Catnip (botanical name Nepeta Cataria) is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family and grows up to a height of anything between three feet and five feet. The stem of this plant is straight, quadrangular and branching covered by hairs. The leaves have an oblong or heart shape with pointed ends and scalloped borders. They have whitish or gray hairs on their underside. The flowers of catnip are white having purple specks and bloom atop spikes during the period between June and September.
Nepelactone, whose chemical structure has a close resemblance to that of valepotriates (the tranquilizing elements present in valerian root), forms the main constituent of this herb. This is the main reason why drinking one cup of hot herbal tea prepared with catnip before retiring to bed at night ensures a sound sleep. During experiments, it was found that mice that were given a catnip had less activity in general and slept for more time. When a catnip extract mixed with hot water was given to young chickens (about 9 days to 27 days old) in a hatchery it was found that on average they slept for a considerably more time during their daily as well as weekly carefree sleeping period.
Catnip is a very useful herbal remedy for treating all types of infections of the respiratory tract. In addition, when consumed in the form of a hot tea, catnip makes one perspire profusely and, in effect, alleviates fevers, while working in the form of a decongestant. When you have a cold or flu, you should take catnip as soon as you notice the symptoms and take it quite often. In addition, catnip is effective in treating asthma and bronchitis plus eruptive infections like measles and chicken pox. This herb is an excellent medication especially for infants and children. As it possesses soothing and relaxing attributes, taking catnip provides relief from restiveness and brings about sound sleep.
This herb has a relaxing effect, which can be experienced even in the digestive tract. It helps to alleviate tension, wind, colic as well as pain and is a wonderful medication for infants who are suffering from any of these conditions and are unable to sleep. A potent infusion prepared with catnip helps to alleviate headaches as well as all associated tensions. This herb may also be employed to treat various digestive disorders, including indigestion, stomach upset and conditions related to stress. Tannins present in catnip make it an excellent herbal remedy for treating diarrhea, especially in kids. This herb is also prescribed in the form of an enema (a fluid injected into the rectum) to treat inflamed bowel disorders, infections of the bowels, diarrhea as well as constipation.
Catnip has a relaxing effect that can be experienced even in the uterus. In addition, you may also employ this herb to alleviate pains due to menstrual periods and also stress and tension during periods. Catnip is also useful in regulating menstrual periods and also treating suppressed and delayed menstruation.
A hot catnip infusion works as an excellent antiseptic inhalant and cures tender throats, coughs, colds and flu, in addition to working as a decongestant to alleviate sinusitis and catarrh as well as relaxing croup and asthma. Catnip possesses antiseptic attributes which are effective in treating skin infections. This herb contains high levels of tannins which help to accelerate the process of repairing damaged tissues and stop hemorrhages from grazes and cuts. The tannins are also useful in curing burn injuries and scalds, insect bites, piles and skin problems accompanied by inflammations.
It is quite easy to prepare a genuinely effectual bedtime drink with catnip. Boil about one cup (250 ml) of water, take it away from heat and add preferably one teaspoon of freshly chopped catnip or one teaspoon of the dried herb and allow it to infuse for roughly 20 minutes. When the water is lukewarm you may add some honey to the formula if you wish and drink it. It has been found that an Old Amish Herbal medication known as Night Nip also works excellently, even for people suffering from insomnia. The recommended dose of this remedy is taking three capsules just prior to going to bed. An herbal tea prepared with catnip is also effective for bringing down fevers, alleviating nausea as well as the agony of suffering from hay fever.
People residing in the Appalachian and Ozark Mountains either apply crushed fresh leaves of catnip or powdered dried up herb in the form of a raw poultice to aching teeth or tender gums directly to get relief from the excruciating pain and related miseries. Provided they are using the powder of the dry herb, they moisten a cotton piece with water, apply some powder on the affected surface and place the wet cotton inside the mouth and hold it tightly against the painful gums or aching teeth for instant relief. While the fresh catnip leaves apparently bring relief almost immediately, the powered herb takes some more time to have the desired effect.
