It’s not just for cats

Organic catnip tea is an herbal remedy for cold and flu season.

It’s not just for cats
Mel Hattie

There's no mistaking a cat in the throes of catnip ecstasy. They roll around, meow like it's their last day on earth, rub their faces over everything and tear the carpet apart before collapsing into a content daze. Understandably, you might be curious to try some of whatever they're having.

Turns out, you can.

Catnip tea has roots all the way back to the Middle Ages, where you can find it in recipes and home remedies in Europe. Its purported benefits include headache and sinus relief, digestive help and feelings of relaxation.

Having never tried catnip tea before, but being in the midst of a cold, I was happy to volunteer as a test subject for those claims. The first step was acquiring some organic, dried catnip. I found mine at Blue Apples on Blowers Street for $3.25 an ounce.

Although it has a reputation closer to the marijuana camp, catnip or nepeta cataria is a member of the mint family. The oil in catnip that drives your cats crazy is called nepetalactone. (It also keeps mosquitos and flies away.)

When you pick a nub of fresh catnip leaves and rub it between your fingers you get a smell that's kind of funky and earthy, kind of fresh. When you open your bag of catnip, beware: You may find yourself surrounded on all sides by nearby felines. Now put that kettle on and book some playtime with your cat.

Use 90- to 95-degree Celsius water and a stainless steel infuser. And put down the tea bag! Tea bags generally dilute (or in the worst cases, ruin) the flavour of your tea. I don't care if that's how your nan does it. Use an infuser and reap the rewards of better-tasting tea.

Catnip tea is extremely mild—people who like chamomile tea will probably enjoy this as well; it's chamomile-reminiscent with a hint of freshness. If you find it too mild, you can try doubling the amount of dried catnip for a stronger taste.

To the purported medical benefits above, whether it was the catnip tea or the placebo effect of intentional self-care, I did feel pleasantly relaxed and my nose cleared up a bit.

I'd put it in the same camp as chamomile or mint tea. Drink it to feel better, but don't expect it to replace your regular healthcare routine.

The big question: "Can my cat drink it?" They sure can!

It’s not just for cats
Mel Hattie
Yes, you can make tea out of catnip. Just don’t expect it to be a cure-all.

They'll probably have a lot more fun shoving their head inside the bag of dried catnip you bought to make tea, but heck yes, your cat can drink it, too. Just make sure to cool it down before having tea time with your kitty.

For more chances to imbibe with your cat, try valerian or licorice root. They're both human- and cat-friendly consumables (valerian makes them go as crazy as catnip). Both catnip and valerian tend to excite cats while having a mellow, relaxing effect on their human counterparts. Chemistry's a funny thing.

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