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What is catnip? Why You Can Take It Too

This medicinal herb is not just for pets. Whether taken for pain or as a sleeping aid, find out why your cat may be onto something.
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If you have a cat, then you're no stranger to catnip -- the magical herb used for years to help mellow out our feisty furry friends. Seeing them sniff it, bite it and well, roll around in it, you may find yourself wondering what you might be missing. If you are having trouble sleeping, take a tip from the felines and invest in some catnip for extra ZZZs.

Where does this stuff come from?
Catnip is actually a member of the mint family that originated in Europe and has been used for centuries as everything from bug repellant to a treatment for digestive issues. According to the published article "Catnip: Its uses and effects, past and present," by Jeff Grognet, catnip's scent is strong, similar to mint, peppermint or spearmint. The key ingredient in catnip is nepetalactone -- a natural chemical compound within the plant's essential oils in catnip which attracts the kitties.

The leaves remain the dominant medicinal product of the plant, and today, catnip is grown around the world and sold in many forms. With the ability to calm and soothe pain, people around the world rely on it to ease nervousness and treat minor aches, like headaches. Catnip's ability to help us relax is what makes it a popular alternative to sleeping pills.

Do I have to roll in it?
No, that's the good news. For us humans, there are more, shall we say, sophisticated ways to use catnip to promote relaxation and sleep. First of all, catnip can be found in teas. Just follow recommended brewing instructions and sip away. Catnip can also be found in supplements. Catnip capsules can be taken three times a day to help with overall wellness, but be sure to take them with food and drink plenty of water.

Finally, on the April 9 episode of "Dr. Oz," Dr. Mehmet Oz encouraged viewers suffering from slumber woes to make a catnip bath. Herbal bath is probably a better image. Dr. Oz recommended taking one cup of dried catnip and adding it to hot water, steeping and straining the liquid into your bath water. Soak for 15 minutes or so before bed to calm yourself after a long day. See? That wasn't so weird.

Will it make me loopy?
Catnip's long history of medicinal uses reaffirms catnip's safety as a home remedy. Catnip has been noted for producing mildly psychedelic effects, but when used properly, as recommended above, the herb produces no such results. When shopping for it, just avoid the pet aisle and make sure to buy catnip from a health food store in raw, dried or capsule form -- ya know, the people kind. If all else fails, just make sure a picture of a cat is NOT on the label.

The time we spend asleep is essential to our health. This is the time for our body to reboot and recover from the day's stress. More sleep means more energy, better immunity and healthy skin. I guess we have to hand it to the cat's on this one, they know a good thing when they see, um, roll in it. You know what I mean. Enjoy!

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