Stomach Complaints, Breathing Difficulties, Anxiety? What You Need Is Some Catnip Essential Oil.
Catnip essential oil is another one of my extraordinary little finds! It is a pretty rare little commodity with a whole host of uses but also full of contradictions. Like all the oils, it has fascinating magical and spiritual aspects to it and throughout the article I am going to draw on Wicca, gypsy and Egyptian magic knowledge.
The fascinating thing about catnip though, is it's the only plant I can think of...except for perhaps comfrey that is more famous for its medicinal qualities than anything else.
Everyone knows cats adore it, but actually it had never occurred to me to question why.
So...get your scissors if you have some growing in the garden otherwise let me tell you all about just how wonderful catnip essential oil is.
Botanical Name: Nepeta cataria
A member of the mint family (Labiatae) it contains about 150 species. It grows in pretty white and purple spikes and flowers from June to September.
It is also known by several other common Names:Cat, catmint, catrup, cat's wort, field balm, nepeta, nip, nep, herb catta
Associated Deities: Mostly associated with Bast, catnip is also associated with Venus and Sekhmet.
Plant Part: Flowers
Common Method of Extraction: Steam Distilled.
It is a very difficult plant to obtain essential oil from as the oil is incredibly thin and light. In fact it has to be collected in two different sets of apparatus because the first fraction is lighter then the water and the second one is a tiny bit heavier so they have to be collected separately. Yield of the oil is low because the plant itself is very reactive to cold winters and often the crop can be wiped out by one single cold night.
Now Catnip Essential oil is mainly produced in Canada.
Chemical Constituents: Nepetalactone (60-95%). [Robert Tisserand, Essential Oil Safety
Blends well with: Lemon, Lime, Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Myrrh. Grapefruit, Lavandin, Lavender, Lemon, Marjoram, Orange, other Mints, and Rosemary.
Strength of Aroma: Strong
Aromatic Scent: Reminiscent of citronella with a light minty undertone.
Catnip is high in iron, selenium, potassium, manganese, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Catnip also contains moderate amounts of magnesium and phosphorus, as well as small amounts of calcium, sodium, and some B-complex.* See safety.
*Tisserand advises that it may be a skin sensitizer and to use it with caution.
*Sheppard-Hanger advises to avoid use during pregnancy and to avoid use in babies and children. (However read on through the article...)
*Not safe for patients with epilepsy. *Long term usage can reduce iron production in the body.
*No Known toxicity.
*Avoid use during pregnancy as is a powerful uterine stimulant.
*Catnip has diuretic properties, so may have you dashing off to the loo!
*It can also cause an upset stomach in some individuals. *There are no known negative interactions between catnip and other medications and herbs.
Does Historical Evidence And Folklore Tell us Anything About Catnip Essential Oil?
Catnip first originated from Europe and Asia. There is documentary evidence of it being used as far back as by Roman cooks and doctors. If you look at historical records from both England and France, they show that catnip was used as their hot drink of choice before black tea was imported from China. Lovely and fresh and stimulating, I'll tell you how to make the tea at the end.
Catnip found its way to the United States in the late 18th century, where Native Americans quickly adopted it to their medicine.
There are records from 13 different Native American tribes of their usage of catnip. Predominately it seems to have been for treating children and stomach complaints such as colic and general stomach complaints.
Now this is where we see the first of those contradictions that I spoke about.
As you read on you will see that catnip has been used for literally hundreds of years as the herb (and let me clarify...this is the herb not the oil that I am talking about now) has been used on children.
It seems to have the most wonderful uses but all the safety data on Catnip Essential oil says do not use on children.
And I haven’t a clue why, no-one seems to validate it.
Moving on then.
Believe it or not the records show the native Indians used it to treat everything from Chicken Pox to Poison Ivy and nettle stings.
They also seemed to use it to treat it urinary incontinence and that is a trait that has been exploited through the generations and still remains one of its primary uses today.
It amused me to find in 1847 Pennsylvania document applauds catnip as being "highly popular among the good ladies who deal in simples." - Clues anyone? All I know is that it doesn't sound very PC at all!
As ever, I looked to the master...herbalist Nicholas Culpeper to find out his thoughts and I found that in the seventeenth century catnip was the recommended treatment for bruises, piles, and head scabs.
“Yes...that’s all very well Liz” I hear you saying “but what about the cats?”
Ok, well let’s investigate Nepetalactone then. (See the structure diagram below)
I know, I know, it sounds like a dreadfully boring chemistry lesson but stick with me.
This is where we talk about cats and to me this is where it gets interesting.
To begin with, the long chemical name beginning with N is what sends the cats barmy.
If you haven't seen it, cats are really funny around catnip, they love it.
Strangely in fact, only 2 out of three cats are susceptible and it is a hereditary thing - A bit like humans being able to roll their tongue I suppose.
When I say susceptible, what happens is that they have an olfactory reaction that is semi- hallucinogenic? They roll about, lick their lips, rub themselves...literally have orgies with the plant. The effects last a few minutes but will arouse them again a couple of hours later to start all over again.
It's hilarious to watch then flirting and preening all over the flowers.
I couldn't resist showing you this film! My Little Dexter was in stitches at the "foaming cat!" Hilarious, if not somewhat bizarre!
So that’s the first thing, but the second thing about Nepetalactone is that bugs absolutely hate it, making it the very best insect repellant you can find.
Research has shown Catnip Essential oil is over ten times more effective for repelling mosquitoes than the top leading commercial spray. Not to mention a hell of a lot safer. Moreover to apparently works for horrid cockroaches and termites too.
Fantastic isn't it? The best insect repellant is natural!
