Watching a cat dive into a pile of dried herbs, and come up in a crazed mood to play, will make you wonder what is catnip. There are over 250 species of catnip plants or nepeta cataria which is part of the mint family of Lamiaceae. Catnip should be considered an herbal recreational substance for domestic cats and a medicinal solution for humans. Catnip contains an organic compound called nepatalactone. When catnip is consumed by human the nepatalactone promotes soothing relaxation, sleep, and treats pain or flu symptoms. In cats, nepatalactone promotes serious play time.
Catnip and cats. Approximately 30 percent of cats will not show an interest in catnip, especially kittens and senior cats. The rest of the feline community will go crazy for catnip. Catnip toys are a very popular source of the herb for cats. The best kind of catnip for your cat is the dried catnip leaves. Cats require greens like grass everyday to aid their digestion to alleviate ingested fur balls. For indoor cats, a pinch of dried catnip each day will keep their digestion healthy, make them playful, give them energy, and exercise, just before they take a long nap. A great way to make a catnip toy is to put a knot in the toe of a sock, fill the center of the sock with ¼ cup dried catnip, and tie a second knot close to the catnip to close the other end of the sock. Your cat will thank you.
Medicinal properties of catnip. Catnip, with its high content of nepatalactone, can be very helpful for relaxation and sleep. Steeping a cup of catnip tea has been used for the suppression of pain from migraine headaches to menstrual cramps. Drink hot catnip tea to reduce flu symptoms, nasal congestion, sore throat, and fever. Diarrhea can be successfully treated and relieved by drinking hot catnip tea.
Grow your own catnip. The best catnip tea is made from freshly picked catnip leaves. Catnip can be planted from seed or as a seedling. Your local home improvement store will have catnip to grow. The most important thing to remember when growing catnip is where to place it. If you have a house cat or two, the minute you turn your back they will attack any catnip that is growing inside the house. Strangely enough, the same problem exists if you plant catnip in the yard. The best way to grow catnip is in a pot that you can protect from domestic or stray cats. To harvest catnip, snip off adult branches from the mother plant and tie into a bunch with twine at the stem. Hang the bunch with the stems up and the leaves down for a few days in a warm place like the kitchen until dry. Store in an airtight container. Each time you reach for a pinch of catnip to brew tea, remember to share the wealth with you cat. Note: To protect your cat, feed your cat leaves only, never stems.