Catnip

Catnip, like other members of the mint family, can be brewed into teas that help digestion and reduce discomfort. Catnip can also be smoked, it works as a slight sedative, providing a sense of calm and tranquility.

Overview

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is an aromatic herb belonging to the mint family.  Native to Europe, it now grows in several other continents around the world. It is sometimes considered an invasive weed. 

The leaves of the catnip plant are heart-shaped and whitish-gray in color. The plant is a hardy, perennial herb with sturdy stems covered in fine hairs, and grows to around three feet high 

Otherwise known as catmint, catswort or fieldbalm, catnip is best-known for its psychoactive effects on felines. It causes a brief intoxication or ‘high’ in cats when they rub against its leaves or chew on it. 

History

Native to Europe, Asia and Africa, catnip was originally brought to North America by settlers. It has a long history of medicinal use as a tea, tincture, infusion, and poultice, and was also smoked and chewed.

Catnip tea was known to have a soothing effect, so it was often used to treat nervous tension and anxiety, headaches, and hysteria. Native Americans used catnip to soothe infants with colic (1). Catnip can also promote sweating, and was often used by traditional practitioners to treat fevers caused by cold, flu, and bronchitis. 

Chewing the leaves of the catnip plant was found to relieve toothache while smoking it was found to alleviate asthma and bronchitis (2).

During the latter half of the 1960s, catnip was said to produce hallucinogenic effects when smoked. 

Methods of use

Catnip plants include the Nepeta cataria and other Nepeta species and contain a variety of volatile oils, sterols, tannins and acids. 

Catnip’s medicinal properties stem from its active ingredient, nepetalactone. Nepetalactone is a plant terpenoid (an organic chemical) that affects the nervous system of both humans and cats. However, while there is substantial scientific evidence of catnip’s intoxicating effects on cats, its effect on humans is so far mostly anecdotal (3). 

Tea

Catnip’s soothing properties make it useful in treating colds, flu, fever, and gastrointestinal symptoms. An infusion of catnip leaves may also help to relieve chest congestion.
Simply add two teaspoons of dried flowers or two tablespoons of fresh leaves per 200ml of boiling water. Leave to steep for 5-10 minutes, then strain and drink 1-4 cups a day. Steeping for longer will produce more potent effects.

Tincture

Catnip tincture can be taken in a glass of water or juice 1-4 times a day to treat colds, nervous tension, insomnia and stomach upsets. It’s also safe for children (one drop per year of age) and can help prevent nightmares. 

Herbal paste

Pastes or poultices made from catnip are used to reduce swelling associated with soft tissue injuries and joint disorders such as arthritis. It also helps to reduce muscle tension. 

Medicinal Benefits

The active ingredient in catnip (Nepeta cataria) is the essential oil nepetalactone, which is a terpene comprising two isoprene units and 10 carbons. The plant has been shown to produce a range of medicinal benefits (4). 

Catnip has carminative properties, which means it can improve digestion and relieve gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, flatulence and cramp. 

Herbalists recommend catnip for alleviating migraine headaches and to relieve cramps, gas, indigestion, insomnia, nervousness and loss of appetite.

Research has shown that both the nepetalactone and nepetalic acid constituents of catnip have calming and sleep-inducing effects (5). These mild sedative properties make it useful as a sleep aid and for treating muscle tension and nervous anxiety. 

Effects

Can you smoke catnip?

Yes, Catnip can be smoked. It used to be smoked in the 60’s, as reported by this article of the Canadian Veterinary Journal.

In the 1960’s, catnip was used in place of marijuana or as a filler in marijuana (…). Even toys for pets were bought to get the catnip for use (…). Because catnip burned too fast by itself, it was usually mixed with tobacco (…). A more intense effect could be obtained by spraying the alcohol extract on tobacco and then smoking it (…).

Jeff Grognet – Canadian Veterinary Journal – 1990 – Catnip: Its uses and effects, past and present

Users reports a positive effect like sedation and relaxation.

Well, I’m impressed. I thought there was NO WAY anyone who has tried marijuana could say this got them “high”, but I judged it all wrong. […] I tried this a week ago, no paranoia, no munchies, just chill and sleepy. I was able to sleep through the whole night annnd I’m still alive

Stevie – from Smokable Herbs comments

Does smoking catnip produce hallucinogenic effects?

In cats, Nepetalactone exerts its effects on the CNS through the olfactory bulb, causing a euphoric reaction in about 50% to 75% of cats (6). 

While researchers say that this effect is not possible in humans, users say otherwise.

Although there is a lack of scientific evidence as to how catnip alters human consciousness, a 1969 study from Monash University reported two principal ways in which catnip was being used to cause a euphoric effect in humans. One of these methods involved smoking the leaves. The authors noted that considerably more catnip than marijuana had to be smoked for a similar effect due to its lower potency and the rapid rate at which it burns. 

The second method involved spraying the extract on tobacco before smoking it in a cigarette. This appeared to produce intense and more rapid effects than smoking the leaf form alone (7). However, the authors also noted that further clinical evidence was required to determine the safety of either method. 

More recently, some users claim that smoking low doses  (approximately 1.5 grams) produces a hypnotic effect that lasts around two to three hours. 

Others report that it produces a warming effect on the body, along with a sense of calm and relaxation. There are also suggestions that smoking a mixture of catnip and herbs such as Mugwort or Calea Zacatechichi (Mexican dream herb) can have dream-enhancing effects.

