Some wild catnip started growing in my back yard this summer, and I got pretty excited. It’s pretty easy to recognize because its smell is similar to that of marijuana. The leaves are fuzzy and it has tiny clusters of purple or white flowers blooming out of the tops of the stems. A member of the mint family, catnip not only will have your fuzzy friend harmlessly tripping balls, it also has several medicinal uses for humans.
Nepetalactone is the chemical that will have your cat raiding your fridge and trying to have really deep conversations about life. But it’s not the only chemical in this minty little wonder. According to my personal bible, Prescription for Nutritional Healing (4th edition!) there are a bevy of other chemicals swirling around in there, including: alpha-humulene, beta-elemene, camphor, carvacrol, caryophyllene, citral, citronellal, geraniol, mycrene, piperitone, pulegone, rosmarinic acid, and thymol.
Humulene has demonstrated anti-inflammatory properties.
Elemene has shown promise for assisting in the treatment of lukemia and solid tumors. (To be fair, though, the study concluding this has been criticized; I’m personally waiting anxiously to hear of a new study.)
Camphor has been used in products like Vick’s VapoRub, and has been applied on the skin to help with pain and itching.
Carvacrol has demonstrated antibacterial abilities.
Caryophyllene has shown some cancer fighting potential as well as anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties.
Citral smells like lemons. Yay!
Citronellal repels mosquitoes like a motherfucker.
Geraniol has inhibited the growth of colon cancer cells.
Mycrene is used in perfumes.
Pulegone is also used in perfumes. In high levels like those found in penny royal, it’s bad for pets. GOOD THING CATNIP AIN’T PENNY ROYAL!
Rosmarinic Acid has shown antiviral properties, as well as antibacterial and anti-inflammatory. It is also an antioxidant.
Thymol is used as an antiseptic.
Holy shit. That’s a lot of compounds. Traditionally, catnip has been used to repel mosquitoes and to help aid digestion, sleep, anxiety, inflammation, pain, stress, cold and the flu. Clearly unicorns at some point cried out catnip seeds. It also contains calcium, chromium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium, silicon and zinc.
Obviously before taking catnip medicinally you need to talk with a doctor or holistic practitioner to determine if you specifically are healthy enough or have any contraindications to taking catnip. Once they’ve deemed you worthy there are a variety of catnip options, varying from enemas (OH GOD WHY) to simple teas. Personally having things up my ass makes me a tad uncomfortable, so I opt for tea. You can buy dried tea commercially or do what I do and harvest a bit of it yourself. You can steep the fresh leaves in near boiling water or do the same for the dried variety.
Just don’t forget to share with your cats.