A potent herbal tea prepared with catnip may also be effectively employed in the form of eyewash to provide relief from tenderness as well as swelling caused by cold and flu, specific air-borne allergens, and excessive consumption of alcohol (also known as the ‘bloodshot eye’ syndrome). To prepare this strong herbal tea, add five teaspoons of freshly chopped catnip leaves to three cups (750 ml) of boiling water. Reduce the heat and allow the chopped leaves of the herb to seethe for just three minutes. Next, take the kettle way from heat and allow the leaves to infuse for an additional 50 minutes. Filter the liquid and store it in a hygienic fruit jar and refrigerate it. You may use this tea in the form of eyewash using an eye cup many times every day. Alternately, you may also saturate a sanitized towel made from terry-cloth in a tepid solution prepared by diluting the tea with water and apply the towel over your eyes for about 30 minutes daily. You may compress the used tea bags containing the herb and place them over the eyelids to get some relief.
Catnip is effective in resolving stomach problems and also possesses sedative properties. In addition, it is a potent herb that induces sweating and, thereby, helps to bring down fevers. Catnip has a pleasing flavour and mild action that makes this herb an appropriate remedy for colds, flu as well as fevers in small children, particularly when it is used in combination with elderflower plus honey. Catnip possesses distinct anti-flatulent and anti-colic properties and is effective in treating indigestion. In addition, this herb is also useful for alleviating headaches associated with digestive disorders. A tincture prepared with this herb is an excellent rub for treating arthritic and rheumatic joints. When used in the form of salve catnip is effective for treating hemorrhoids.
Other medical uses
Till the 13th century, catnip was a very common herb in kitchen gardens in England and there was a time when the leaves of this herb were employed to rub meats prior to cooking them. In addition, catnip leaves were also sliced finely and showered on green salads. Try cutting a few catnip leaves and adding them to your salads and experience their delightful flavour.
You may also add freshly chopped or even dried out leaves of this herb to stews, soups as well as nourishing sauces.
The fresh as well as dried leaves of catnip may also be used to prepare a stimulating and calming herbal tea. Prepare this herbal tea by adding three teaspoon (15 ml) of the leaves to one cup (250 ml) of boiling water and allowing them to infuse for some time. Otherwise, you may combined dried out leaves of this herb with dried lemon balm or dried mint and add them to your preferred black tea.
Catnip is also used for craft purposes, for instance, you may sew up cat toys and fill those with the smooth dried leaves of this herb to entertain your loved felines.
Habitat and cultivation
Although catnip is indigenous to Europe, over the years this herb has been naturalized in several parts of North America. Catnip plants form thick bushes when grown in reasonably fertile soil that has a proper drainage. However, this plant also has the aptitude to thrive in arid, sandy soils. Prior to planting catnip, add a thin layer of compost over the soil. The suggested pH range for catnip is between 4.9 and 7.5.
Catnip grows well in semi-shaded locations, but this herb also has the aptitude to thrive in complete sunlight.
Catnip can be propagated from its seeds very easily. Ideally, you need to sow the seeds indoors roughly six to eight weeks prior to the last expected date of the spring frost. The seeds should not be sown deeper than 6 mm (1/4 inch) into the soil. Generally, it takes anything between 8 and 10 days for the seeds to germinate. While transplanting the seedlings ensure that you maintain a space of about 30 cm (12 inches) between them.
Alternatively, you may also propagate catnip by means of root division best undertaken during the spring or in fall. The cuttings should be made from the cuttings of stem tips or softwood, as the young plant cuttings develop roots comparatively fast – usually only within a week of the cutting. If you are using stem cuttings, ensure that they are roughly 4 inches (10 cm) in length. Prior to transplanting the growths from the root/ stem tip cuttings to your garden, you need to grow them in a damp soil till they have grown to a height of 6 inches (15 cm).
Catnip plants possess the aptitude to sow effortlessly all by themselves and, hence, you need to be prepared to get rid of the unnecessary plants. Discard the unwanted plants according to your requirements.
If you want the catnip plants to be bushier, you should smidgen the flower buds as soon as they emerge. Although these plants are free from pest invasions, they are vulnerable to root rot and rust.
