Notes from Herb Heaven

Catnip

Also known as Catmint

Catnip and catmint are one and the same thing, although N. Mussinii is a smaller variety and not as doted on by cats as the N. Cataria, whose leaves they eat and in which they love to roll. They will also play with catnip-filled soft toys and delight you with their antics.

It is said not to grow well in lowland tropical regions, but catnip does well in most other climates and although it will grow in partial shade, its scent is stronger when grown in the sun. I have a beautiful catnip bush in my north-facing herb garden. It is delighting me with many flowers right now, but another bush has suffered direly in the dry southeast garden. Catnip is a mint and loves water and although it does not like to be soggy, in dry weather it needs regular watering.

Put lots of organically rich compost in the soil and feed it with a nitrogen rich food in the spring. Try chicken manure or comfrey tea.

Catnip grows readily from seed and you can take cuttings as well, which will take 1 – 2 weeks to root.

It is a perennial and does well with a yearly pruning. (Pruning day in my garden is "haircut day" for the bushes!) Use the cuttings to make an excellent insect repellent spray. It helps against aphids and rats don't like the smell of catnip either.

Catmint is a good companion in the vegetable garden, especially with eggplant/aubergine/brinjal as it repels flea beetle and ants.

It settles upset tums, is an anti-flatulent,great for indigestion and good for arthritis and
headaches. A sprig of both catnip and marjoram,steeped together in half a cup of boiling water,
strained and sweetened with honey is used to treat
bedwetting.

The herbal properties of catmint leaves are also said to stimulate
hair growth and soothe scalp irritation. (And we thought it was great just for
pussycats!)


To Preserve:

Pick leaves when the plant is in bloom; hang in a cool
place to dry. Strip the leaves and store in an airtight
jar. Wrap leaves in cling wrap and freeze for up to three months.

The mauve, blue and grey flowers of N. mussinii
or the powder blue flowers of N. faassenii and
the white flowers of the more medicinal N. cataria
will attract bees and butterflies to your garden 
as well as providing you with a remedy for a host
of ailments.

Use the vitamin C-rich leaves and flowering tops
in a tea to combat a feverish cold and encourage
perspiration, or to relieve the pain of indigestion,
menstruation or colic. It is an anti-spasmodic and
can soothe restless babies, encouraging sleep. 
Just add 5-10 drops of tincture to a bottle of
water or dilute an infusion.

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