Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
by Morgana Moonfire
Catnip is also known by the names Catmint, Catnep and Catnap, Catrup, Cat’s wort, Field balm, Cat, Nip and Nepeta. The genus name, Nepeta cataria, comes from Nepeti, a Roman town where this herb was first cultivated.
The herb is named catnip because of the peculiar behaviour of cats when they get a whiff of this feline favourite. It does not cause such behavior in humans but, like many botanical, it has many excellent nutritional properties.
Catnip is called a Woman’s Love Herb because it is said to make women enticing and charming to make men ready and increase their nature. For this reason, women use it to aid in bringing about relations.
Associations: Venus, Libra, Cancer, the Moon (Tarot), the element of water, Aengus Óg, Áine and Bast, its gender is feminine.
- Catnip, if grown near the house or hung over the door will attract good spirits and good luck.
- Early American settlers believed catnip would make kind people mean and so the dried roots were fed to hangmen and executioners.
- Catnip is a Druid sacred herb.
- All through history, this herb has been used in humans to produce a sedative effect. Traditional herbalists have treated other conditions like cancer, toothache and corns with catnip.
- Catnip does not just intoxicate domestic felines: large cats, such as lions and jaguars, are also susceptible to its effects.
- Tradition says that growing catnip near your home will attract luck and good spirits.
- Catnip is a perennial or biennial herb of the mint family.
- Catnip and savory will discourage flea beetles and bean beetles on your bean plants.
- In addition to cats, bees are also fond of catnip.
- Catnip leaves were brewed as tea and before Chinese tea was imported.
Catnip can reach up to 3 feet high.
Catnip grows on banks and waste places in northern temperate regions around the world.
Catnip is easy to grow. They grow well with little attention and will withstand crowding.
è They thrive in sun or partial shade.
è They prefer average, well drained soil over rich soils although will grow in most soils. So fertilizer is not usually required, except in the poorest of soils. A little fertilizer is recommended at planting time and a couple of times a year to promote maximum growth.
è After the plants have grown a few inches, pinch back the shoots to promote bushy growth. It will first bloom in mid summer. After harvest, trim back the plants again. With luck, you will get three harvests in a season.
- Catnip can be grown by seed.
Sow seeds into your garden in the spring.
Space seedlings or thin plants to 20″ apart.
1. Dig up the plant on a cloudy day, keeping as much of the roots intact as possible. Remove or shake off any loose soil so you can easily see the crown and roots.
2. Divide the plant into smaller pieces using the knife or garden fork to cut through the crown and roots. (You might need two garden forks to pry apart roots of extremely overgrown clumps.) Each division should have at least two to five vigorous shoots with ample roots attached. Remove any diseased or discolored portions.
3. Cut back the top growth to about 6 inches or half the plant’s height.
4. Replant or pot up your new plants immediately and water well.
* When growing catnip, allow for plenty of space. Catnip are aggressive growers and will overcrowd nearby plants in your herb garden if allowed.
Harvest the leaves before and while flowering. Wait until the plant is 8 to 10 inches tall before harvesting. By that stage, the leaves will be large and mature.
Gather catnip for drying in late summer. The harvest process will depend on how you will be drying the catnip. If drying flat, then snip or pinch off the top leaves. If hanging the catnip to dry, snip off long stems.
Dry the leaves before storing them.
- Drying can be achieved by placing the snipped leaves on a screen to allow the air to dry the leaves, which can take several weeks.
- Another option to dry flat is to place the leaves on a baking sheet in the oven on the lowest setting; it can take up to 6 hours for the leaves to dry.
- To dry the leaves by hanging them, secure bunches with string and hang them in a dry location.
* The leaves are dry when you can easily crumble them with your fingers.
- Crumble the dried leaves and place them in an air-tight plastic container or glass jar.
- The leaves can also be stored in a sealed plastic bag in the freezer.
Parts used: leaves
v Love: used for luck in love affairs.
- Traditionally used in conjunction with rose petals to bring loving relationships that last forever.
- Use in love sachets or add a small amount to herbal teas. If you carry catnip in a flannel bag, the man you want will be attracted to you like a cat to catnip.
- To attract a new lover: use it in an herbal bath, sprinkle it at the 4 corners of the bed or burn it with incense.
- Soak catnip leaves in whiskey and sprinkle the liquid on your doorstep for 21 days, starting on the full moon.
