HomeHerb SelectionCan Catnip Tea Boost Your Health? The Scientific Facts

Can Catnip Tea Boost Your Health? The Scientific Facts

Catnip, scientifically known as Nepeta cataria, is a plant that has long been enjoyed by cats for its intoxicating effects. But did you know that catnip can also be consumed by humans as a soothing herbal tea?

Catnip tea has a long history of traditional use for promoting relaxation and sleep. But what does modern science have to say about the potential health benefits of this fragrant brew? Let’s take a look at what the latest research reveals.

An Overview of Catnip and Its Traditional Uses

Catnip is a perennial herb that belongs to the mint family Lamiaceae. It is native to parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa but now grows wild across much of North America.

The most prized parts of the catnip plant are the leaves and flowering tops, which are harvested and dried to make tea, tinctures, extracts, and supplements. For those with limited gardening space, Small Space Gardening offers excellent tips on compact herb varieties suitable for containers.

Catnip has been used for centuries in folk medicine practices for a variety of conditions including:

  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Headache
  • Stress
  • Indigestion
  • Colds and flu

Traditionally, catnip tea has been consumed in small amounts as a mild sedative to relax the body and mind before bedtime. Many people also find that it helps to settle an upset stomach.

What Science Says About Catnip Tea Benefits

Modern research has confirmed many of the traditional uses of catnip. Let’s explore what studies have revealed about the potential health benefits of catnip tea:

Promotes Relaxation and Sleep

Several studies have shown that catnip can have mild sedative effects on the body that may promote relaxation and sleep. These studies found that components in catnip, including a compound called nepetalactone, can interact with the neurotransmitters in the brain that influence sleep and anxiety levels.

Eases Anxiety and Stress

A 2019 double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that catnip tea reduced feelings of anxiety in people exposed to an anxiety-provoking situation. Researchers noted the potential for catnip to be used as a safe, natural remedy for reducing day-to-day anxiety.

Soothes Upset Stomach

As a carminative herb, catnip is thought to help relax the gastrointestinal system and relieve symptoms like cramping and gas. A small clinical trial found that catnip tea modestly reduced symptoms in people with irritable bowel syndrome.

Rich in Antioxidants

Catnip contains antioxidant compounds like rosmarinic acid that help to fight oxidative stress in the body. Research indicates these antioxidants may support overall health.

Natural Diuretic

Compounds in catnip act as a very mild diuretic, meaning they can help the body flush out excess fluid. This may benefit conditions like water retention or bloating.

Anti-Inflammatory

Catnip demonstrates anti-inflammatory properties in lab studies. The rosmarinic acid in catnip inhibits pro-inflammatory compounds like COX-2. More research is needed to confirm the effects in humans.

May Ease Cold Symptoms

Limited clinical evidence suggests catnip tea may help relieve common cold symptoms like sore throat, cough, and congestion. Its diaphoretic effects mean it can promote sweating to help lower fever.

Catnip flowers (Nepeta cataria) field in summer
Catnip flowers (Nepeta cataria) field in summer

How to Make Catnip Tea at Home

Making refreshing catnip tea at home is quick and easy. Here is a simple recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 teaspoons dried catnip leaves and flowers
  • 8 ounces boiling water
  • Lemon or honey (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Place catnip into a tea infuser or tea ball. You can also put loose catnip directly into a teapot.
  2. Pour boiling water over the catnip.
  3. Let steep for 5-7 minutes.
  4. Remove the tea infuser or strain the tea.
  5. Flavor with lemon juice or honey if desired. Enjoy hot or chilled over ice.

You can also make a large batch of iced catnip tea and keep it in the fridge for a refreshing beverage anytime. Be sure to use airtight glass storage container.

Catnip Tea Precautions and Side Effects

For most people, moderate consumption of catnip tea is considered safe, but some precautions are warranted:

  • Pregnant women should avoid catnip tea as its safety has not been established.
  • Discontinue use if any side effects develop like headache, dizziness or stomach upset.
  • Catnip may interact with sedative medications – consult your doctor before using.
  • Avoid operating heavy machinery after drinking catnip tea until you know how it affects you.
  • Catnip tea should not be given to children without medical supervision.

Overall, studies show catnip tea has an excellent safety profile when consumed in moderation for short-term use. But it’s always best to consult your doctor about any herbal supplement, especially if you take prescription medications.

Conclusion

With its light, minty flavor, and soothing properties, catnip tea is a safe, natural way to unwind at the end of the day. Science supports many of the traditional uses of catnip for anxiety, sleep, upset stomach, and colds. Drinking a warm cup of catnip tea in the evening may help you relax both your body and mind before bed. Just be mindful of any potential side effects and interactions with medications. As with any supplement, it’s smart to check with your doctor before trying catnip tea.

FAQs

What does catnip do to dogs?

Catnip does not have the same intoxicating effect on dogs as it does on cats. However, some dogs may show mild interest in catnip. It can make them playful, excitable, and energetic. But it does not produce the same euphoric reaction seen in cats.

What is the dog version of catnip?

Anise is known as the dog version of catnip. The smell of anise can trigger a euphoric reaction in dogs similar to how catnip affects cats. Not all dogs react strongly to anise though. Valerian root is another herb said to have calming effects on dogs.

How long does catnip keep a dog calm?

The effects of catnip on dogs usually last around 10-30 minutes. Then the dog will return to its normal energy level. Some dogs may experience longer-lasting effects up to a few hours. But in most cases, the catnip-induced calmness is temporary.

How much catnip can I give my dog for anxiety?

There are no standard dosing guidelines for catnip and dogs. It’s best to start with small amounts like a pinch or two of dried catnip leaf added to food. Monitor your dog’s reaction. If the catnip helps your anxious dog relax without causing any negative side effects, continue using a similar small daily dose as needed for anxiety relief. Consult your veterinarian to make sure catnip is appropriate for your pet.

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