Chamomile Flower

Chamomile Flowers (Matricaria recutita)

These are the dried flowers you can purchase in bulk or in tea bags in the store. Also known as Matricaria chamomilla or German Chamomile. The names seem to be used interchangeably. Commonly known as chamomile (also spelled camomile), Italian camomilla, German chamomile, Hungarian chamomile (kamilla), wild chamomile, Manzanilla, Matricaris, Sweet False Chamomile, Ground apple, Blue Chamomile, or scented mayweed, is an annual plant of the composite family Asteraceae. M. chamomilla is the most popular source of the herbal product chamomile, although other species are also used as chamomile.

German chamomile is used in herbal medicine for a sore stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, and as a gentle sleep aid. It is also used as a mild laxative and is anti-inflammatory and bactericidal. It can be taken as an herbal tea, two teaspoons of dried flower per cup of tea, which should be steeped for 10 to 15 minutes while covered to avoid evaporation of the volatile oils.

One of the active ingredients of its essential oil is the terpene bisabolol. Other active ingredients include farnesene, chamazulene, flavonoids (including apigenin, quercetin, patuletin and luteolin) and coumarin.

Chamomile, a relative of ragweed, can cause allergy symptoms and can cross-react with ragweed pollen in individuals with ragweed allergies. It also contains coumarin, so care should be taken to avoid potential drug interactions, e.g. with blood thinners. While extremely rare, very large doses of chamomile may cause nausea and vomiting. Even more rarely, rashes may occur. Type-IV allergic reactions (i.e. contact dermatitis) are common and one case of severe Type-I reaction (i.e. anaphylaxis) has been reported in a 38-year-old man who drank chamomile tea.

Drug-Herb Interactions

  • Non-heme Iron – Reduced absorption (human study)
  • Warfarin – Potentiated (speculative)
  • Benzodiazepines and Opiate Withdrawal – Adjuvant to (empirical)

Formulation & Preparation

  • Infusion – 2 tsp/cup three to four times daily
  • Tincture – 1-4mL (1:5, 40%) three times daily or 7-14mL (1:5, 50%) three times daily
  • Oil – 2-3 drops of essential oil in hot water basin for steam inhalation
  • Eyewash – 1 cup warm infusion, strained, wash eyes gently
  • To encourage a baby to sleep – 1-2 cups strained infusion (tea) in bath water

Healing with Chamomile

  • as a tea, be used for lumbago, rheumatic problems and rashes.
  • as a salve, be used for hemorrhoids and wounds.
  • as a vapor, be used to alleviate cold symptoms or asthma.
  • relieve restlessness, teething problems, and colic in children.
  • relieve allergies, much as an antihistamine would.
  • aid in digestion when taken as a tea after meals.
  • relieve morning sickness during pregnancy.
  • speed healing of skin ulcers, wounds, or burns.
  • treat gastritis and ulcerative colitis.
  • reduce inflammation and facilitate bowel movement without acting directly as a purgative.
  • be used as a wash or compress for skin problems and inflammations, including inflammations of mucous tissue.
  • promote general relaxation and relieve stress. Animal studies show that chamomile contains substances that act on the same parts of the brain and nervous system as anti-anxiety drugs. Never stop taking prescription medications, however, without consulting your doctor.
  • control insomnia. Chamomile’s mildly sedating, and muscle-relaxing effects may help those who suffer from insomnia to fall asleep more easily.
  • Treat diverticular disease, irritable bowel problems and various gastrointestinal complaints. Chamomile’s reported anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions relax the smooth muscles lining the stomach and intestine. The herb may therefore help to relieve nausea, heartburn, and stress-related flatulence. It may also be useful in the treatment of diverticular disorders and inflammatory bowel conditions such as Crohn’s disease.
  • soothe skin rashes (including eczema), minor burns and sunburn. Used as a lotion or added in oil form to a cool bath, chamomile may ease the itching of eczema and other rashes and reduces skin inflammation. It may also speed healing and prevent bacterial infection.
  • treat eye inflammation and infection. Cooled chamomile tea can be used in a compress to help soothe tired, irritated eyes and it may even help treat conjunctivitis.
  • heal mouth sores and prevent gum disease. A chamomile mouthwash may help soothe mouth inflammations and keep gums healthy.
  • reduce menstrual cramps. Chamomile’s believed ability to relax the smooth muscles of the uterus helps ease the discomfort of menstrual cramping.
  • Calms Muscle Spasms – One study from England found that drinking chamomile tea raised urine levels of glycine, a compound that calms muscle spasms. Researchers believe this is why chamomile tea could prove to be an effective home remedy for menstrual cramps as well.
  • Natural Hemorrhoid Treatment – Chamomile ointment can help to relieve hemorrhoids.
  • Fights Cancer – It’s very likely that chamomile tea can help reduce cancerous cells, although research is still ongoing to see exactly how chamomile reverses abnormal cellular growth.

