Catnip is such a lovely plant. It grows with such vigor and radiates life in such a way that it seems to almost glow. Though I am not partial to the smell of catnip, I still can’t help but rub the leaves – they’re so soft.
I’ve mentioned before that I have grown catnip with some really great results. Our cat, Brucie, used to spend a lot of time lazing about in the middle of my catnip plants, napping, eating some catnip leaves, rubbing every inch of his body with the plant, then dancing, hopping, jumping, and spinning around the yard as he attacked imaginary things. It was always great fun, for him and for us to watch.
Since we no longer live where I grew the catnip at and I have not yet gotten any going here, Brucie is lacking in his catnip uptake. Sure, I harvested a bunch before moving, but that was a year and a half ago and our supply in waning desperately low. Besides, catnip straight from the growing plant seems to be how Brucie loves it best.
Catnip is a snap to grow. Regular watering is recommended but make sure to give the soil a chance to mostly dry before watering, again, as catnip is said to be prone to mildew. Catnip prefers partial to full sun, though I have found with my own catnip growing that the ones in partial to full shade during the hottest parts of the day did the best. My experience has been that catnip is fairly maintenance free, as long as you are harvesting it a few times during the summer. I usually wait until the plant is at least two feet tall before I try harvesting the first time, cutting half its height off, bundling, then hanging to dry someplace out of the sun.
By the end of summer, my catnip plants are usually around 5-6 feet tall and just full of leaves. I usually let catnip bud, then pinch off the flower buds before they flower. This is the part of the plant that my cats get completely crazy for. This also means that my catnip ends up flowering because there are so many buds that I can not pinch them all off of the plants before flowering begins. That’s ok, though, since I like to collect the seeds for future plants.
Catnip isn’t just for cats. It is a great sedative for humans. Tea is made from the flowering buds of the catnip plant, though you don’t want to boil it. It is better to heat the water to boiling, remove from heat, wait a couple of minutes then pour over the flower buds. Allow the tea to steep for 2-3 minutes then remove the flower buds. The tea is used to calm the stomach, and to relieve muscle pain, cramping, and tension headaches. It is also used with fevers since catnip induces perspiration without raising the body’s core temperature. Large consumption of catnip is known to cause vomiting. A poultice made with catnip is great for preventing infection and promoting healing of wounds and skin irritations due to its mild antibiotic properties. Either chewing or bruising a leaf in your mouth works to relieve toothaches and gum irritations because of its mild anaesthetic properties. Catnip, in poultice form, is also antifungal.
Catnip is part of the mint family, and, like many of the members of this family, is a great insect repellent. Grab some leaves right off the plant and rub on exposed skin. It also has a history of being used as a rodent repellent by planting it near homes and barns. This is also said to help in the prevention of termites and cockroaches.
Next up: Peppermint