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The truth about Catnip

Catnip encourages lion pair to relate
Catnip encourages lion pair to relate
Photo by Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Not all cats care at all about catnip, but if they like it, it applies to house cats, lions and tigers too! It is easy to grow, resistant to deer and drought and acts as a deterrent to rats, mice, mosquitoes, and is used as medicinal aid for humans ails from menstrual problems, to anxiety, and can be used as a tea, a poultice or smoked.

There are cautions that need to be put in place for human use. In spite of its age, there have not been a lot of studies to shed light on possible side effects. One 2011 research study must have been a government grant because it studied the sexual behavior of rats. Sounds strange, but it may help in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

A 2009 Turkish showed that catnip essential oil worked against eleven bacteria species and twelve fungi species, including yeast (Candida albicans).

A 2009 study showed catnip, especially the essential oil, as an alternative treatment of several gastrointestinal and respiratory disorders, such as colic, diarrhea, cough, and asthma. The leaves of catnip are reported as well to help reduce anxiety and induce sleep in a study by Sherry and Hunter (1979).

Globally, studies with catnip could very well help eliminate some horrible tropical diseases. The primary constituent of catnip essential oil is the organic compound nepetalactone that triggers a peculiar response among almost all cats when ingested or inhaled. Hydrogenating nepetalactone yields dihydronepetalactone (DHN) diastereomers, which in turn are effective insect repellents, especially against mosquitoes and flies. At a dosage of 20 mg, catnip essential oil has an average repellency rate of 96% against stable flies and an average repellency rate of 79% against houseflies. This is medically valuable against mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, and elephantiasis and fly-borne diseases such as dysentery.

So what does it do for cats?

Cats and Catnip
Cats and Catnip photo Jim and Jamie Dutcher National Geographic

Cats and Catnip

There is no group of kitties that are immune to the effects of catnip except for young kittens and about 50% of cats that missed out on the genetic tendency to be affected by it. In essence, the catnip acts as a psychedelic drug on the cat, sending the animal on a drug induced frenzy! The good thing is that it only lasts for 5 or 10 minutes, and takes about an hour before it has any effect again.

Cats can be observed rolling in the plants in the garden, savagely attacking toys or bags in which plant is stored.

According to Cat, "The nepetalactone in catnip causes a hallucinogenic effect. Some say the effects are similar to LSD; others say they are more similar to marijuana (some people claim that smoking catnip induces a high like that of marijuana, not that we recommend you try it). Because cats affected by catnip roll on the floor—which mimics a female in estrus—it has been suggested that the plant acts as an aphrodisiac, but this is unlikely, as males react the same way as females. What is probable is the cat is reacting to similar feel-good pheromones released during sexual courtship/activity. However, non-sexual behavior—including playing, chasing, and hunting—can also be observed."

Around 50–66% of cats are affected by catnip, and to differing degrees. Kittens younger than eight weeks old aren't able to enjoy its effect; in fact, they show an aversion to it. The response to catnip is mediated through the olfactory system. When nepetalactone enters the cat's nasal passages, it binds to olfactory receptors located at the olfactory epithelium. This stimulates sensory neurons, which trigger neurons in the olfactory bulb to send signals to the brain. The response to catnip is inherited as an autosomal dominant gene, which means the gene only needs to be passed on from one parent.

At least Mother Nature protects the cats since babies are not affected and the high only lasts for 5-10 minutes and is not repeated for an hour or so.

catnip oil can be sprayed
catnip oil can be sprayed yahoo

catnip oil can be sprayed

Now the truth about catnip becomes an important issue.

Catnip is a member of the mint plant family. The flowering tops are used to make medicine.

It then becomes the whatever ails you syndrome! Proponents claim it can cure almost anything.

Catnip is used for trouble sleeping (insomnia); anxiety; migraine and other headaches; cold and other upper respiratory infections; flu; swine flu; fever; hives; worms; and gastrointestinal (GI) upset, including indigestion, colic, cramping, and gas (flatulence). It is also used as a tonic, for increasing urination, and for starting menstrual periods in girls with delayed onset of menstruation.

People apply catnip directly to the skin for arthritis, hemorrhoids, and as a compress to relieve swelling; people also smoke catnip medicinally for respiratory conditions and recreationally for a “high.”

In manufacturing, catnip is used as a pesticide and insecticide.

Catnip seems to be safe for most adults. But it can cause headaches, vomiting, and a feeling of being ill. There is not enough information to know if it is UNSAFE when smoked, when taken by mouth in high doses (cups of catnip tea, for example), or when used in children.

Not enough is known about the safety of applying catnip directly to the skin.

There is enough information to know that women should be careful of catnip use in any form because there is evidence that catnip can stimulate the uterus, and this might cause a miscarriage.

Catnip has an effect on menstruation, so any type of disease or condition involving menstruation should be a warning against catnip in any form.

Surgery: Catnip seems to be able to slow down the central nervous system (CNS), causing sleepiness and other effects. Anesthesia and some other drugs used during and after surgery also slow down the CNS. There is a concern that using catnip along with these drugs might slow down the CNS too much. Stop using catnip at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

So just how do we grow our own catnip?

catnip plant
catnip plant yahoo

catnip plant

Catnip grows best in full sun combined with average, well-drained soil. It is a perennial herb of the mint family that will grow from 3-5 feet tall. Cut out last years spent stems in early spring to create room for new ones. Cutting the plants completely down after the first bloom set will allow enough time for the plant to completely regrow and bloom again.
Catnip plants should be spaced between 15 and 18 inches apart.
Start seeds indoors prior to the last frost. Catnip seeds will germinate in soil in approximately 7 to 10 days, but can germinate in as few as 5 or 6 days in propagation media. Catnip grown outdoors prefers full sun, but will tolerate some shade.
Water regularly, being careful not to overwater. Allow soil to go almost dry between watering, and then soak thoroughly. Watch for whitefly and spider mites.
Catnip may be considered a noxious weed or invasive plant in some areas. Catnip is known to attract bees, butterflies or birds and has fragrant blossoms. Catnip self-sows freely; remove flowers (deadhead) if you do not want volunteer seedlings the following season.
Harvest leaves when the plant reaches eight inches. You can take leaves throughout the summer and dry them in the oven or a dehydrator. Pinch back flowers as they appear to stimulate leaf growth. Never take more than half the plant in a single cutting. In fall, cut stems, tie small bunches with a rubber band, and hang them upside down to dry in a dark spot that gets plenty of air flow.

Keep dried catnip in an airtight container in a cool, dark spot until you're ready to use it.
As a mosquito repellant, take off a leafy stalk, crush the leaves and rub them on skin or clothing. Wear catnip leaves crushed in a handkerchief or bandanna around your neck. If you are not sensitive to catnip, try rubbing a fresh catnip leaf on pulse spots such as behind ears, inside elbows and wrists, behind knees and at ankles.

Chop a handful of fresh catnip leaves and stems in a food processor. Put the chopped catnip in a pot. Pour 2 cups boiling water over the catnip and let it steep like tea. Strain the leaves out and refrigerate the liquid. Pour it into a spray bottle. Spray on clothing just before going outdoors.
Brew a catnip and vinegar spritz. Crush 2 cups catnip leaves and add to 3 cups white or rice vinegar in a quart jar. Seal and store in dark cupboard. Shake every day for 2 weeks. Strain mixture into clean jar and refrigerate. Use as a light spritz on clothes, arms or legs.

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