References:

  1. http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/crops/hort/herbs/chamom.htm
  2. http://heritagegarden.uic.edu/german-chamomile-matricaria-recutita/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22070986
  4. https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=MARE6
  5. http://www.ndhealthfacts.org/wiki/Matricaria_recutita
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16628544
  7. https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-chamomile.html
  8. https://www.drugs.com/npc/chamomile.html
  9. http://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/chamom122013final.pdf
  10. http://naturalsociety.com/9-amazing-health-benefits-of-chamomile-tea/
  11. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/7151230_A_Review_of_the_bioactivity_and_potential_health_benefits_of_chamomile_tea_Matricaria_recutita_L
  12. http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/colleges/pharmacy/currentstudents/OnCampusPharmDStudents/ExperientialProgram/Documents/nutr_monographs/Monograph-chamomile.pdf
  13. https://www.mountainroseherbs.com/products/chamomile-flower-powder/profile
  14. https://www.herbal-supplement-resource.com/german-chamomile.html
  15. http://www.cir-safety.org/sites/default/files/chamomile.pdf
  16. http://apps.who.int/medicinedocs/en/d/Js2200e/11.html
  17. “Matricaria chamomilla”. Natural Resources Conservation Service PLANTS Database. USDA. Retrieved 15 June 2008.
  18. “Matricaria recutita”. Integrated Taxonomic Information System. Retrieved 15 June 2008.

German Chamomile

German ‘Blue’ Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla)

What Is German Chamomile Oil?

German chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), which is often referred to as blue chamomile or true chamomile, comes from the Compositae sunflower family. It is one of the two chamomile species that can be used medicinally. The other one is the Roman or English chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile).

This plant, which hails from Southern and Eastern parts of Europe, grows from 6 centimeters up to 60 centimeters (2.3 to 23.5 inches) tall with heavily branched and furrowed stems. Like Roman chamomile oil, German chamomile essential oil is extracted either through solvent extraction or steam distillation of its golden yellow flowers that have ray-like blossoms.

You can find German Chamomile in Mother Jai’s Deep Sleep Oil.

Major Constituents

  • Bisabolol
  • Farnesol
  • Azulene
  • Farnasene
  • Thujanol

Composition of German Chamomile Oil

Some of the most important chemical components of German chamomile oil are sesquiterpenes, 36 flavonoids, coumarins and polyacetylenes. Other constituents include chamazulene (which has antiseptic capabilities), as well as 28 terpenoids and 52 additional compounds with potential pharmacological activity that gives it antimicrobial and fungistatic capabilitiesfarnesene, sesquiterpenes, cadinene, furfural, spanthulenol, and proazulenes (matricarin and matricin).

Chamazulene (or azulen when isolated), which provides German chamomile oil its deep bluish color, is formed from matricin during steam distillation. Prolonged storage and light exposure destroys this effect. This often results in a lighter blue color, which can turn into a pale green, yellow or even brown shade.

