Good Day, Ready Nutrition Readers, and prepare yourselves for an herbal adventure: a chronicle of the wonders of Nepeta cataria, commonly known as Catnip. When you realize the full benefits of the use of this herb, you’ll never want to go without it in your herbal medicine chest. You’ll also want to consider its use on a regular basis. Without further ado, let’s see what all of the cats are raving about!
Actually, that last sentence is only partially correct. The active constituent in Catnip that causes cats to “go goofy” is a ten-carbon compound known as nepetalactone. The thing is that the compound doesn’t affect 25% of cats exposed to it. But the other 75%? Well, that is another story, as undoubtedly you have witnessed for yourself. But how does nepetalactone work? And what is its practical use? We will explain.
Nepetalactone has a weak or mild effect on humans, which is a good reason to use it due to an overdose being almost nonexistent.
Medicinal Uses for Catnip
Catnip is a wonderful herb to have in the herbal medical cabinet. Here are some of it’s most useful medicinal uses:
- It has sedative effects
- Is a febrifuge (anti fever)
- Has antibacterial effects.
- The compound can also be used to repel common insect pests such as mosquitoes and cockroaches. When nepetalactone is distilled, it is more effective than DEET than repelling mosquitoes As a matter of fact, it is up to 10 times more effective in accordance with laboratory experiments conducted by isolating the compound via steam distillation.
- Catnip (also known as catmint) is nervine in its actions, and in herbalism this translates to a substance that works on the nervous system. One of the excellent actions this can be used in is for people suffering from insomnia or restlessness during their sleep.
How to Use Catnip
The catnip can be taken as a tea to help relax the individual and enable much-needed rest. It has no side effects and is not contraindicated in any patients except for pregnant women and nursing mothers. Regarding this nervine perennial, the aerial parts being the ones harvested for medicinal use. The flowers are the best parts used in tea form. Take kitty in the other room and then steep your whole herb or tea bag. The daily dosage is 3 cups per day. Catnip is also available in capsule  and tincture  form at your local health food store as well as some of your grocery stores and big box stores in the herbal foods sections. Follow the directions of the manufacturer on the container.
Such may be something to bring you relief, as it is estimated that 15 – 17% of the entire U.S. population suffers from chronic (long-term) insomnia. The plant itself is also very easy to grow , the main consideration here being that you don’t want to overwater it. Depending upon your geographic locale, you can plant between late March and early April, and it will take 7-10 days to sprout. It doesn’t require a lot of maintenance and you can harvest the plants in a couple of months.
You can dry the herb and use it as a tea in the recommended dosage (3 cups per day) at a 2-gram amount (about a level tablespoon). Use a tea ball or a strainer and after boiling your water, immerse the tea ball with the catnip in it for about 10 minutes. A word of advice: when making any tisane (that’s an herbal tea), you should bring your water to a boil, and then take it off the burner, allowing it to cool down for 1 minute before pouring it over/adding your herb. This will keep the temperature low enough that you’re not killing off your active ingredients that are beneficial to you by boiling them.
Making a Catnip Tincture
If you wish to tincture it, you can take a 51% alcohol solution with Grain Alcohol and spring or distilled water. Chop up your catnip and place it in a jar with a tightly fitting screw lid. Then cover your herb completely with the alcohol solution and shake it vigorously about 100 times. Do this 2 times per day for two weeks, and keep the jar in a cool dark place. When the two weeks have elapsed, you can strain off your solid portion of the herb (called the menstrum) and save your solution (your tincture!) in a brown or blue-glass bottle , preferably equipped with an eyedropper to dose conveniently. The ratio gives you 325 mg/ml.
The resulting tincture you can take in juice or water, depending on your preference. 1-2 dosages daily or 1 dose 30 minutes prior to bedtime can allow you to gain the maximum advantage from the herb’s effects. For more reading on the subject, you may consult the following reference materials:
- PDR for Herbal Medicines, 3rd Ed. 
- A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants and Herbs of Eastern and Central North  America 
- “A Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Rocky Mountains
- The Complete Medicinal Herbal 
So remember, readers, you can find a very cost-effective little gem for your herbal supplies in the form of catnip. To paraphrase Anita Bryant:
“Catnip….it’s not just for cats anymore!” Have a great day and enjoy a glass of Catnip tea when you can!
Prior to taking any actions or using any of the information in this article, consult with your happy family doctor for permission and to enable the good doctor to find any possible contraindications or interactions with any current medications you are taking under prescription. The information presented in this article is for informational purposes only and does not prescribe, diagnose, treat, or recommend any action as detailed in the article