è Use catnip while calling on Aengus Óg, the god of love, to bring happiness and love.
v Cat magick
- Give it to your cat to create a psychic bond.
v Animal contacts, familiars
- In order to experience beauty and clarity, call on the goddess Áine while using.
v Large dried leaves are powerful markers for magickal books.
v Courage (smudging)
- Chewed by warriors for fierceness in battle.
v Friendship (smudging)
Catnip is a sedating/stimulating herb which is rich in volatile oils and which can also tonify or nourish. The primary chemical constituents of catnip include essential oils (carvacrol, citronella, geraniol, nepetol, nepetelactone, pulegone, thymol), iridoids and tannins. It also contains iron, selenium, potassium, manganese, chromium and moderate amounts of other minerals & vitamins.
Catnip has a substance called nepetalactone, which is similar to valerian. The herb is anti-inflammatory and has mild antibiotic properties. In addition, it relieves stress or pain (anodyne) and is diaphoretic (increases sweating).
v Stimulates the appetite
v When smoked, leaves give mild euphoria with no harmful effects.
v Hair rinse for scalp irritations
v Controls and reduces fever and will help soothe feverish chills
v Catnip contains antispasmodic properties that are ideal for treating abdominal and menstrual cramping, as well as chronic coughing.
v Carminative herb: aids digestion, constipation, calms upset stomachs, relieves diarrhea, flatulence and indigestion
- Particularly good for children with upset stomachs in a very mild infusion.
- Bath herb for colic
- Catnip tea for upset stomach, colic, spasms, flatulence and acid.
v It is a stronger nervine (relaxing herb): Catnip is good for nervous conditions, relieves stress, good for anxiety and nervousness, induces relaxation: drink catnip or chamomile tea (infants or adults)
- Soothes nervous headaches
- Bath herb for stress
v Eyewash for inflammation, allergies and bloodshot eyes
v Hiccup remedy
v Catnip’s antibiotic and astringent properties are also beneficial for treating colds and bronchial infections (chronic bronchitis): keeps colds at bay; catnip tea helps reduce mucus
v The flu
v For a stimulating state of mind
v Relaxes the muscles
v Heals minor tissue injuries
- To treat minor mishaps that occur in the garden, press some crushed catnip leaves on cuts and scrapes until you are able to get inside to wash and bandage your injury.
v Helpful for pain: soothes headaches and reduces migraine pain
- Use as a poultice for toothache
- Bath herb for teething
- As a compress or poultice for pain, sprains and bruises
- Salve for hemorrhoids
v Liniment for arthritis and rheumatism
v Enema to cleanse the colon
v Compress or poultice for insect bites
v Boils and carbuncles
- Poultices made of ground flaxseed, peach tree leaves, catnip leaves or roasted onion and applied hot will draw out the infection.
v Aids sleep, insomnia, ensuring a restful sleep
- Sweet dreams and peaceful nights: place catnip under your pillow.
- Healing dreams: drink tea-potion made from catnip or mint
*** Avoid during pregnancy!
*Catnip is a gentle herb and makes a suitable drink for children.
v Catnip prevents mosquito bites
- Undiluted catnip oil can provide up to two hours of insect repellant properties when applied directly to the skin. Research in 2001 showed that catnip oil repels mosquitoes ten times better than DEET. Further research showed that depending on the species of mosquito, protection lasted for up to four hours. The active ingredient in catnip oil is called nepetalactone.
***Nepetalactone can cause skin irritations to those with sensitivities, so a patch test is recommended.
v The root and leaf scent, mint with cat pheromone overtones, intoxicates cats and repels rats and flea beetles.
- Catnip tea can be used effectively as a drink and also as an enema.
- To make catnip tea, use 2 teaspoons of the dried herb per cup of boiling water.
Steep for 10 to 20 minutes; then strain and drink. *Do not boil catnip as boiling dissipates the herb’s healing oil.
Drink up to 3 cups daily.
Catnip and rosemary mosquito chasing oil
Makes about 2 cups.
2 cups catnip, stemmed
1 cup rosemary, cut in 6-inch sprigs
2 cups grapeseed oil or any light body-care oil
Roll herbs lightly with a rolling pin and pack into a clean jar. Cover with oil, seal jar and place in a cool, dark cupboard for two weeks.
Shake jar lightly every day or so for two weeks. Strain into a clean jar, seal and refrigerate for up to 8 months unused.
To use, rub on exposed skin.
Herbal Tea Recipe for Aches and Pain.
1 Tablespoon – White Willow Bark.
1 Tablespoon – Catnip
Put into a Tea ball and steep in boiling hot water for five minutes.
Drink as hot as you can stand it; then lie down for a nap.
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