When it’s still fresh, German chamomile oil has a viscous quality and has a sweet, herbaceous scent with fruity undertones. However, in its concentrated and dried-out form, German chamomile oil can sometimes be nauseating and unpleasant for some individuals. German chamomile oil blends well with rose oil, lavender oil, cedar oil, neroli oil and geranium oil.

Blending: Chamomile Oil forms very pleasant blends with Bergamot, Clary Sage, Lavender, Jasmine, Geranium, Grapefruit, Tea Tree, Rose, Lemon, Lime and Ylang-Ylang Oil.

Benefits of German Chamomile Oil

German chamomile oil provides antispasmodic, antiseptic, antibiotic, antidepressant, antineuralgic, antiphlogistic, carminative, cholagogue, cicatrisant, emmenagogue, analgesic, febrifuge, hepatic, sedative, nervine, digestive, tonic, antispasmodic, bactericidal, sudorific, stomachic, anti-inflammatory, anti-infectious, vermifuge, and vulnerary properties. This beneficial essential oil penetrates deep into the layers of your skin where its potent anti-inflammatory action can restore and soothe irritated skin, mouth ulcers, burns, bruises and other skin conditions. Aside from possibly helping lift up your mood and letting go of your anxieties, German chamomile oil has other reported benefits when used in tandem with other essential oils in aromatherapy.

Uses of German Chamomile Oil

German chamomile oil is broadly used in the cosmetic industry, especially in formulations designed to improve dry, inflamed or irritated skin. It is also added in shampoos and conditioners. Other practical uses of German chamomile oil include:

Allergic reactions — Apply topically on the affected area in a balm or coconut oil for instant relief.

Anogenital disorders — Add in baths and irrigation.

Candida infection — Can help alleviate itching caused by yeast fungus in the vaginal area by having a warm sitz bath regularly until your condition improves. Add one drop of German chamomile oil and two drops of tea tree oil in a gallon of warm water.

Hair moisturizer — Blend two drops of German chamomile oil, rosemary oil, and lavender oil with 4 tablespoons of sweet almond oil. Massage it onto your hair and scalp once a week. For best results, leave it on overnight.

Inflammation and irritation of the respiratory tract — By inhalation either through diffusion or spraying.

Improves Digestion – Being a stomachic, they tone up the stomach and ensure its proper function. They also promote the secretion of digestive juices into the stomach and facilitate digestion. Being Hepatic, which means being good for the liver, they ensure good health of the liver and the proper flow of bile from it. They are also considered Cholagogues, meaning that they increase the secretion of Hydrochloric Acid, bile, and enzymes in the stomach, thereby promoting digestion.

Open leg sores, wounds, hemorrhoids, mastitis, eczemas, gingivitis and ingrown nails — Use topically as a poultice, salve or compress. To make a compress, take a damp cloth, add a few drops of German chamomile oil, and place it on top of the affected area with the essential oil facing away from the skin. This way, the oil’s healing properties will seep into the cloth without putting the skin at risk of any potential hypersensitivity.

Menstrual cramps — Take a five-minute sitz bath (a warm, shallow bath that cleanses your perineum, the space between your rectum and the vulva or scrotum) in a gallon of warm water with two drops of German chamomile and lavender oil.

May help relieve migraine — Moisten a towel with cool water and add a few drops of German chamomile oil. Place the damp cloth on your forehead, close your eyes and relax.

May provide relief from joint pain or tense, stiff and cramping muscles —Blend 2 tablespoons of sweet almond oil and two drops of German chamomile oil and rosemary oil. Massage this blend onto the affected areas to ease up the tensed muscles and increase circulation.

Moisturizing skin mist — To make your own natural skin mist, blend two drops of German chamomile oil, two drops of lavender oil, one drop of rose otto oil and 4 ounces of purified water in a ready-to-spray bottle. This natural moisturizing mist will surely be handy for your sunbathing sessions.

PMS Aide – The symptoms of PMS can be very debilitating for many women. German chamomile’s anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties help in relieving many of the symptoms commonly associated with PMS as well as with menopause. It can help to reduce cramping, pain and nausea commonly associated with PMS as well as menopause. It also helps to balance the hormones which can be very unbalanced during PMS and menopause; this helps a woman to be more calm and relaxed or less irritable and emotional during this time.

