You’ve probably seen one of the thousands of cat videos where catnip is involved. This herb, as most pet lovers know, is extremely popular with cats. Owners usually use catnip to keep their cats relaxed, while some simply enjoy watching their cats’ antics once they start reacting to the catnip herb.
But aside from its hilarious and harmless effect on cats, what else is catnip good for? Keep on reading and you’ll discover the various health benefits of this herb for both cats and humans.
What Is Catnip?
Catnip is a perennial plant that typically grows 3 to 5 feet tall. It was originally grown in Europe, Asia, and Africa and was imported into the United States, where it now abundantly thrives. It has distinct heart-shaped leaves and small white, blue, pink or lavender blooms, which sprout from the end of the plant’s stems.1
But how does catnip work, and why do cats enjoy it so much? Catnip’s mesmerizing effects may be because of nepetalactone, a chemical substance that triggers a kind of euphoric state in felines.
The effect depends on how your pet introduces it to his or her system. Sniffing the leaves triggers a stimulant effect, while eating them may result in a sedative-like effect on your cat.2
You’ll Be Amazed by Catnip Herb’s Benefits
The catnip plant has numerous benefits for both felines and people:
Benefits for Humans
• Helps deal with restless sleep
Catnip is known to help people deal with insomnia and sleeping disorders. The sedative properties of this herb help promote relaxation and the slowing down of natural body processes. The next time you can’t sleep, try drinking catnip tea or stuffing your pillow with fresh catnip.3
• Relieves anxiety and stress
Unlike its effect on cats, catnip has a limited and tolerable effect on humans. Catnip is used to induce a sense of relaxation for humans and triggers relief from stress and anxiety.4
• Soothes menstrual pain
It helps ease menstrual pain by helping the muscles relax and relieving the pain caused by cramps. It can also help in correcting delayed menstruation.5
• Eases stomach discomfort
Catnip is a carminative, which means that it helps remove air stuck in the intestines, pushing it downwards until it’s expelled from your body. The use of catnip can also help people with chronic gas trouble.6
Catnip may be used to treat colic in babies, as it helps in soothing and allowing relaxation. However, I do not recommend administering catnip on your infant without your doctor’s guidance. To understand the right dose for your baby, always consult your physician first.7
• Speeds up cold and fever recovery
Catnip can help you recover from colds and fever because it induces perspiration, which helps the body release heat and achieve the normal temperature. It also helps the muscle relax and induces sleep, allowing the body to heal through rest.8
Benefits for Cats
• Serves as both a sedative and a stimulant
Depending on how your cat ingests catnip, it can cause your pet to become either hyper or sedated. This helps keep your cats relaxed during events that may trigger extreme anxiety.9 It can also help overweight or lazy cats get their fair share of exercise.10
• Relieves cat flatulence
Just like in humans, catnip may be beneficial for cats who are suffering from flatulence, which can be caused by a variety of factors, such as their diet, accidental swallowing of air and malabsorption.11
Cat flatulence may also be brought on by stress. Catnip helps cats relax and avoid going into a tense state, which then helps prevent stomach upsets.12
• Helps with skin conditions
Cats are prone to various skin conditions and irritations; some are even caused by allergies. Giving your pet a catnip tea bath will not only help soothe their irritated skin but it can also help prevent fleas and ticks. Catnip has been proven to be more effective in repelling insects than DEET.13
What Else Is Catnip Used For?
The catnip plant can be transformed into different products with a variety of uses. The herb can be sold dried or as a tea or tincture. Dried catnip can be sprinkled on scratching posts and pet beds to persuade your cat to use these items. It can also be used to make catnip baths to help your cat deal with anxiety and help them relax.14
Some pet toys also use catnip in their composition to keep the cats interested in these toys. To prevent your cat from getting desensitized to catnip, keep the toys at specific instances and simply reintroduce them in a timely manner to keep your pets busy.15
Meanwhile, the tea can work as a remedy for stomach ache and infant colic.16 If you are interested in trying catnip tea, use the recipe below:17
• 1 teaspoon dried catnip leaves or 1 tablespoon of fresh catnip
• 6 ounces of boiling water
• Pinch of lemon balm (Optional)
1. Pour the boiling water over the catnip leaves and let steep for five to seven minutes. You can also add a pinch of lemon balm as to give the tea a mild lemony taste.
You Can Also Try Catnip Essential Oil
Catnip essential oil can be used as medicine or as an insect repellent. It is also known as a sedative, carminative, diuretic, emmenagogue and diaphoretic,18 and may help in alleviating fevers, migraines and colic. Some of the benefits of catnip oil include:
• Enhances mood
Catnip oil helps in the prevention of anxiety and stress, which then helps in enhancing your mood.19
• Helps in wound healing
Catnip has antibacterial properties that can help prevent wound infections. Applying catnip oil on a wound helps in the repair of the damaged tissues, thus promoting faster healing and tissue regeneration.20
• Aids in detox and weight loss
Catnip oil has stimulant and diaphoretic properties, which help in the detoxification of the body. It also helps in ridding the body of harmful substances and may even promote weight loss.21
Catnip oil is also rich in carvacrol and thymol, which are known for their antibacterial properties. Because of these components, catnip oil can be used as an adjuvant for the early onset of bronchitis.22
How to Make Catnip Oil
The common method for making your own catnip oil is distillation. I highly recommend that you use organic catnip or catnip that you’ve grown in your own backyard to be sure that no harmful fertilizers or pesticides were used in growing the plant.
Immerse the chopped leaves in olive oil (use high-quality olive oil because most of the oils that are sold in the market are adulterated with a distilled form of olive oil or other types of oil) and heat the concoction at 200 degrees Fahrenheit for two to three hours. Let cool and strain out the leaves. You can put the oil into small containers and store it in the refrigerator.23
Tips in Planting Your Own Catnip at Home
If you’re planning on growing catnip in your own garden, note that catnip seeds need to be stratified before being planted. It is suggested that you freeze the seeds and then let them soak in water for 24 hours. This will allow the seedling to easily penetrate the seed coat.
Plant the seeds where they will get loads of sunlight. Once the plant grows, it doesn’t require a lot of attention. It is not recommended that you use fertilizer or anything artificial because it may alter the plant’s smell and flavor, and it potentially harm you or your pet.24
If you live with cats, it’s a good idea that you enclose in a mesh cage or put bamboo supports on either sides of the plant so your pets will not roll over the plant.25
Take Note of These Potential Side Effects of Catnip
One of the questions that cat owners often ask first is “Is catnip safe?” The good news is that this herb is safe for cats and only has minor effects on the feline’s behavior, for a limited amount of time. The effects of catnip on cats usually range from sedation to over-activity.
Note as well that not all cats are attracted to catnip. Roughly 50 percent of the feline population is affected by its scent, so don’t be alarmed if your kitty isn’t attracted to catnip.26 Cats that are attracted to catnip, on the other hand, should be supervised when introduced to the plant or the dried herb, as excessive catnip ingestion may lead to mild diarrhea and vomiting.27
Meanwhile, catnip should be avoided by pregnant women because the ingestion or use of catnip promotes menstrual flow. It may trigger a miscarriage, so avoid using this herb when pregnant or if you’re planning to conceive.28