Years ago women regularly grew medicinal herb gardens to give them the medicines they needed to care for themselves, their families and people in their community. Having stood the test of time, these simple yet powerful herbs are making a strong come back in back yards all across the country.
Plants in the mint family were some of the easiest to grow and more importantly, had a plethora of uses. There are many varieties of mints today. Perhaps the oldest and most popular one is the Catnip. Latin name Nepeta cataria, is undoubtedly best recognized as an intoxicating herb that cats find irresistible.
Catnip makes a pleasant tasting tea that is loaded with totally absorbable vitamins, minerals, and nutrients. One of the most well known uses is an infusion of Catnip to help induce a restful night’s sleep. To make your Catnip Nightcap, put one heaping teaspoon full of dried catnip (or 1-2 tablespoons full fresh catnip) in a cup. Fill with boiling water and cover tightly. Steep 20-30 minutes, strain (add honey or stevia if you like a sweeter tea) and drink before bed – sweet dreams! Note: Catnip is believed to help prevent nightmares too.
Catnip is a mild antibacterial, the leaves being chewed to help the pain of toothache or headache. Catnip helps stomachaches by calming the nerves; the tea is also helpful for stress, anxiety, tension and nervousness.
Externally, the macerated plant (called a poultice) is used directly on the skin for pain, sprains, bruises and insect bites to slow bleeding & speed healing or as a liniment to ease the pain of arthritis. A thick salve either applied directly or made into suppositories is very useful for hemorrhoids.
Make a strong infusion (tea) for use as a hair rinse for scalp irritations; as eyewash for inflammation, allergies and bloodshot eyes or as an enema to cleanse the bowel.
Women sing catnip’s praise for its antispasmodic properties in calming menstrual cramping and it’s soothing and calming properties for PMS, anxiety, stress & tension. It is also used to regulate periods, and for delayed or suppressed menstruation. What else could a girl want?
With its myriad of uses in childhood imbalances, mom will never want to be without catnip. Catnip will help calm a child when they are teething, colicky or restlessness. When given for colds and fevers, it helps the child get the rest that they need. A catnip enema has brought down a stubborn fever when nothing else worked. It is a gentle calmative for hyperactive children and a good digestive for an upset tummy. When your child is over excited or sick, making a catnip bath is often a mother’s hero. To make: bring a big pot of water to a boil. Take off the heat and add a couple big handfuls of catnip to the pot. Cover tightly and let steep 45 minutes or longer. Strain off into bathtub and adjust water temperature before placing child in bath. This is a great bath for a stressed out mommy too so you may both want to get in that catnip tub together! Catnip baths are a specific for the hyperactive child.
For respiratory infections, drinking hot catnip tea increases perspiration and effectively brings down fevers, and acts as a decongestant. At first sign of a cold or flu, begin drinking hot catnip tea frequently (2-4 cups throughout the day). It is also helpful in bronchitis and asthma, sore throats, coughs & sinusitis as well as eruptive infections such as chicken-pox and measles.
Iowa State University have proven that nepetalactone (the oil that gives catnip its smell) can be a more effective bug repellent than DEET by a factor of one hundred. Especially because DEET has been known to cause toxic reactions to some of its users, catnip—a less harmful product by far—may be the next wave of bug repellent
Catnip is an extremely safe herb, and there are no listed warnings or contraindications.
Kathleen Gould, Herbalist AHG
Kathleen Gould, Herbalist RH (AHG) has studied, taught and lived herbalism for 25 years. She is a professional member of the esteemed American Herbalist Guild and has studied herbalism throughout the U.S. with internationally known herbalist Rosemary Gladstar, Tieroana Lowdog MD, James Duke Ph.D., Michael Tierra, David Hoffman, Patch Adams, and Susun Weed. She is the former owner of both the Herb Corner and Learning Center and The Southeastern Center for Herbal Studies in Florida.
Kathleen is currently proprietor of the SW Herb Shop in Mesa, Arizona, where she conducts private herbal consultations and teaches an Herbal Certification Course on the selection of appropriate herbs to address conditions of the organ systems. The course includes preparation of appropriate teas, tincture, syrups and salves. She has lectured at holistic, alternative and health organizations, environmental groups, herbal symposiums including Calloway Gardens Herbs Days in Georgia and in Florida at Lew Garden's annual herbal conference.
Kathleen has been interviewed by Prevention Magazine/Rodale Press books, The Book of Healing Herbs – Secrets from 90 Top Herbal Healers by Sari Harrar & Sara Altshul.