Catnip is popular because of its effect on cats’ behavior, whether it’s a domesticated feline or a ferocious tiger.1 But, did you know that humans can also use catnip to their advantage?
What Is Catnip Oil?
Catnip oil is made from the catnip plant (Nepeta cataria), which also goes by the name cat mint.2 This member of the mint family wildly grows as a weed, but may be found in herb gardens as well.3 Once extracted, the essential oil has a pale yellow or orange color with a slight minty aroma.4
Uses of Catnip Oil
There aren’t a lot of records indicating when and where catnip oil’s use began, but the widespread use of the catnip plant itself might have played a part in its rise in popularity.
Catnip originated in Asia, Africa, and Europe, where it attracted attention from Roman cooks and doctors who used the herb, and where catnip-infused tea became popular.
Eventually, it was brought by settlers to North America and introduced to Native American tribes, who then used the herb for medicinal purposes.5 Today, catnip essential oil is used as:
• Medicine: It was shown to have antibiotic and astringent properties.6
• Insect repellent: catnip oil was shown to be more effective in repelling mosquitoes compared to DEET, the most common ingredient in pesticides and insect repellents.
This essential oil was also shown to be able to combat cockroaches, termites, dust mites, and deer ticks. The only setback about catnip oil is that it has a short shelf life.7
Composition of Catnip Oil
There are a variety of substances found in catnip oil, including:
✓ Nepetalactone isomers
✓ Nepetalic acid
✓ Caryophyllene oxide
✓ Humulene oxide
✓ 3-Hexenyl ester
Benefits of Catnip Oil
Using catnip oil is a good choice because of its many health benefits. For one, it can help tighten your skin, muscles, and gums, make sure that bile and gastric juices and acids flow properly inside the stomach, and keep your scalp healthy minus the dandruff.8
Catnip oil can stimulate your appetite before meals and promote hormone production. What’s more, this essential oil also assists in stimulating the nervous, circulatory, and excretory systems. Catnip oil works as a:
• Sedative: relaxes the mind to free it from insomnia, tension, and anxiety
• Carminative: removes intestinal gases via a downward motion
• Diuretic: promotes nutrition
• Nervine: serves as a tonic for the nerves
• Emmenagogue: regulates menstruation
• Diaphoretic: makes you sweat to reduce weight and blood pressure, remove salt and excess toxins in the body, and keep your heart healthy
More importantly, catnip oil has been known to help alleviate fever, migraine, dyspepsia, colic, ulcers, spasmodic cholera, and nervous system disorders. The oil can help ease muscular, intestinal, respiratory, or menstrual cramps.
How to Make Catnip Oil
A common method used to make catnip oil is steam distillation of the leaves and flower or buds. However, if you have catnip at home, or live in an area where the plant grows, you can make an oil-based infusion. Here’s a method from The Ann Arbor News:9
1. Gather catnip leaves and stems, and chop finely to expose more surface area of the plant.
2. Cover the bottom of a casserole dish with the plant, and then immerse the greens in olive oil.
3. Heat at about 200 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three hours in a very slow oven.
4. Once cooled, strain out the leaves, and refrigerate the oil until further use.
How Does Catnip Oil Work?
Want to use catnip oil for daily use? You can do so through these methods:
• Topically (as an insect repellent): to make natural insect repellent, combine catnip essential oil, natural witch hazel, and distilled water as seen in this recipe from Wellness Mama10 or dilute with a carrier oil or aloe vera gel to apply or spray on skin.11
• Inhalation via a diffuser: catnip oil blends well with lemon, lime, mint, eucalyptus, myrrh, citronella, and geranium oil.12 Combine a few drops of catnip oil with any of these essential oils, add to the diffuser, and enjoy.
Is Catnip Oil Safe?
Overall, catnip oil is a safe essential oil. However, it must not be used undiluted, especially in areas near your eyes or mucous membranes, and must not be taken internally without a physician’s advice.13 Catnip oil isn’t recommended for pregnant women and must be kept away from children as well.
Side Effects of Catnip Oil
There have been no major reports of harsh side effects from catnip oil, but it’s been said that catnip oil can cause skin irritation.14 Prior to use, I recommend consulting with a physician and taking an allergen patch test to determine if catnip oil is a good match for you.