I've said it before and I'll say it again because it is so true that sometimes I can't believe it...."Isn't mother nature incredible?"
You are going to want to take notes, there are so many you will never remember them.
This is fabulous oil for cramps and spasms. Use atopically, whether for massage or in a cream or lotion. First it relaxes the muscle; it is anaesthetic so easing the main and then relaxes the nerves and connective tissues around the muscle.Fantastic tool for those sports people of you out there.
It is extremely beneficial for trapped gas or wind in the intestines. One of the things that the Native Indians used it for was colicky babies. As I said the catnip essential oil is contra-indicated in children but there are countless texts suggesting a poultice of the leaves and flowers to be laid on the child’s tummy. I think you have to make your own mind up about this. Personally I would try using it in a homeopathic dose. Dilute 1 drop of the catnip essential oil into 15 drops of carrier and then just use one drop of the mixture. 1/15th dose. It means that you have all the attributes of the plant but in a much gentler capacity.
Further it regulates the levels of bile and gastric juices in the stomach so helps stomach ulcers, but also lesser conditions such as stomach spasms, flatulence, diarrhoea, inflammatory bowel conditions, constipation and colic.
Please note....as I have written that I just know I am going to get asked if it would be beneficial for colic in horses and I will save us all a lot of time in saying I really don't know, sorry.
A bit of catnip essential oil could make all the difference in the world if you have haemorrhoids...only use a tiny amount in a cream or massage oil. Alternatively use on a compress.
Soothes the inflammation of arthritis.
Is a useful oil to use in an enema.
It induces sweat which is very useful for purging the body when there is infection. It is also extremely diuretic so although the toxins are purged, please make sure that the patient drinks plenty of water to replace liquids with all the loo trips.
It regulates menstrual cycle and reduces pain.
It has fascinating depths as a nervine tonic. It is indicated in cases of vertigo or also situations which indicate shaking limbs, notably Parkinson’s disease. It is also indicated for convulsions. I would be interested to see its application on a patient with dystonia too.
I will reiterate at this point, it is not suitable for patients suffering from epilepsy.
It is a very effective astringent and tightens skin and gums. Therefore it is effective for acne and also dandruff. I will say here that I have found lots of old wives recipes suggesting that a teething baby chew on the leaves to soothe the pain.
Try using it as a decongestant for all things pertaining to the respiratory system. So that’s starting with colds and flu, to asthma and bronchitis.
In fact generally catnip essential oil makes a great home remedy for chest congestion all round really.
It is as effective - and not so burning as clove oil when you use it for tooth ache.
Another one of those contradictions is that the herb is considered safe, and indeed the plant of choice for morning sickness.
You know what though? I find that very concerning because of its strength as a uterine tonic. It seems to me that could easily bring early onset miscarriage. I think that Catnip Essential oil is a complete no go during pregnancy.
Emotional Aspects To Catnip Essential Oil
This is very important oil in the treatment of anxiety. It is a very powerful sedative and works in a similar way to valerian, and remember that is the source of valium.
It is a very good oil to use to help someone who is suffering from depression.
Nepetalactone is a really powerful relaxant and is incredible for desensitizing panic at times of stress.
This is a really strong medicine. Tie that in with the physical nervine attributes and you have a unique tool in your box of tricks I think.
Ancient Spiritual knowledge that exists within Catnip Essential Oil
Attributed to the Egyptian Goddess Bast (she is the cat headed Goddess obviously)Catnip is ruled by Venus. Its element is water and its energy is considered feminine.
Catnip essential oil vibrates on the throat chakra
Harnesses Cat magic
Catnip creates a psychic between the two of you.
Ancient pagan spells use catnip in spells to bring each of love, happiness and beauty
Catnip is used in love sachets, usually in conjunction with rose petals.
It is told that if you hold catnip in your hand until it is warm, then hold another’s hand, they will be your friend forever, provided that you keep the catnip you used in the spell somewhere safe.
Grown near the home or hung over the door, catnip attracts good spirits and great luck.
Large catnip leaves are pressed and used as bookmarks in magical texts.
Use Catnip essential oil in a burner while calling on Aengus Óg the God of Love.
In the same way it aids communication with the Goddess Áine in meditations to experience beauty and clarity
Use in dream pillows to aid sleep.
Prevents nightmares, works in a very similar way to Rock Rose from the Bach Flower Remedies
Catnip is used in gypsy magic for contract law, legal confrontations and signing of documents. Economic oil, it is to do with matters of money and even better, winning arguments.
Use to consecrate magical tools.
And finally for those of you who want to try it....
Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon of fresh catnip, or 1 tsp. of dried. Let the mixture steep for about 20 minutes. Add honey to sweeten, if desired.
If you want to add Catnip to your collection.
Over the past few weeks of writing, I have had so many people asking me about where to get the different oils from I have decided to add in a section for you to make things easy. Apart from that I have fantastic fun trawling everybody elses sites too...
The banner above is for Mountain Rose Herbs. You must save yourself half an hour to have a look around their store! It's wonderful! They have the most exquisite collections and they currently have in stock an
Organic Catnip Essential Oil.
They also have lovely
Catnip Floral waters
(or hydrosols as they are sometimes refered to) which are the bi-product of when the essential oil was being distilled. As they have purged the flowers and leaves with high pressure steam, the oils have collected in the vapours. As the steam cools to water small amounts of the oil are left behind. Their floral water would make a fabulous toner or even just a pick me up when you are feeling down.
And those of you who know me well will understand why I have put in an order for their
sleep pillow blend of herbs
which has catnip in it. The test of any essential oil or herb is "will Dexter sleep more than three hours with it!" It looks so pretty I thought I would make an embroidered pillow with a net panel in it.
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