Cats’ Frolick; People’s Solace
Most people are familiar with catnip as a fun-filled energizer for kitties, but it has amazing health benefits for humans as well. Catnip often called nature’s ‘Alka-Seltzer’ is high in vitamins A, C, and the B complex; it contains magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, sodium, and sulphur. The catnip herb (nepeta cataria) has been used as folk medicine for centuries. The name Nepeta is likely derived from the Roman town Nepeti where catnip was a highly valued medicinal herb. Catnip, also known as catmint, catswort, and field balm,
is a member of the mint family of herbs. Historically in regions of Europe, catnip was used for the treatment of abdominal cramps, flatulence, headaches, hives, the common cold and toothaches. Catnip tea was the most common herbal beverage in Europe before the importation of teas from the orient.
Catnip got its common name because it produces a euphoric state in cats when they sniff the herb. According to researchers, one of the essential oils called nepetalactone is responsible for the cats’ behavior. However, nepetalactone produces the opposite influence on humans; it has a sedative, calming effect. Thus, Catnip is a natural remedy for restlessness, anxiety and insomnia. Catnip also has antimicrobial properties. An infusion of catnip leaves helps relieve colds and fever. Catnip induces sleep and perspiration, but it doesn’t increase body temperature, making it safe for children. Catnip may also be used to help lessen migraine headaches. Catnip aids in relieving stomach complaints such as colic, cramps, gas, and indigestion because the chemicals in it have muscle-relaxing or antispasmodic effects. Catnip oil used in aromatherapy relieves nasal congestion. An external infusion can be used to soothe scalp irritations.
Catnip grows easily all over the northern hemisphere. Catnip plants have fuzzy, grayish-green leaves and small, white or lavender flowers that bloom in the summer attracting an abundance of bees to the garden. The flowers, leaves and stem are cut while the plants are in full flower and then dried for use in herbal preparations. Catnip makes a good border plant as it repels flea beetles and other pests. It grows easily and reseeds itself; just cut it back in late autumn. If you have cats, be sure to plant extra catnip for them to lie in.
Catnip can be taken in capsules or tinctures. The most common form is catnip tea from dried leaves. To prepare catnip tea, boil 1 cup of water and then add 2 teaspoons of dried leaves. Remove from the heat and let the infusion set for about 10 minutes. Boiling catnip may cause the loss of active ingredients. Catnip can be taken three times a day. So give catnip tea a taste and enjoy its simple yet potent benefits.
Ruth Madocks handcrafts local, organic products and grows many varieties of herbs in her garden.