The most important health benefits of catnip include its ability to calm restless sleep, relieve anxiety and stress, soothe menstrual pain, help eliminate eating disorders, ease stomach discomfort, speed up the recovery from colds and fevers, detoxify the body, reduce inflammation throughout the body, and even speed wound healing.
What is Catnip?
The flowering perennial known commonly as catnip, catmint, or catswort actually has the scientific name of Nepeta cataria, and although most people don’t realize, this treat so commonly reserved for its sedative, calming effects on cats, also has extensive benefits for human beings. Its native range is quite extensive, stretching across much of Europe and parts of Asia, including China, but it has since become a global export and can be found throughout the world. It is primarily potent due to a certain terpenoid, called nepetalactone, but various other chemical constituents and nutrients also affect various aspects of human health.
Catnip can be applied topically via the leaves or the essential oil, while catnip tea brewed from the leaves is also popular. The extracts and essential oils are also quite popular. The historical range of catnip uses include teas, juices, tinctures, extracts, salves, and even as an herb to be smoked, in addition to its culinary applications. The various forms of catnip have been used for generations in alternative medicine, and modern research has also shown it to be a reliable treatment for some common maladies. Let’s take a closer look at some of the best health benefits of catnip.
Health Benefits of Catnip
Health benefits of catnip include:
The same quality that makes catnip so attractive to cats, namely because it makes them slightly “high” and sedates them, can also apply to humans in a more controlled way. Catnip can provide stress relief and reduce chronic anxiety as an herbal remedy when eaten, consumed in the form of a juice or tea, or when smoked as an herb. This can also help to reduce the secondary symptoms of chronic stress and strengthen your immune system.
Catnip has been used by people with insomnia or restlessness for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The sedative nature helps to slow down the body’s natural cycles and induce a calm, relaxed state. People are better able to sleep through the night for undisturbed, restful sleep. Many people choose to drink a cup of catnip tea before bed to ensure a refreshing sleep.
Reduces Digestive Issues
Catnip is particularly effective in clearing up digestive issues, especially constipation, excess flatulence, cramping, and bloating. The relaxing, anti-inflammatory effects of catnip’s organic compounds can ease the knots and inflammation in your gastrointestinal system and relieve tightness and discomfort.
For women suffering from particularly painful menstrual cramps, catnip tea is often recommended as an alternative treatment, because it can quickly relieve those cramps and stresses on the body. Furthermore, the sedative, calming effects of catnip can also soothe other symptoms of menstruation, such as mood swings and depression.
Although the exact mechanism isn’t completely understood, catnip has proven to be very effective in the treatment of headaches, even chronic migraines. Rubbing the essential oil on the affected area can work, but drinking catnip tea or rubbing a catnip leaf salve on the temples can also offer quick relief.
In terms of colds and flu, one of the fastest ways to clean out the body is to induce sweating and get the toxins flushed from the system. This is particularly true in the case of fevers when the lack of sweating before the fever breaks is only keeping those toxins and pathogens in the body. Catnip induces sweating, so is often recommended by alternative practitioners for treating the common cold.
As mentioned above, the chemical constituents of catnip are particularly effective as anti-inflammatory agents. This means that catnip can be effective in the treatment of arthritis, gout, sprained muscles, aching joints, and even hemorrhoids. Topical application or normal consumption of leaves, juice, or tea can be effective for all of these situations.
The natural repellent quality of catnip makes it ideal for keeping bugs away from gardens when kept as an ornamental plant, but the organic compounds in the plant make it ideal for soothing bug bites and relieving irritation on the skin. Applying salves or extracts to the irritated or broken skin can speed the healing process and reduce inflammation quickly.
Although eating catnip leaves is the least common form of consumption for human beings, catnip actually has a rather impressive collection of nutrients, from beneficial chemicals and unique organic compounds to essential acids, minerals, and vitamins that our bodies need. In other words, the plant can do a lot more than knock out a cat!
Word of Warning
For people suffering from liver or kidney disorders, the use of catnip may be risky, particularly if you are regularly consuming the tea. Furthermore, pregnant women should avoid catnip, as it can prematurely induce labor. Other than those specific concerns, catnip is generally considered non-allergenic and harmless to users. The high potency of the essential oil should be considered, however, and extracts should always be mixed with carrier oils.