Catnip is an herb that I love to use with kids and people who are highly sensitive to calming nervines. It is a main ingredient in my Calm Kid tea recipe, which is quite popular with my clients and customers at farmers markets. Every time someone unfamiliar with medicinal herbs looks at the ingredients, I get the same reaction: “Catnip! That makes cats crazy! How is it calming?” Well, as it turns out the nervous systems of cats and humans are different, and while the terpenoid nepetalactone makes 70–80% of cats wacky, it is a relaxant and mild sedative to humans.
Not only is it a calming nervine that is wonderfully gentle for kids, it is also a well-known digestif and helps to reduce flatulence, cramps, and colic. It is quite gentle, and therefore perfect to use with young children; it’s a must-have for teething, screaming, and spasms related to crying fits. You know the ones, where the child’s body bows backward, their thighs and arms tighten, and they won’t let you soothe or cuddle them into feeling better?
Being a part of the mint family, it is quite easy to grow and is often found growing rogue in waste areas, near water runoff, and around the ruins of long-gone homesteads. Many herbalists believe that the plants most common around us are meant to be our most-used medicine. Perhaps that is why catnip is so simple to grow and so widely distributed and used. We all need a little bit of calm in our lives.