known as a stimulant for cats,
is a perennial herb in the
mint family (Labiatae) native to
Europe. The plant can grow up to three feet tall with white purple
spotted flowers on the ends of its branches.
Cats, both domestic
and wild, are attracted to catnip due to a mildly hallucinogenic
chemical compound known as nepetalactone present in plant
tissues. While it has no affect humans, the chemical affects
to varying degrees, with some having an aggressive reaction.
Why does catnip make most
cats go crazy?
Catnip also has several properties beneficial to humans. Once
used as a folk remedy for a wide variety of medical problems, today
catnip’s essential oils are used in a number of
pharmaceutical products and dietary supplements. For example,
catnip contains thymol, a compound that can be used as
Nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip, has been shown to
be more effective at repelling mosquitoes than most commercial
insect repellents. Its leaves can be crushed and boiled with water or
vinegar to make a spritz, or the plant’s leafy stalk can be
crushed rubbed directly on skin or clothing.
Catnip extract has a mild antispasmodic effect which
reduces muscle cramps.
Catnip is primarily marketed for cats in stuffed toys, catnip-filled
balls, compressed pellets, and in shaker bottles. Marketing
farmers markets, pet stores, and higher-end retail
Most commercial catnip for toys is of a lower grade, consisting of
dried, ground-up stalks, as well as leaves. The most aromatic portions
of the plant
are the blossoms and leaves.
Catnip prefers sites with full sun, well-drained soil, and adequate
moisture. The herb can be propagated by seed, stem cuttings,
Commercially grown catnip is generally seeded and grown in a greenhouse
or hotbed until plants are the proper size for transplanting.
Greenhouse float beds and transplanters designed for tobacco production
can be used for catnip. Plants are transplanted to
mechanically or by hand once all danger of frost has passed.
Small seed size and slow germination, along with a poor ability to
compete with weeds, makes direct seeding to the field
Catnip is a moderate nitrogen feeder, so a preplant broadcast of
nitrogen is recommended. Additional applications can be
sidedressed after harvest to speed regrowth.
Since catnip oil contains compounds that discourage insect feeding and
fungal growth, it has few insect and disease pests. Weeds are
the greatest threat to production because catnip is a poor competitor
with other plants. Since there are no herbicides labeled for
this crop, hand weeding and cultivation are required for weed control.
Catnip is ready to harvest at full bloom when aromatic properties are
at their peak. Stems are cut a few inches above the crown to
allow for plant
regrowth. Generally, plantings may be cut twice (mid-summer
and fall) during the growing season. Cutting can be
accomplished by hand or with a side bar cutter mower. Some
growers gather the crop using a standard baler once stems have dried
Harvested plants are dried naturally in the shade or with an
artificial dryer. Further drying and processing may be
depending on the buyer and use.
Oil Bug Repellent