In fact, felines remain the major problem that needs to be tackled by gardeners growing catnip. Therefore, you should enclose the young plants in a wire cage meant for chicken, as it will shield them from cats and allow them to grow without any trouble. It is worth mentioning here that the felines are only attracted to catnip plants when there are broken branches or bruised leaves, which release certain chemicals that draw the cats. Therefore, unless the plants are damaged, cats will not bother them.
Provided you are growing catnip indoors, you should ensure that they are potted in damp soil, which is never waterlogged. In addition, you need to provide lime supplements to the soil. A minimum of five hours direct sunlight is necessary for the catnip plants when they are grown indoors. Whenever necessary, cut the plants back, because they have a propensity to become unkempt.
You can prepare a potent catnip tea by brining one cup (250 ml) of water to boil and adding one to two teaspoons of this dried or fresh herb to it. Next, cover the vessel and allow the herb to infuse for about 10 to 15 minutes. For best results, you should drink two to three cups of the tea daily. To treat coughs in children give them 5 ml of catnip tincture thrice daily.
Side effects and cautions
As catnip possesses the aptitude to bring about contractions of the uterine as well as encourage menstruation, it is advisable that pregnant women or those enduring disorders related to their menstrual cycle should avoid this herb.
Drinking a cup of tea prepared with catnip works as an excellent nightcap and ensures sound sleep at night, but the diuretic attributes of this herb also mean that it may also disturb your sleep, as you will often feel the urgency to visit the toilet.
It is believed that it is possible to smoke dry catnip leaves just as marijuana. However, there is no evidence that shows that catnip also causes intoxication like marijuana. Nonetheless, your doubts may turn out to be real if you find that young associates are found to take an unusual interest in the catnip plants in your garden.
For most excellent results, you should eat raw catnip by adding it to your spring salad or drink a decoction prepared with fresh leaves of the herb. Instead of boiling the herb in water, it is better if you infuse its leaves in hot water for an extended period - ideally you should add three leaves in one cup (250 ml) of hot water. Drink this herbal tea hot to treat diarrhea or colic and consume it cold provided you are using it to treat fevers as well as digestive migraine. Catnip can also be used in the form of an enema to treat intestinal pain. In fact, even children may be administered a catnip enema. To prepare the enema, add two catnip leaves or one flowery top of the herb to 250 ml (one cup) of water, allow it to permeate and subsequently filter the liquid for use.
Catnip is a wonderful herbal remedy for extreme nervousness, such as hyperactivity, bronchospasms as well as insomnia. For effective results, use it in the form of an herbal tea or take the mother tincture prepared from the herb after every meal. It is advisable that you add three catnip leaves to 250 ml (one cup) of water and allow it to infuse. Strain the liquid and take it in measures of 10 drops every time. This catnip formula helps digestion, in addition to avoiding flatulence.
Collection and harvesting
While the leaves of catnip can be picked all through the summer, they have a comparatively gentle flavour if you collect the leaves prior to the flowering season of the plants. Ideally, the leaves should be picked early morning soon after the dew has disappeared.
If you wish to dry and store the catnip plants for future use, you need to harvest the entire stems along with the young leaves and flowering heads. You should cut the stem leaving about two inches (5 cm) from the ground and dangle them upturned in a shaded place. When the plants have dried out, remove the dry leaves and crush them before storing them in sealed containers. Ensure that you place the containers in a place away from light.
Shred the plant and put the pieces in Pyrex bowl and add hot water to it. Allow the herb to infuse and cool for about 10 minutes. Subsequently, filter the liquid. Use the entire infusion to fill the enema bulb many times (according to the usual method). If the child is below two years of age, use just one-fourth of the infusion. Using this herbal formula helps to cure colic, migraines, fever as well as spasm of the entire network of blood vessels and nerves (plexus).
You may strew catmint leaves at all places which are disturbed by rodents or where ever they may exist in your house - in fact, this herb has been traditionally used in the form of a rat repellent. Placing bunches of catnip plants in the duck and hen houses is also said to discourage rats to visit those places.