Growing and using catnip for tea (for you, not the cats!)

History of Catnip

This is a flowering plant commonly known as catmint and goes by the scientific name of Nepeta Cataria. The word Nepeta comes from Nepete, a town in central Italy where the herb was commonly cultivated. Cataria is thought to originate from the Latin word for cat. Other names of catnip include Catnep, Catmint, Chataire/Cataire, Herb a chat, Menthe des Chats, and Menta de Gato.

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It is believed that Egyptians were amongst the first people to discover catnip due to their love of cats. The Romans also regarded this herb highly and are said to have used it in traditional herbal medicines and recipes to drive away infections.

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Americans began to use catnip around the 18th century. History shows that when settlers moved to the New World, they took the plant cuttings with them for food and medicinal purposes. A recipe from Massachusetts 1712 lists catnip as one of the ingredients.

Native Americans adopted this herb in their medicines and recipes when they found it. It was also thought to relieve female menstrual problems. Some of the American tribes used catnip to treat colds coughs, sore throats, fevers, pneumonia, and colic. The Mohegan tribes believed that tea made from catnip leaves would relieve infant colic.

According to the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the essential oils and other extracts made from catnip are quite popular for their uses (1). Although it is still not a popular tea, its health benefits are getting known and soon, it might become the talk of the town.

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Let’s look at the health benefits this tea packs…


Alternate Ways to Use Catnip Tea

Catnip is good for soothing irritation, outside as well as within. Some people create a compress from catnip and apply it directly to the skin for swelling ailments and hemorrhoids. It can be used as an eye wash for allergy irritation, red eyes caused by hangovers, and as a scalp rinse for irritated scalps.

Catnip tea health benefits: What is it good for?

Stress reliever: Having a soothing effect on the nerves, it gives a calm feeling, helping in reducing stress. Being rich in nepetalactone, this tea acts as a strong sedative, thereby treating stress related headaches, migraine as well as helping insomniacs to get a restful sleep.

Effective for menstrual symptoms: The relaxing effects of this mild herbal tea helps in relieving abdominal pain, cramping, bloating, stress, premenstrual tension (PMS) as well as other symptoms occurring during menstrual periods. Acting as an emmenagogue, it regulates the cycle by stimulating the uterus and increasing blood flow. This property also makes it beneficial in treating delayed or suppressed menstruation.

Relieves flu and cold: Acting as a strong detoxifier, it flushes toxins from the body. Being a strong diuretic, it causes perspiration without increasing the body temperature, thus being useful for curing flu, cold, cough and fever. Its sweat inducing property also associates this tea to weight loss.

Decongestive property: Acting as a strong decongestant, catnip tea helps in loosening the phlegm thereby providing relief from respiratory problems, bronchitis, sore throat, catarrh, croup and asthma

An effective eyewash: When cooled, strongly brewed catnip tea acts as an eyewash, reducing irritation due to cold or allergies as well as redness. It is also effective in alleviating puffy eyes and eye bags on being placed over the eyelids.

Catnip Tea Pictures

Catnip Tea Pictures

Aids in digestion: Its carminative and antispasmodic properties help in reducing acid reflux, thereby treating indigestion, stomach upset, flatulence and other digestive disorders. The tea also cures the common eating disorder, bulimia nervosa.

Enema properties:  Catnip tea enema is useful in treating intestinal pain, colon cramps, bowel infections or disorders and constipation. It is also a good way to reduce fever in adults and children. However children below two years should not be given this enema.

Disinfectant properties: On being cooled, the tea or infusion can be used as a  soak or wash for disinfecting the skin, thereby healing cuts, burns, insect bites and abrasions.

Treating diarrhea: Its tannin content makes it useful for diarrhea in adults and children as it removes the waste products from the colon, also preventing dehydration by reintroducing the lost fluid in the body.

Other uses: It is also beneficial for treating chicken pox measles, jaundice, yellow fever and whooping cough in both adults and children.

Use of catnip tea for babies

This herbal tea is useful in treating colic in infants as it reduces gas pain by relaxing their digestive system as well as calming their nerves, thereby helping them to sleep well. It is also very effective in bringing down fever that occurs due to teething in infants. Applying the infusion on the gum helps in relieving the pain. However it is advisable to consult a pediatrician before introducing this tea into your baby’s diet.

Catnip Plant

Catnip Plant

Who Can Benefit From Catnip Tea?

Most people suffering from insomnia can benefit from a cup of catnip tea before bedtime. Individuals with indigestion, those suffering from the common cold, infants with colic (very small doses), those with intestinal cramping or individuals who enjoy the relaxing effects of the tea. Most Americans live high-stress lifestyles and often juggle family, work and school. A cup of catnip is a wonderful way to begin a yoga session or experience a natural calm.

Protecting Your Catnip from Cats

So here’s the deal – if you’re planting catnip with the goal of attracting cats, then obviously, you can skip this section! However, if you’re growing catnip for medicinal or culinary uses for yourself, then you probably don’t want cats rolling around in it.

The other issue with catnip is that it can cause some digestive upset in your cats if too much is ingested.

If you find that cats are getting after your catnip plants too much, truly the only way to stop them is to erect some sort of a physical barrier.

You can use chicken wire or another type of wire fencing – just make sure the holes are large enough that the cat can’t get its body, head, or paws through the holes. You can also plant your catnip in a hanging basket, but make sure it’s out of the reach of your feline friend.

Are There Any Side Effects from Catnip Tea?