Side effects

Catnip should not be taken during pregnancy as there is evidence it may stimulate the uterus and cause uterine contractions (8). It also may promote menstruation.

Large doses are reported to cause headaches, nausea, or dizziness. Its sedative effects may mean it is not suitable for use before driving or operating heavy machinery. 

Catnip is not recommended for use in the two weeks prior to surgery as it may alter or slow down the central nervous system. 

Catnip is listed as a plant of ‘undefined safety’ by the Food and Drug Administration. However, there appear to be no reports of toxic reactions and it is not illegal.

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21 thoughts on “Catnip”

  1. I have been using catnip for years. I have 2 cats so I grow it in my garden (It is also a garden pest repellent). When I have a bad cold or even just stuffy head and chest, I will brew a tea out of catnip and sometimes mix it with my cold/flu medicine and it seems to enhance BOTH remedies…it mellows me right out and helps to unstuff me and put me to sleep. I have also found that with today’s super potent smokeables, I can roll a 75% catnip, 25% pot joint and put it out after only 2-3 puffs and obtain a very nice result without any worry of “zoning” Either way, I LOVE it’s mellow, relaxing effect and will continue to spread the word……

  2. Catnip and many other psychoactive herbs should be harvested at full moon.Their potency increases tenfold.
    Catnip increases the effects of cannabis,i have found.So much so that it made me wayyy to high.

  3. My wife’s a witch (wiccan) and got some catnip.
    I’ve tried it as a cannabis substitute (smoked in a joint) and as a bong filler.
    The effect on me was a relaxed floaty feeling not unlike a normal joint but not as strong or with the munchies attack I would normally have.
    The next experiment is to use the catnip as a smoking medium with normal cannabis to see if it heightens or changes the effect.
    I’ll keep you posted.

  4. Ive smoked it off and on for years. It does relax you and you can get a buzz. You have to smoke a bit and doesnt taste as good as pot but it works. Ive had some friends try it which suprised them that i was right. Most of what you get in stores is stems. Your better off getting a couple plants and let them grow. They flower and seed alot so they multiply quickly.

  5. Kevin Redecker

    Def helpful article. Was skeptical at first. Just smoked a small bowl of the catnip. And coming from a heavy pot user for years. This is a great sub. Relaxing and mild euphoria. Not to harsh on the ol lungs. And very pleasant felling. Thanks again

  6. I’m so glad I found this article…it’s legal…it passes a drug test…it’s cheap…I’m done with weed! I love that it doesn’t make me hungry and I can buy it anywhere any time! Very relaxing with no anxiety. Thank you!

  7. I too stumbled on this article b/c my girlfriend threatened me with smoking catnip, I thought she was trying to kill me… lol. Anyway, I decided to search for possibilities on the web and here I am. Im actually making some tea as I write, but since I “partake” of other herbal remedies. Im curious if I could mix them and get the best of both. Any experience in this area?

  8. Just wanted to add my experience here. I don’t know what I was thinking but I was bored one day and decided to try smoking catnip. I was really surprised that it actually seemed to have an effect. I thought it was just for cats and that I was being stupid, but regardless of whether it’s a placebo or some actual effect, I smoke catnip now when I’m having stressed out thoughts and feeling bad and it really redirects me and calms me down. I usually only smoke a tiny bit and use a gravity bong for it, and I’ll just immediately feel more relaxed and calm. Surprised I’ve never heard of this before given how effective it has been for me. Drives my cat crazy when I smoke it though, she can smell it and gets very interested.

  9. i wonder how “strong” the effect is from smoking it. can you say you actually feel a buzz or say without a doubt that your high after consuming. guess it is something to try out sometime.

  10. Well, I’m impressed. I thought there was NO WAY anyone who has tried marijuana could say this got them “high”, but I judged it all wrong. I’m a terrible sleeper. I can’t fall asleep and when I do I usually toss and turn my self awake at least twice. Unless I smoke some herb that is. I tried this a week ago, no paranoia, no munchies, just chill and sleepy. I was able to sleep through the whole night annnd I’m still alive, worth the mention cuz you can never know with the Internet… Honestly I might smoke this before bed as a substitute. Bong this sh!t though! It’s, um, an acquired taste I would say and if you have a stomach ache I definitely wouldn’t chance seeing whether it’ll make it worse. Both times I smoked it I was mildly nauseous, less so with the bong, but no worse off than if I had over eaten. The pros out weigh the cons with this insomniac. I’m so glad I stumbled upon this article.

    1. Well, I’m really glad you stumbled upon this article because your feedback was amazing.
      Thanks for reaching out!

  11. Philip Tomlinson

    My local pet shop sells bags of 100% dried catnip plant.
    I will try smoking it next week and if I can work out a good way to do it, may try making tea from it and I will update you all on what it’s like.

  12. 1) Is catnip better taken as tincture or smoked?
    2) And which way does it last longer smoked or tincture?

    Thanks again peace and love…

    1. 1. Depends of what your taste are, whether you smoke catnip or take it as a tincture the effects should be calming and relaxing in both scenarios.
      2. Tincture should be longer

      Thanks, don’t hesitate to ask any question you have on your mind.

  13. Thank you for sharing. I would have thought catnip was just for cats. I’m growing some anyway, and can’t wait to reap the benefits.

      1. I do not smoke cigs or weed I do not do drugs but I made a homemade bong and smoked catnip with it. It burns well if dried in the sun and has a pleasant taste. I mix a small amount of mint mouthwash to my bong water and it is relaxing, healthy and safe. Anyone who doesn’t want to try drugs needs to do this.

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