Prevents Infections – Both varieties have very good antiseptic and antibiotic properties which do not let biotic infections develop, which arise due to biotic factors such as bacteria and fungi. They also eliminate infections that are already present. These are good vermifuge agents as well, which kill all sorts of intestinal worms. If applied to the hair, it kills lice and mites, keeping the hair and scalp free from infections and damage.

Reduces Anger – While Roman Chamomile is found to be effective in calming down annoyance, anger, and irritation, particularly in small children. The German variety, on the other hand, is found to be more effective on adults for curing inflammation, particularly when it is located in the digestive or urinary system. They also reduce blood pressure and curb the swelling of blood vessels.

Relieves Depression – Both varieties have been seen to be very effective in fighting depression and for raising spirits. They eliminate feelings of sadness, depression, disappointment, and sluggishness while inducing a sort of happy or charged feeling. Even smelling these oils can help a lot in overcoming depression and bringing about a good mood.

Removes Toxic Agents – As a sudorific, both varieties of chamomile oil induce profuse perspiration, which helps to remove toxins and agents that cause infections while simultaneously cooling down the body and effectively providing relief from fever, thus serving as a Febrifuge.

Sedative – German chamomile is well known for is sedative properties. It allows the body and the mind to relax and calm prior to bedtime allowing for a more restful and deeper sleep. This property is also important when it comes to relieving stress, depression and anxiety because it allows the body and the mind to calm and stop racing allowing a person to relax enough to fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Getting a proper night’s sleep is also very important when having a cold or flu as sleep helps to heal the body from said infection.

Shingles — Use topically as a poultice. Combine 10 drops of German chamomile oil, two drops of geranium oil, four drops of bergamot oil, six drops of balm, and five drops of lavender. Mix it in water to use as a compress or in 1 3/4 fluid ounces of almond oil.

Skin toner — German chamomile oil has astringent properties, which makes it ideal for pore-cleansing treatment. Simply add the essential oil to your own homemade facial cleanser and apply using cotton balls.

Treats Rheumatism – They cure dysfunctions of the circulatory system, stimulate circulation and detoxify the blood from toxins like uric acid, thereby helping to cure ailments like rheumatism and arthritis, which are caused due to improper circulation and accumulation of uric acid. These abilities classify them as good antiphlogistics, any agents which reduce swelling and edema.

Side Effects of German Chamomile Oil

Never use German chamomile oil during pregnancy as it may induce menstruation and/or premature labor due to its emmenagogue and uterotonic side effects. It also contains coumarin, so care should be taken to avoid potential drug interactions, e.g. with blood thinners. Although there are no existing cases of allergic reactions or hypersensitivity linked to the proper use of German chamomile oil. It is suggested to avoid this essential oil if you have a known allergy to any plant from the Asteraceae or Compositae family (daisy, rag weed, chrysanthemum) to prevent any untoward reactions. If you are not sure whether you’re allergic to it or not, a skin patch test is advised. Apply German chamomile oil on a small portion of your skin and wait for a few hours. If irritation occurs, discontinue use immediately.

Possible Interactions

If you take any of the following drugs, you should not use German chamomile without first talking to your health care provider:

