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Catnip - Nepeta cataria

One of the best-loved by felines, this aromatic perennial herb grows to about 3 ft and has heart-shaped grey-green leaves (similar to the mint) and whorls of white flowers with purple spots.

Catnip has a pleasant taste, and makes an ideal substitute for the daily cuppa - it was a favourite country tea long before the black tea we all know so well arrived from the Far East. The leaves of Catnip [and the leaves of many mint relatives] are rich in vitamins C and E, and contains flavonoids and trace elements of magnesium and manganese.These antioxidants and trace minerals have been shown to help slow the development of cataracts, and a daily cup or two of catnip tea should significantly reduce the likelihood of developing cataracts.
Catnip is also a mild tranquiliser - try a cup of Catnip tea before bedtime for a sound sleep [or try blending Catnip with another relaxing herb such as Lemon Balm or Chamomile].

A gentle herb, Catnip makes a suitable drink for children and will help soothe feverish chills. Catnip makes useful tea for soothing nervous headaces and is a good digestive aide, nerve relaxant, cold preventative, and hiccup remedy. The root used to be ground with cloves and used as a remedy for toothache, and a catnip infusion rubbed gently into the gums can help with teething. Used externally catnip ointments and poultices are good for treating brusies and minor wounds.
A smoking mixture of catnip was used to treat bronchitis - however, it is reportedly a mild hallucinagenic when smoked.

As Gerard describes in his Herball (1633) “Cats are very much delighted herewith for the smell of it is so pleasant to them that they rub themselves upon it and wallow and tumble in it, and also feed upon the branches and leaves very greedily...”
A Victorian custom was to reward mice-catching-cats with catnip toys shaped like mice - now one of the best known (and loved) cat toys!


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