As with any herb or supplement, side effects should be thoroughly researched. Catnip tea has fairly mild side effects for most individuals, but this is not universal. Common side effects include:

  • Pregnancy and breastfeeding – Pregnant and breastfeeding women should completely avoid any consumption of catnip. It is used to start menstruation, meaning it can stimulate the uterus and unwanted abortion can occur. The side effects for babies is not clear. Therefore it is best to err on the side of caution when breastfeeding.
  • Babies and children – There is very little reliable scientific information regarding the safety of catnip when given to children. However, catnip is commonly used to treat colic in infants
  • Prescription Medications – There are no none medications that interact negatively with catnip, excluding the sedatives used for surgical anesthesia. Catnip increases the effects of anesthesia on the central nervous system and may slow down these functions too much. Always stop taking catnip tea at least 2 weeks before surgery.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease – Women with PID should avoid catnip, as it can cause menstruation to start.
  • Menorrhagia – Catnip may make this condition worse by increasing heavy bleeding.
  • General – Some people have reported headaches and general malaise when using catnip or catnip tea. Catnip in very large doses can cause vomiting and a feeling of being ill.

Step 4 Add Flavors

You can add other herbs to your catnip tea, such as other mint varieties or lemon grass. Also, you can add honey, sugar, or lemon juice. Just add a bit to make the flavor to fit your tastes.

Is Catnip tea Safe for Children?

As long as your child’s pediatrician approves, your children may drink catnip tea. He or she will know if your child has any condition that may bring on an allergy.

For babies and toddlers:

  • Don’t you just hate to see your little one suffering with colic? Well, put a small dose of catnip tea in your baby’s bottle to hide the flavour and let it relax your baby’s digestive system, reducing gas and colic.
  • It doesn’t harm your baby but make sure you always give him or her small doses to protect his stomach.
  • Teething! Catnip will reduce the pain and bring down fevers caused by teething. You can also apply a bit to the baby’s gums in order to calm and numb the pain.
  • Here’s a tip: make a cup of catnip tea for yourself. This will reduce your anxiety and help you offer your baby a more calming and soothing environment during those restless teething days and nights.

Older children:

  • It helps children who suffer from hyperactivity or restlessness. As it is a mild sedative, it is perfect and safe for children.
  • When preparing your tea, use half the amount for your children, as they need less than you to stay calm and enjoy its benefits.

How to Make Catnip Tea

Catnip contains many nutrients such as Vitamin A, B, C, magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, manganese, sodium, selenium, and potassium. Tea made from leaves and flowers of the catnip plant may act as a natural remedy for many ailments as well as other benefits too.

If you use fresh catmint leaves, use double the amount used. It is recommended that you cut fresh stems of this plant and store them in a cool, dry place. After they are completely dry, separate the leaves from the stems and place the leaves in an airtight bag ready for use.

To make a cup of catnip tea, place two tablespoons of dried catnip in a teapot then pour in hot water and cover. It’s advised that you avoid boiling water as excess heat can compromise the benefits derived from this herb. Give the tea about at least 10 minutes to steep before drinking. To mitigate the slightly woodsy taste, add honey and lemon.

You can add other herbs to catnip such as other mint varieties or lemon grass. You can keep catnip tea fresh by freezing it.


Catnip tea safety and precautions

Women suffering from pelvic inflammatory disease or having heavy menstrual flow should avoid its consumption. It is recommended not to take it before bedtime as it may increase the urine flow because of its diuretic property. People with liver or kidney disorders should also avoid drinking it.

Catnip Tea Photos

Catnip Tea Photos

Catnip Leaf Tea

Catnip Leaf Tea

Side effects of Catnip tea

It does not generally cause any serious side effects when consumed as part of a normal diet. However, over-consumption may result in nausea, headaches as well as malaise.

Consumption during pregnancy

There have been a lot of controversies regarding catnip tea’s usage during pregnancy. However it is better to avoid it as it may cause uterine contractions, leading to miscarriage. Though people believe that drinking this tea helps in inducing labor, nothing has been proven yet. It has also been associated with an increased risk of a premature labor. Breastfeeding or nursing mothers should consult a doctor before consuming it.

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Why do catslovecatnip, anyway?

Ahh, great question. Apparently nepetalactone, which is the essential oil component that bugs hate, is responsible for the euphoria cats seem to experience. When nepetalactone hits their olfactory bulb, experts think the cats brain interprets it as a pheromone associated with, uh, romance.

Nepetalactone doesn’t affect all cats – just about 70-80% – and only those that have reached reproductive maturity. Kittens under six months old are usually immune. Fortunately there’s no harm in letting cats enjoy this herb in cat toys or pillows. It’s non-addictive and safe, but overindulging can cause a stomach ache.

Drinking Catnip Tea

Relaxing, minty and fresh, doesn’t it sound just perfect? So let’s learn how to make catnip tea:

First, place 1-2 teaspoons of dried catnip leaves and flowers in your cup, then pour a cup of hot water (about 250ml) over the catnip and cover. The water should be hot, but not boiling, as it will cause your catnip to lose its flavour and active ingredients.

Let it rest for 10 to 15 minutes and then strain your tea. Sweeten it with honey and lemon to taste, particularly if you are using this tea at the first signs of cold symptoms and to take away a bit of bitterness and its slightly woodsy smell. You will end up with a nice light yellow-green tea ready to drink 2 to 3 times a day.

If you use fresh catnip leaves, instead of dried ones, make sure you double the amount of catnip per cup of tea and cut the leaves in order to release their properties into the water.

Here’s a tip: mix your catnip herbal tea with chamomile or mint for a better yet relaxing taste.

If you chose to make iced catnip, double the amount of herbs as the melted ice will dilute the strength of the tea. Why not make iced catnip popsicles to give to your kids? It’s a great way for them to take this herbal tea without fuss.