  • Blood-thinning medications (anticoagulants and antiplatelets): Chamomile may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with blood-thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), clopidogrel (Plavix), and aspirin.
  • Sedatives: Use caution with sedatives since chamomile can make these drugs stronger.
  • Anti-seizure medications, such as phenytoin (Dilantin) and valproic acid (Depakote)
  • Barbiturates
  • Benzodiazepines, such as alprazolam (Xanax) and diazepam (Valium)
  • Drugs to treat insomnia, such as zolpidem (Ambien), zaleplon (Sonata), eszopiclone (Lunesta), and ramelteon (Rozerem)
  • Tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline (Elavil)
  • Alcohol
  • The same is true of sedative herbs, such as valerian, kava, and catnip.
  • Blood pressure medications: Chamomile may lower blood pressure slightly. Taking it with drugs for high blood pressure could cause blood pressure to drop too low.
  • Diabetes medications: Chamomile may lower blood sugar. Taking it with diabetes drugs could raise the risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
  • Hormonal therapies: Due to its similarity to estrogen, chamomile may potentially interfere with drugs such as nolvadex (Tamoxifen) among others.
  • Other drugs: Because chamomile is broken down by the liver, it may interact with other drugs that are broken down the same way. Those drugs may include:
  • Fexofenadine (Seldane)
  • Statins (drugs that can lower cholesterol)
  • Birth control pills
  • Some antifungal drugs

Available Forms

German chamomile is available as dried flower heads, tea, essential oil, liquid extract, capsules, and topical ointment.

How to Take It

Pediatric – Ask your doctor before giving chamomile tea to a child. Children under 5 should not take more than half a cup of tea per day.

  • To relieve colic: Some doctors suggest 1 to 2 oz. of tea per day. Your doctor may recommend other doses.

Adult

  • Tea: Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 to 3 heaping tsp. (2 to 4 g) of dried herb, steep 10 to 15 minutes. Drink 3 to 4 times per day between meals.
  • Tincture (1:5, 45% alcohol): 30 to 60 drops of tincture, 3 times per day in hot water.
  • Capsules: 300 to 400 mg taken 3 times per day.
  • Gargle or mouthwash: Make a tea as above, then let it cool. Gargle as often as desired. You may also make an oral rinse with 10 to 15 drops of German chamomile liquid extract in 100 ml warm water, and use 3 times per day.
  • Inhalation: Add a few drops of essential oil of chamomile to hot water (or use tea) and breathe in the steam to calm a cough.
  • Bath: Use 1/4 lb. of dried flowers per bath, or add 5 to 10 drops of essential oil to a full tub of water to soothe hemorrhoids, cuts, eczema, or insect bites.
  • Poultice: Make a paste by mixing powdered herb with water and apply to inflamed skin.
  • Cream: Use a cream with a 3 to 10% chamomile content for psoriasis, eczema, or dry and flaky skin.

History of German Chamomile

The word chamomile comes from the Greek word chamomaela with means ground apple because of its pleasant scent like that of apples and because it grows along the ground. German chamomile also goes by the names Matricaria, Hungarian chamomile, Blue chamomile and True chamomile.

The medicinal uses of German chamomile have been documented throughout the ages. German chamomile has been used for over 2000 years in many cosmetics and perfumes as well as being commonly used medicinally for its many health benefits. Asclepius, Galen, Hippocrates and Culpepper have all written about the amazing soothing and calming properties that it possesses. Back in 78 AD German chamomile was listed in the European standard reference book Dioscorides De Materia Medica because of its many health benefits and uses.

The Egyptian god Ra was said to have used it at a symbol of his almighty power. While the Egyptian people used to use it as offerings to the gods ask for help with healing the body. The Egyptian people also worshipped the plant and had many festivals in honor of the plants many healing properties. They would often crush the flower and apply it to their skin to bring out the youthful glow in hopes to reduce the signs of aging.

The Anglo-Saxons considered German chamomile to be one of the nine scared herbs and not only wrote a poem about these herbs but gave instructions and recipes on how to use these herbs along or together to heal disease and poison.

During the Middle Ages, 476-1500 AD, German chamomile was used as a strewing herb. This means that the herb was scattered or strewn around on the floor and when walked on would release the fragrance within. This strewing was important during gatherings and festivals to help make the event not only smell nice but to give a sense of calm to those attending.

Today German chamomile is used not only as an essential oil because of its many health benefits, but it is also used in many perfumes, cosmetics, food and drinks because of its calming effect, taste, scent and of course it’s many health benefits.

