Catnip: An Edible and Medicinal Herb

catnip leaves

Catnip For Humans?

I think we’re all familiar with the effect catnip has on kitties, but did you know that it’s edible and medicinal for humans? Catnip actually has the opposite effect on people that it has on cats. Where felines get crazy hyper when they chew on the plant, it actually acts as a calming sedative in humans. It’s a very gentle and safe herb, even for babies.

catnip

Growing Catnip

When a good friend of mine dug up a little clump of her catnip plant and gave it to me a few years ago, I had no idea it would grow so well and spread so much. A member of the mint family, once you have it planted catnip is notorious for springing up all over the place.

This year our catnip decided to jump the garden fence and establish itself in several nice clusters in one of our garden beds. Boy did it make itself at home. After witnessing a chorus of humming bees happily hovering all around the plants, I decided to let the catnip stay where it was since it was attracting so many beneficial pollinators to my other plants.

Catnip can be grown from seed, or purchased as a plant at a local or online nursery. They love full sun and thrive in good garden soil. You can expect them to come back year after year, and spread where they may not be wanted. You can plant them in containers if you’d prefer that they stay in one place.

catnip drying

Harvesting and Drying Catnip

I like to harvest catnip just before it blossoms, or as it’s just beginning to blossom. Cut the stems a few inches from the base of the plant so that you don’t kill it. I usually leave about 6″ on the plant, just to be safe.

To dry catnip, you can hang it or place it in a dehydrator. I prefer to hang mine indoors until it crumbles to touch. If you live in an area with low-humidity, drying in the sun is another great option, just be sure to bring the herbs in overnight to avoid the moisture of dew.

catnip tea blend

How To Use Catnip

Anytime you want to settle down, de-stress, relax your body and muscles, calm your nerves, ease restlessness, or fight insomnia, catnip tea is great for all of the above. For children, catnip is wonderful for treating colic, teething, hyperactivity, ADHD, or trouble getting to sleep.

Catnip by itself doesn’t have the greatest flavor, so I always try to add other calming and more flavorful herbs. My favorite blend for a soothing and delicious catnip tea includes chamomile and lemon balm. It also blends well with lavender.

Mix the following dried herbs together for a relaxing effect:

  • 1 part Chamomile
  • 2 parts Catnip
  • 1 part Lemon Balm

Store in an airtight container (glass or plastic). To use, add 1 tsp herb blend to 1 cup hot water. Allow to steep for 15-20 min. (the longer the more medicinal), then sweeten with honey to taste. If you don’t have an infusion tea pot, be sure to cover the cup of hot tea with a cloth as it steeps to retain the essential oils in the herbs.

Catnip is great for teething babies. Make a batch of the tea mentioned above and freeze it into ice cubes or soak a washcloth in the cooled tea and freeze. Allow your baby to chew on the frozen cloth to soothe their sore gums, or put an herbal ice cube in one of those mesh baby food feeders so that he can suck on the cube without choking. (Remember not to give honey to babies under a year old.)

Catnip is a potent mosquito repellant. Plant it around your home to keep mosquitoes away.

To ease muscle pain and relax your body, brew a 1/2 gallon batch of catnip tea using a few handfuls of fresh leaves or about a cup of dried catnip (lavender and chamomile added are nice as well), allow it to steep for 1-2 hours, strain it off and pour it into a hot bath to soak in.

Fresh catnip leaves can be eaten in salads or just nibbled off the plant. But the flavor is strong, kinda like mint, so use it sparingly.

catnip blooms

Where Can I Get Catnip?

If you want to try growing it from seed, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds sells them in packs of 200 for $2 (as of this writing).

Right now you can buy plants from The Grower’s Exchange for $5 each. A local nursery might also carry it, so call around first. You might also ask your friends if anyone is growing it. I’m sure they wouldn’t mind digging up some for you, seeing how quickly it spreads.

Quality dried organic catnip can be purchased from The Bulk Herb Store {affiliate link}.

If you’re interested in treating your family with herbs, catnip would make a beautiful and useful addition to your flower bed or herb garden.

Do you have catnip growing? What’s your favorite way to use it?

Kendra
About Kendra 1123 Articles

A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.

12 Comments

  1. We g have a ton of catnip growing wild on the prairie right by our house. An herbalist friend told me that the plant itself while growing doesn’t attract kitties, only when the leaves are bruised does the plant attract them. I have found this to be true, as they mostly ignore the growing plants but go absolutely NUTS when I harvest and process the plants/leaves. I had a good batch this season. Another interesting factoid, many herbalists swear by harvesting catnip and other medicinal plants on the Solstice day, believing the plants are at their peak of potency on that day. This is about when they begin to flower so it’s a good guideline.

  2. Hey! So I’ve just harvested my first batch of catnip. It’s ready to be broken up and or in oil. Did you cut yours down or out it in a food processor? The stems are so strong! Im having a difficult time cutting the stems down. Do you even put the stems in? Haha I’m new to this!!

  3. I just made some fresh tea from fresh leaves, and I can’t believe that I’ve wasted all these years not knowing I could drink it, let alone all the other purposes for it. When we had barn cats, they used to eat it, so I never plucked it out like a weed which is what it looks like. It has migrated here and there around our yard, and it just found a perfect spot in my asparagus patch where it will stay protected now.

  4. Catnip is one of the first herbs to come up in the spring at our place. The cats love it but I’ve never harvested it before. This year, I will!

  5. I had great results for several years at my old place (A townhouse in an under-construction development).

    I had a big problem with feral and semi-feral cats ripping up trash and using my bird-feeders as cat-feeders. I went down to the opposite end of the neighborhood (never did get built on..), forked up a big patch, added compost and seeded heavily with catnip one spring. Still got the occasional possum, but the cats were busy elsewhere 🙂

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