Catnip is probably most commonly known among cat owners. It is a herb that sends about 50 percent of our feline friend population seemingly sky high! People buy it in essential oil form to spray on their cat’s toys. Many cats react to it by rubbing themselves over the source of the scent and appear to enjoy its intoxicating aromas.
However, catnip (Nepeta cataria), a member of the Lamiaceae family, isn’t just for cats. It has long been used as a medicinal remedy for humans, too. It is a simple, aromatic, and pretty herb that is very easy to grow in your own backyard.
Health Benefits of Catnip in Humans
If you ever buy sleepytime tea from the supermarket, you might have noticed that catnip is often listed as an ingredient. This is because catnip contains a compound called nepetalactone. This chemical is a natural sedative similar to the compounds found in another sedative herb, valerian.
When drunk as tea, catnip can induce feelings of relaxation and calm. This makes it a great tea for the evenings but not a good idea to have as your morning cup. Catnip, however, is also thought to be a diuretic, so don’t drink it directly before bed, or you might find yourself having to get up and down when you are supposed to be getting to sleep. Pregnant people or those with menstruation issues should not drink catnip tea as it can cause uterine contractions.
As an added bonus, catnip is especially good as a mosquito repellant as a result of the same chemical compound.
How to Grow Catnip in Your Own Backyard
Catnip is a lovely perennial herb (hardy to zones 3-7) to have in your garden. It is easy to grow and manage, and unlike its mint cousins, it does not spread like wildfire across your yard on runners. It actually grows in small shrub-like clumps that expand year after year. That said, it is a good self-seeder, and you will find catnip babies popping here and there in the vicinity of the parent plant. Still, it isn’t usually too prolific, especially if you deadhead.
The easiest way to get started would be to find a nursery selling catnip plants. A cheaper way would be to find a friend who has a catnip plant already and ask for a cutting. Just like other plants in this family, it grows roots very easily from a cutting popped in a jar of water.
Whichever way you sourced your starter, plant it out in the garden after the last frost of spring. Catnip likes a lot of sun and well-draining soil. Otherwise, it isn’t too fussy about its soil quality and is even somewhat drought tolerant.
If you are at all worried about the spread of catnip in your garden, consider growing it in a pot on your porch or balcony. It is much easier to manage and keep under control this way.
How to Harvest Catnip for Tea Making
Source: Melissa K. Norris – Modern Homesteading/YouTube
Taking cuttings from your plant for tea making is actually healthy for the plant. Cutting back your plant will prevent it from becoming too leggy and can deter flowers from going to seed and self-seeding.
It is best to harvest catnip when it is in bloom. Both the leaves and flowers can be used to make tea. Take your cutting in the early morning before the plants are exposed to full sun. You may use the leaves fresh for an instant cup of tea, or you can dry the leaves for future use.
Air Drying Method
Make sure that your herbs are towel dried. You can air dry your catnip by tying a few stems together with string and hanging them upside down in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight. Make sure the stems are not clumped together too tightly, as the leaves will need good airflow to dry successfully.
Keep checking on your herbs every few days to check for spoilage. Once the leaves crumble between your fingers, the drying process is complete.
Set your dehydrator to about 95-115 degrees F, and cover the trays with catnip. Leave it to dry for 1-4 hours. Keep checking on your herbs as they dry. They are done once the leaves are crisp.
Once you have your dried catnip, it is better to carefully remove the whole leaves from the stems and store them in a clean glass jar until you are ready to use them. Crumbling the leaves early will result in the depletion of some of the precious essential oils you are trying to capture.
Steep one tablespoon of dried crumbled catnip in one cup of hot water. You may add a sweetener of your choice of lemon to taste.
This article is for informational purposes only. Always consult a medical professional before using herbs as medicine.
- How to Make Your Own Herbal Teas
- How to Make Your Own Herbal Teas at Home
- Gentle Herbs for Better Sleep
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