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Catnip — It’s Pretty Awesome

Dried catnip (Nepeta cataria).

Dried catnip (Nepeta cataria).

I’ve been geeking out on catnip (Nepeta cataria) lately — learning about it, growing it, drying it, and trying it. A good choice since growing it is almost fool-proof and the plant itself is super useful.

For the Garden

Catnip attracts beneficial insects that eat aphids, repels cockroaches and mosquitoes, and honey bees love it!

For Humans

The tea has so many purported health benefits (sleep aid, migraine relief, anxiety reduction) that I had to make some on the spot.

From The Canadian Veterinary Journal: “Other uses for catnip have been as a cold remedy, for hives, as a diaphoretic (induces sweating), a refrigerant (cools the body), and an anodyne (relieves pain).”

For Cats

Cats are attracted to the organic compound, Nepetalactone, found in catnip. When cats sense the bruised leaves or stems, they start rubbing on the plant, rolling on the ground, pawing at it, licking it, and chewing it.

My interest in catnip started with the refillable catnip pillows that I make for my cats. It’s been a goal of mine to sell them somewhere in town, so, as an extension of that, I decided to grow the catnip for them as well.

I currently have four plants in my greenhouse and I’ve harvested from them twice. The first time I bundled and hung the catnip upside-down to dry it. That bunch took two months to dry, way too long. The second time, I removed the leaves from the stems, placed them flat on paper towels (stacked about five layers high), and put them onto the rack in my gas oven, letting the low heat of the pilot light dry the leaves. That batch dried in 48 hours, much better.

Once dry, I gave some of the homegrown catnip to my quality control team. Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at their testing process: