Last week I filled the drying loft in our barn with catnip (Nepeta cataria). Its leaves are typically harvested just as the flowers begin to think about blooming. Since then I’ve had to think about taking the extra step of closing the barn door when I go in and out. Every year when I put up the catnip it’s like a siren song for all the furry addicts in the neighborhood. If I didn’t mind the door I’d find them rolling drunkenly around on the second floor.
Catnip is a curious plant. When we sell it at the farmer’s market I often remind people how to use catnip for themselves, and to be sure to have a cup of catnip tea while they share it with their pets. I still get confused looks.
Catnip Is For People Too!
We know catnip primarily for the stimulating effect it has on our cats. It is actually really good for us as well, but it has the opposite effect. Here are three reasons you might want to have a cup of catnip tea:
The very name for one of the teas I make at the farm that contains catnip. One of my favorite uses for this plant is to address the specific kind of stress and anxiety created in the body when people can’t express their emotions. This is perfect for someone who isn’t able to tell the boss or the in-law just what they’d like to say because it wouldn’t be polite, or good for the family budget.
Catnip is a digestive herb. The scent that we get when we rub its leaves between our fingers is evidence of a high amount of volatile oils. This plant chemical is responsible for its ability to calm the stomach of an adult or a nursing child with colic. (Mountain Rose Herbs sells a Tummy Care Extract made with catnip, which you can find here.)
A catnip tea after a particularly large meal can be good protection against indigestion. (Find dried catnip here.)
This is one of the most popular herbs for reducing a fever. It is part of a class of herbs called febrifuges. These herbs have the ability to cool the body by inducing a sweat. It is almost never a good idea to interrupt a fever. For the rare times that a fever has been particularly prolonged (your patient is becoming dehydrated and listless) or too high (over 102° for a typically healthy adult, around 104° for a typically healthy child) it can be helpful to have a fever tincture around. I make mine at the farm with catnip, elder and peppermint.
How To Make a Fever Tincture
- Select a glass container.
- Fill the container ⅓ full with dried catnip. (find dried catnip here)
- Cover the catnip with your choice of vodka, gin, rum or brandy.
- Secure the lid. Label the jar and leave it sit for 4-6 weeks.
- Shake the jar occasionally.
- At the end of the 4-6 weeks strain the herbs out of your tincture and bottle it.
For a fever you can now use ⅛-¼ teaspoon (adult dose) every half hour until the fever subsides. This dose will need to be scaled down depending on the age if you’d like to give this to a child. I have a great dosage chart in my new book, Conceiving Healthy Babies, an Herbal Guide to Support Preconception, Pregnancy and Lactation. (Purchase the book here.)
image credit to Rainer Stropek