You’ve probably marveled at a cat’s reaction to catnip — rolling around in it, zoning out or flipping out. But catnip isn’t just for cats. It doesn’t seem to make humans want to roll around or flip out, but it does have a few other surprising uses.
1. It can help you relax and sleep better.
Many people swear by catnip’s soothing, relaxing properties. “Tea Mistress” Kate Sullivan says catnip tea can help with insomnia. “A tea made from dried catnip is absolutely amazing, especially if there’s a little honey added.”
She suggests that catnip is good for those who don’t want to use an over-the-counter or prescription sleep aid for insomnia.
“With melatonin, it can be hard to get the dose right and it sometimes has unpleasant side effects,” says Sullivan. “Meanwhile, some people have trouble tolerating valerian or don’t like the taste of chamomile. Catnip doesn’t seem to cause any of those issues and people love the mild minty flavor.”
2. It may ease digestive problems.
Licensed acupuncturist Amy Landolt tells Care2 that many of her clients enjoy tea containing catnip, hops, yarrow, peppermint, skullcap, and chamomile.
“The catnip is said to relieve upset stomach, colic, spasms, flatulence, and stomach acidity. It’s used in the sleep mix tea to address digestive issues that may be impacting sleep. I always warn people not to leave the tea out if they have cats, but even with the warning, I’ve had clients who’ve forgotten and their cats had a party with the tea bags they left on the counter…”
3. You can cook with it.
Catnip is an aromatic herb belonging to the mint family. Creative cooks add it to everything from salads to soups to marinade.
4. It attracts bees, butterflies, and birds.
Catnip is a fragrant, flowering perennial. If you want to attract helpful bees, butterflies, and birds to your yard or garden, it may be as simple as planting some catnip. According to Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences, plant the catnip where you need pollination and they will come. The hardy plant is decorative and thrives in lightly shaded areas or in pots.
5. It repels mosquitos and cockroaches.
Catnip makes a pretty good insect repellent. Iowa State University researchers say that nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip, is about 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET, the compound used in most commercial insect repellents. Earlier research found that catnip also repels cockroaches.
Horticulturalist and aromatherapist Rebecca Bennett says she infuses organic dried catnip leaf and flower, along with yarrow and geranium, into a carrier oil to use as a bug repellent.
“The oil smells awful, so infusing the leaf and flower parts for a week in oil instead creates a tobacco type smell which isn’t too bad. Combined with the other ingredients, we have an effective product.”
6. You can bathe with it.
Sullivan shares that you can also use catnip tea bags (or catnip in a sachet or pouch) to make a catnip tea bath. “It’s great for relieving aches and pains caused by the flu, and catnip has antibacterial properties that make a catnip tea compress fantastic for avoiding infection on a cut.
7. You can condition your hair with it.
Cindy Jones, Ph.D., of Colorado Aromatics, tells Care2 that catnip is said to condition, strengthen, and promote hair growth. “This may be partially due to the high levels of antioxidants found in catnip.” Her company uses catnip extract in their conditioning shampoo.
Jones explained that you can also make your own hair rinse using catnip tea. “Pour about 16 ounces of boiling water over 2 teaspoons of dried catnip. All this to steep for as long as you wish, but at least until it is cool. After washing your hair, pour this tea over your hair as a rinse. Then comb and your hair will feel softer, stronger and shinier.”
8. It makes great potpourri.
The dried leaves remain fragrant and are a perfect addition to your potpourri bowl.