Catnip – Farmacy Friday

Catnip is probably most well-known for its behavioral effect on  approximately 60% of felines who smell its intoxicating aroma.  As it turns out, nepetalactone, the oil found in catnip plant leaves, mimics feline sex hormones.  It is no surprise, therefore, that “catnip induced” behaviors often include overt signs of affection, relaxation, playfulness, happiness, and sometimes even aggression.  Although its name and fame are widely attributed to this phenomenon, catnip is a both a useful and medicinal remedy, though few know of its many applications. 

Before the use of processed tea, catnip tea was brewed by English peasants to mask the smell of meat that had been salted or cool-stored over the winter.  In France, the shoots and leaves are traditionally used as seasoning (see recipe below).  Aeromatically, this potent plant has the ability to repel rodents, who dislike the smell almost as much as they detest cats!  When made into a tincture+infusion spray and applied topically, very few concoctions rival catnip’s ability to repel mosquitoes and other pesky insects.  In hot weather, a cup of catnip tea can assist in cooling the body, as sweat induced by the tea allows evaporation and cooling of the skin.

As a medicine, catnip is supremely affective in treating a cold or fever due to its ability to produce perspiration without raising body temperature.  It also aids in relaxation, making sleep more feasible.  Catnip is also known for its ability to reduce pain.  For this reason, it is considered a sure remedy for baby’s colic (e.g., fits of insanity, hysterical headaches, spasms, and gas/griping in the bowels).  For colic use, it can be administered as tea via bottle, a few drops orally in  tincture form (catnip+fennel),, or even in small capsule form for a teething baby to chew on.

To start catnip in your garden, plant seeds or root divisions 18” apart by in the early spring or fall.  These plants will grow easily and quickly with a little mulch and consistent watering.  For best quality and flavor, harvest just before the plants flower.

Catnip Squash

1 lb zucchini

2 T olive oil

½ oz fresh catnip, finely chopped

Wash and slice zucchini, then saute in olive oil in a frying pan.  Season as desired, then cover and cook until tender.  Before serving, sprinkle with catnip.

Kloss, Jethro.  Back to Eden. Loma Linda, CA: The Jethro Kloss Family Back to Eden Book, (n.d.)

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