Recipes

Bathtub Scrub-a-Dub-Dub

½ cup baking soda

½ cup vinegar

5 drop German chamomile EO

5 drops bergamot EO

Directions: Mix all of the above ingredients together in a glass jar. Massage the mixture into the skin focusing on sore muscles. Soak in a warm bath for at least 15 minutes to calm and relax the body and the mind. Use as needed, daily if desired.

Bedtime Face Lotion

15 drops German chamomile EO

15 drops lavender EO

15 drops peppermint EO

¼ cup olive oil

¼ cup coconut oil

¼ cup beeswax

¼ cup shea butter

2 Tbsp. vitamin E

Directions: In a glass bowl added olive oil, beeswax, coconut oil and shea butter. Place the glass bowl over a pot of simmering water on the stove and melt together. Mix well. Once the four ingredients are melted and mixed well together remove from heat and place in the refrigerator for at last an hour or until solid. Once the mixture is solid remove the bowl from the fridge. Taking a hand mixer beat the mixture in the bowl until it is fluffy in texture. Add in the essential oils and vitamin E and mix well. Place in a glass container and store in a cool dry place. Apply to the face focusing on the temples prior to bedtime to help promote rest and relaxation of the mind and body.

PMS Saver Blend

2 drops German chamomile EO

2 drops sage EO

2 drops basil EO

2 drops rosemary EO

Directions: Combine all of the essential oils together in a bowl. Pour the essential oils onto a warm moist hand towel and place on the stomach for 5-10 minutes or longer as needed to help relieve the pain, inflammation and cramping of PMS

Sunburn Salve

10 drops lavender EO

6 drops German chamomile EO

4 drops peppermint EO

4 oz. fractionated coconut oil

Directions: Melt the coconut oil over low heat on the stove. Once melted remove from heat and add in the essential oils. Mix well. Transfer into a 4 oz glass jar and allow to cool. Apply to affected area as needed at least twice a day.

German Chamomile Body Wash

1 cup water

¼ cup raw honey

⅔ cup liquid Castile soap

30 drops German chamomile EO

1 tsp. vitamin E

2 tsp. carrier oil of your choosing (argan, coconut, sesame, sweet almond, jojoba, grapeseed, macadamia)

Directions: Mix all of the above ingredients in a glass bottle and mix well. Shake prior to use.

Bonus ways you can experiment with when it comes to using German chamomile essential oil:

  • To help relieve the symptoms of anxiety and depression add a few drops of German chamomile and rose essential oil to a warm bath or mix and diffuse in a room.
  • To help with motion sickness, inhale a combination of German chamomile, peppermint, lavender and ginger essential oils.
  • Try having some German chamomile tea to help reduce stress, anxiety and depression. It can also help to soothe and calm the stomach.

References:

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Catnip

Catnip Leaf (Nepeta cataria)

The flowering perennial known commonly as catnip, catmint, or catswort actually has the scientific name of Nepeta cataria, and although most people don’t realize, this treat so commonly reserved for its sedative, calming effects on cats, also has extensive benefits for human beings. It’s native range is quite extensive, stretching across much of Europe and parts of Asia, including China, but it has since become a global export and can be found throughout the world. It is primarily potent due to a certain terpenoid, called nepetelactone, but various other chemical constituents and nutrients also affect various aspects of human health.

Nepeta cataria is a short-lived perennial, herbaceous plant that grows to be 50–100 cm (20–39 in) tall and wide, which blooms from late-spring to the autumn. In appearance, N. cataria resembles a typical member of the mint family of plants, featuring brown-green foliage with the characteristic square stem of the Lamiaceae family of plants. The coarse-toothed leaves are triangular to elliptical in shape. The small, bilabiate flowers of N. cataria are showy and fragrant, and are either pink in colour or white with fine spots of pale purple.

Catnip can be applied topically via the leaves or the essential oil, while catnip tea brewed from the leaves is also popular. The extracts and essential oils are also quite popular. The historical range of catnip uses include teas, juices, tinctures, extracts, salves, and even as an herb to be smoked, in addition to its culinary applications. The various forms of catnip have been used for generations in alternative medicine, and modern research has also shown it to be a reliable treatment for some common maladies.

