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Herbal Spotlight: Catnip

beth October 9, 2013

catnip

photo by Tiger Lily

By Michelle, Contributing Writer

All About Catnip (Nepeta Cataria L.)

I think the first time that I heard that catnip could be used for things other than cat entertainment was from the original Modern Alternative Mama – Kate! Believe it or not, catnip has the opposite affect on humans. Catnip can help lull a child to sleep or soothe an aching tummy. Last year, Kate wrote a post about a “teething tea” over at Keeper of the Home. This year, she wrote about a similar idea, but in a portable and easy-to-use tincture.  Catnip isn’t one of the most talked about herbs, but it (unsurprisingly) has been used for centuries as an herbal remedy. It is a flowering plant that is part of the mint family.

It’s high in B vitamins, as well, making it good for a supplement.

Uses:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Migraine/Headaches
  • Cold and Upper Respiratory Infections
  • Flu/Swine Flu
  • Fever
  • Hives
  • Worms
  • Gastrointestinal Upset (indigestion, cramping, flatulence)
  • Colic
  • Arthritis (topical)
  • Hemorrhoids (topical)
  • Swelling (topical compress)
  • Uterine Stimulant (menstrual or labor)
  • Hormone balance

How to Grow Your Own

Catnip is a hardy, perennial herb that can grow in almost any soil. It does like moisture – but not too much. It can be grown indoors, if you have a sunny window available. It is always a great time of year to grow catnip indoors! You should have some leaves to harvest in 3-4 months. Be ye warned: it does tend to smell like a skunk to many people. If you don’t think you can handle that, you may want to plant outside.

If you would rather avoid the skunk odor and you don’t have a feral cat problem, you can plant outdoors. Warning: it can be invasive. However, it is pretty (if you ask me) and it attracts honeybees (which is great… have you heard that honeybees are disappearing?). According to some sources, autumn planting of catnip is supposed to produce better stands. So, now is the perfect time to plant. But if you live in a particularly cold climate, you may need to wait until early spring. Also, if you are not a seed person, you can grow catnip by dividing a thriving plant or even with cuttings.

Possible Side Effects and Cautions

Catnip is Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS). Even considered a safe alternative to Valerian (traditionally used for insomnia) for children. However, pregnant women should probably avoid it due to its possible uterine stimulant effects. Not recommended in combination with pharmacological sleep aids (i.e. Ambien) or in cases of abnormal menstruation.  Always use caution when administering herbal remedies for the first time and be especially observant of small children.

Have you ever used catnip as an herbal remedy?

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I’m Kate, mama to 5 and wife to Ben.  I love meeting new people and hearing their stories.  I’m also a big fan of “fancy” drinks (anything but plain water counts as ‘fancy’ in my world!) and I can’t stop myself from DIY-ing everything.  I sure hope you’ll stick around so I can get to know you better!

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