away a headache.

catnip combinations

Dilute strong catnip tea in witch hazel extract or carrier oil with a few drops of peppermint, cinnamon or thuja essential oils in sprays to repel mosquitoes.

Combine with chamomile or skullcap in teas to help ease anxiety and insomnia.

Pair with dried basil, oregano and thyme in Italian dishes.

Infuse in hot water with crushed fennel seed and dill for a digestive tonic.

Mix with dried hyssop and lavender to stuff herbal dream pillows and sachets.

Blend with lavender flowers, thyme or rose hips in shortbread and biscuits.

Text Formulas with Catnip, for Wellness

Illustration of Catnip

If the sandman seems to elude you night after night, give one or two of these capsules a try 30 minutes before retiring for the night.

¼ cup catnip leaves and flowers, powdered
¼ cup valerian root, powdered
2 tablespoons skullcap, powdered

Powder your catnip. Place the cut-and-sifted leaf and flower catnip in a spice grinder and process until fine. Alternatively, you can grind the herb in a mortar and pestle.

Mix the powdered herbs together in a small bowl. Scoop the powdered herbal material into an encapsulating machine filled with empty capsules. Press both halves of the machine together and turn out finished capsules. Store in a container with a lid in a cool place.

Catnip Recipe Capsules

Illustration of Catnip

Use this spray on sore muscles and joints at the end of a long day working in the garden or after participating in sports. Works best after a warm bath or shower.

½ cup dried catnip
3-4 slices of fresh ginger root
Witch hazel extract

Place the catnip and sliced ginger root in a small glass canning jar. Add enough witch hazel extract to cover. Cover with a lid and store in a cool place for 2 weeks, turning the jar 1-2 times each day. Strain and pour into small spray bottles and label.

Catnip Recipe Mist Sprayers

Illustration of Catnip

This tea is soothing and tasty on its own but you can add other herbs with similar qualities, such as chamomile.

1 cup boiling water
1 teaspoon dried catnip

Place the dried catnip in a tea ball and drop into a teacup. Slowly pour over the boiling water. Let steep for 3-5 minutes. Remove the tea ball and add honey and lemon, if you wish.

Catnip Tea Recipe

Illustration of Catnip

Capture the anti-inflammatory actions of catnip in a tincture and add a dropper-full to your morning or evening tea.

1 cup distilled water
1 cup dried catnip
Vodka or gin

Place the dried catnip in a glass jelly jar. Pour over enough alcohol to cover. Cap and place in a cool dark place. After 4 weeks, strain and transfer into a small dropper bottles and label.

Catnip Tincture Recipe

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