Health benefits of catnip for humans include:

Stress Relief: The same quality that makes catnip so attractive to cats, namely because it makes them slightly “high” and sedates them, can also apply to humans in a more controlled way. Catnip can provide stress relief and reduce chronic anxiety as an herbal remedy when eaten, consumed in the form of a juice or tea, or when smoked as an herb. This can also help to reduce the secondary symptoms of chronic stress and strengthen your immune system.

Swallowed Emotions: A favorite use for this plant is to address the specific kind of stress and anxiety created in the body when people can’t express their emotions. This is perfect for someone who isn’t able to tell the boss or the in-law just what they’d like to say because it wouldn’t be polite, or good for the family budget.

Sleep Aid: Catnip has been used by people with insomnia or sleep restlessness for hundreds, if not thousands of years. The sedative nature helps to slow down the body’s natural cycles and induce a calm, relaxed state. People are better able to sleep through the night for undisturbed, restful sleep. Many people choose to drink a cup of catnip tea before bed to ensure a refreshing sleep.

Reduces Digestive Issues: Catnip is particularly effective in clearing up digestive issues, especially constipation, excess flatulence, cramping, and bloating. The relaxing, anti-inflammatory effects of catnip’s organic compounds can ease the knots and inflammation in your gastrointestinal system and relieve tightness and discomfort.

Colic: Catnip is a digestive herb. The scent that we get when we rub its leaves between our fingers is evidence of a high amount of volatile oils. This plant chemical is responsible for its ability to calm the stomach of an adult or a nursing child with colic.

Menstrual Cramps: For women suffering from particularly painful menstrual cramps, catnip tea is often recommended as an alternative treatment, because it can quickly relieve those cramps and stresses on the body. Furthermore, the sedative, calming effects of catnip can also soothe other symptoms of menstruation, such as mood swings and depression.

Headache Reliever: Although the exact mechanism isn’t completely understood, catnip has proven to be very effective in the treatment of headaches, even chronic migraines. Rubbing the essential oil on the affected area can work, but drinking catnip tea or rubbing a catnip leaf salve on the temples can also offer quick relief.

Fever: This is one of the most popular herbs for reducing a fever. It is part of a class of herbs called febrifuges. These herbs have the ability to cool the body by inducing a sweat. It is almost never a good idea to interrupt a fever. For the rare times that a fever has been particularly prolonged (your patient is becoming dehydrated and listless) or too high (over 102° for a typically healthy adult, around 104° for a typically healthy child) it can be helpful to have a fever tincture around.

Speeds-up Healing: In terms of colds and flus, one of the fastest ways to clean out the body is to induce sweating and get the toxins flushed from the system. This is particularly true in the case of fevers, when the lack of sweating before the fever breaks is only keeping those toxins and pathogens in the body. Catnip induces sweating, so is often recommended by alternative practitioners for treating the common cold.

Anti-inflammatory Activity: As mentioned above, the chemical constituents of catnip are particularly effective as anti-inflammatory agents. This means that catnip can be effective in the treatment of arthritis, gout, sprained muscles, aching joints, and even hemorrhoids. Topical application or normal consumption of leaves, juice, or tea can be effective for all of these situations.

Treats Skin Conditions: The natural repellent quality of catnip makes it ideal for keeping bugs away from gardens when kept as an ornamental plant, but the organic compounds in the plant make it ideal for soothing bug bites and relieving irritation on the skin. Applying salves or extracts to irritated or broken skin can speed the healing process and reduce inflammation quickly.

Complete Nutrient: Although eating catnip leaves is the least common form of consumption for human beings, catnip actually has a rather impressive collection of nutrients, from beneficial chemicals and unique organic compounds to essential acids, minerals, and vitamins that our bodies need. In other words, the plant can do a lot more than knock out a cat!

