Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Catnip - Not just for Cats

The Latin name for Catnip is Nepata Cataria but it is also known as Catnep, Catrup, Catswort and Field balm.

It could be described as an upright shrubby herb, which grows up to a metre tall. It has light green serrated leaves that have hairy undersides. The flower colours vary from white to pale blue with crimson dots.

Catnip has an odour not too dissimilar to mint and this is the attraction by cats. Cats go a bit crazy when the meet up with this herb and the effects last for a couple of hours, they aren't quite themselves during this as they roll about in it similar to being in a trance. There are many products now from catnip, inclusing catnip toys, just for cats. Strange as it may seem, although catnip may attract and make cats hyperactive, rats absolutely hate the herb!

Catnip can be found on banks, waysides and waste places throughout most northern temperate regions.

In France, the leaves and young shoots of catnip are used for seasoning. Even the young tops are made into a conserve and said to cure nightmares. The juice of the plant drunk with wine is a remedy for bruises and bruising the leaves will sooth haemorrhoids The bruised leaves also provide a cure is used as a shampoo for scabs and scurf.

The catnip herb has always traditionally been used as a remedy for colds and flu as it provides a powerful diaphoretic to any feverish condition. It’s use in clearing congested airways, blocked sinuses or middle ear are well known.

Infectious diseases of childhood, such as measles, are treated with catnip, as its gentle sedative action will help a child to sleep. A remedy for the treatment of diarrhoea in children is also apparent.

Oil is produced from catnip from distillation by steam and acts as a repellent against mosquitoes, cockroaches, termites and other insects.

You can grow this herb quite easily from either seed or from properagation. It is a hardy perenial although severe frost can damage so some protection may be needed in the winter.

Apart from being used as French seasoning, catnip is not a great ingredient in culinary circles. However, it can still be infused in hot water and drunk as tea.


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