Cautions: For people suffering from liver or kidney disorders, the use of catnip may be risky, particularly if you are regularly consuming the tea. Furthermore, pregnant women should avoid catnip, as it can prematurely induce labor. Other than those specific concerns, catnip is generally considered non-allergenic and harmless to users. The high potency of the essential oil should be considered, however, and extracts should always be mixed with carrier oils.

Catnip for Cats

Catnip contains the feline attractant nepetalactone. Nepeta cataria (and some other species within the genus Nepeta) are known for their behavioral effects on the cat family, not only on domestic cats but also other species of cats. Several tests showed that leopards, cougars, servals, and lynxes often reacted strongly to catnip in a manner similar to domestic cats and while lions and tigers can react strongly as well, they do not react as consistently.

With domestic cats, N. cataria is used as a recreational substance for pet cats’ enjoyment, and catnip and catnip-laced products designed for use with domesticated cats are available to consumers. Common behaviors cats display when they sense the bruised leaves or stems of catnip are rubbing on the plant, rolling on the ground, pawing at it, licking it, and chewing it. Consuming much of the plant is followed by drooling, sleepiness, anxiety, leaping about and purring. Some growl, meow, scratch or bite at the hand holding it. The main response period after exposure is generally between five and fifteen minutes, after which olfactory fatigue usually sets in.

Cats detect nepetalactone through their olfactory epithelium, not through their vomeronasal organ. At the olfactory epithelium, the nepetalactone binds to one or more olfactory receptors.

Not all cats are affected by catnip; roughly 33% are not affected by the plant. The behavior is hereditary. An early 1962 pedigree analysis of 26 cats in a Siamese breeding colony suggested that the catnip response was caused by a Mendelian dominant gene; however, a 2011 pedigree analysis of 210 cats in 2 breeding colonies (taking into account measurement error by repeated testing) showed no evidence for Mendelian patterns of inheritance, and instead demonstrated heritabilities of h2=0.51–0.89 for catnip response behavior, indicating a polygenic liability threshold model.

Other plants that also have this effect on cats include valerian (Valeriana officinalis) root, silver vine (Actinidia polygama) and Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) wood. It has been shown that many cats who do not respond to catnip do respond to one or more of these three alternatives.

Health benefits of catnip for cats include:

  • The chemical compound in the plant that attracts and affects cats is called nepetalactone. It is found in the leaves and stems.
  • Nepetalactone is a stimulant when sniffed by a cat, producing a “high” that is described as being similar to either marijuana or LSD. (How this was determined, I do not know.) And the effects last for about 10 minutes before wearing off and the cat going back to normal.
  • When a cat eats catnip, it acts as a sedative, but when smelled, it causes the cat to go crazy. It is thought to mimic feline pheremones and trigger those receptors.
  • Cats may react to the plant by rolling around, flipping over, and generally being hyperactive.
  • About 50 percent of cats seem to be affected by catnip, and the behavior that results varies widely between individuals, and it is believed to be an inherited sensitivity.
  • And if your cat does have the sensitivity, it will not emerge until your cat is several months old, young kittens are not affected by the chemicals in the plant.
  • Cats may rub against and chew on catnip to bruise the leaves and stems, which then release more nepetalactone.
  • Catnip is safe for cats. If they eat a lot, they may vomit and have diarrhea, but will return to normal given time (and no more catnip).
  • It is also known to help humans, it has been used for its sedative properties in humans for centuries, having similar properties to chamomile and is a very potent mosquito repellent
  • If cats are exposed to catnip frequently, they may no longer respond to it. Some people recommend that it shouldn’t be given more than once every two or three weeks to prevent habituation.

References:

  1. https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/herbs-and-spices/catnip.html
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  17.  “Termites Repelled by Catnip Oil”. Southern Research Station, United States Department of Agriculture – Forest Service. 26 March 2003.
  18. “Catnip Repels Mosquitoes More Effectively Than DEET”. www.sciencedaily.com.
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  20. “How Does Catnip Affect Humans?”. RealClearScience.
  21. http://plants.usda.gov/java/profile?symbol=NECA2