No, humans should not consume catnip. While catnip is not toxic to humans, there is no evidence that eating it provides any health benefits. Consuming catnip meant for cats also carries a risk of ingesting chemicals or contaminants. Catnip is a plant from the mint family that contains a chemical called nepetalactone which is attractive and stimulating to cats when smelled, but does not have the same effect in humans. Overall, it is not recommended for humans to eat catnip.
What is Catnip?
Catnip, also known as catmint, is a herb from the Nepeta genus of the Lamiaceae mint family. It has grayish-green leaves and small white or lavender flowers. The most commonly grown species for use with cats is Nepeta cataria, also known as true catnip.
Catnip contains a chemical compound called nepetalactone, which is found in the leaves and stems of the plant. Nepetalactone is what gives catnip its characteristic minty aroma and flavor. When cats smell or ingest catnip, the nepetalactone binds to receptors in their nose and mouth, which triggers a response that people describe as the cat acting “high” – behaviors like rubbing, rolling, drooling and hyperactivity. However, the chemical affects cats and humans differently.
Is Catnip Safe for Human Consumption?
Catnip itself is not toxic or poisonous to humans. However, there is no evidence that consuming it provides any health benefits. In fact, the FDA has not approved catnip for human consumption in any form. While dried catnip is sometimes steeped as a tea, this is primarily for enjoyment of the minty flavor rather than medicinal purposes.
The main concern with ingesting catnip designed for cats is the risk of exposure to fertilizers, pesticides or other contaminants that could be on the plant material. Catnip products marketed specifically for cats may contain additives or chemicals that are not safe for people to consume. It is also difficult to control for quality and purity when using a product made for a different species.
Overall, it is not recommended for humans to eat catnip intended for cats. The risks outweigh any potential benefits.
Possible Effects of Eating Catnip
While catnip does not have recreational effects in humans like it does in cats, some people claim that eating catnip makes them feel relaxed or even mildly “high.” However, there is no scientific evidence that consuming catnip causes these types of effects in people. Any reported effects are likely psychosomatic in nature.
Nepetalactone, the chemical that causes euphoric effects in cats, does not appear to bind to any receptors in the human brain or nervous system. This likely explains why catnip does not produce behavioral reactions in people like it does in cats.
In some cases, people eating catnip describe a feeling of relaxation or slight giddiness, but this is not a direct pharmacological effect. Any calming effect may be attributed to the placebo effect or the minty aroma triggering a subjective sense of relaxation.
Overall, current research indicates that catnip has no psychedelic or mind-altering properties in humans. Consuming catnip is not comparable to using psychoactive drugs. At best it may have a placebo effect, and at worst it could result in ingesting something contaminated or unsafe.
What Happens If You Smoke Catnip?
There is no evidence that smoking catnip produces any of the euphoric effects associated with recreational marijuana use. Attempting to smoke or vaporize dried catnip and inhale it may cause headaches, nausea or irritation in the lungs.
As previously mentioned, catnip does not contain THC like marijuana does, and does not bind to cannabinoid receptors in the brain. So smoking catnip cannot get someone “high” in the way that smoking marijuana does. The chemical makeups of the two plants are completely different.
Some online sources claim that smoking catnip can result in hallucinogenic effects or a sedative-like sensation. However, these claims remain scientifically unfounded. The primary active chemical in catnip, nepetalactone, is not known to have any hallucinogenic properties. Any reported effects from smoking catnip are likely exaggerated or psychosomatic.
Overall, smoking catnip is not recommended. It has not been shown to produce any significant effects or health benefits in humans, and carries a risk of lung irritation from smoke inhalation. It should not be viewed as a marijuana substitute.
Can Catnip Act as a Stimulant?
There is no good evidence that catnip acts as a stimulant when consumed by humans. While claims may exist online about catnip having a stimulating or energizing effect, these are unsubstantiated.
In cats, catnip appears to stimulate sensations of euphoria and hyperactivity. But the reaction in cats is due to the nepetalactone binding with specific receptors. Those receptors are not present in humans, so catnip is extremely unlikely to act as a stimulant.
Some people may perceive a stimulant-like effect from smelling or tasting catnip due to its minty, herbal flavor or aroma. But this reaction is psychological rather than pharmacological. Beyond that, catnip has no documented stimulating properties in people.
Anyone seeking a stimulant should look to traditional options like caffeine. Consuming or smoking catnip for perceived stimulant properties could result in ingesting contaminants without any proven energizing effect.
Does Catnip Affect Sleep?
There is limited evidence about whether catnip affects sleep in humans when consumed. Some natural health proponents claim that catnip tea may help promote restful sleep. However, high quality studies demonstrating this effect are lacking.
The sedative effect that catnip appears to have on cats is not thought to extend to humans. Some informal reports indicate that people who drink catnip tea feel relaxed before bedtime. But this is likely due to the ritual of drinking a warm, minty beverage rather than any chemicals in the plant.
Catnip is not considered a reliable sleep aid like medications or supplements containing ingredients like melatonin, valerian root, or chamomile. Any sleep-inducing effect of catnip is likely very mild and dependent on the placebo effect. More research would be needed to verify whether compounds in catnip have any sedative qualities in humans when consumed in typical amounts as a tea or seasoning.
Is It Safe for Cats to Eat Catnip?
Yes, it is generally safe for cats to eat fresh or dried catnip in moderation. Cats may chew on catnip leaves or rub against the plant to release the nepetalactone they find attractive.
Consuming catnip provides mental stimulation and entertainment for cats. However, not all cats react to catnip. Around 30% of cats are not affected by it due to genetics. Catnip sensitivity is inherited as an autosomal dominant trait.
Eating small amounts of catnip does not typically cause any digestive upset in cats. However, consuming very large amounts may occasionally cause vomiting or diarrhea, especially if the cat is not used to it. Cat owners should monitor their pet after introducing catnip to ensure they tolerate it well.
Kittens younger than 3-6 months old often do not respond to catnip. The reaction to catnip develops as cats mature. Older cats remain stimulated by catnip into adulthood, so many cat treats and toys contain catnip to engage this response.
Overall, when eaten in moderation, catnip is a safe treat that provides enrichment for cats. It’s fine for owners to give their cats occasional access to catnip if they enjoy the effect it produces.
What Kinds of Products Contain Catnip?
Catnip is commonly found in products designed to appeal to domestic cats, including:
– Catnip leaves or herbs – Dried catnip that can be sprinkled or rubbed directly onto surfaces for cats.
– Catnip sprays – Water-based sprays containing catnip extract that can be squirted onto cat furniture or toys.
– Catnip toys – Stuffed mice, balls, tunnels, etc. that have catnip scent added. Catnip can be placed insidecloth toys.
– Treats or snacks – Some cat treats have dried catnip or catnip oil added to the recipe.
– Scratch pads and cat beds – Woven mats or pads infused with catnip to attract cats to scratch.
– Catnip-filled wands or balls – Toys with reservoirs that can be filled with loose dried catnip.
– Catnip oils or tinctures – Concentrated liquid forms of catnip extract that can be diluted and applied to surfaces.
The concentration of catnip varies in these products. Treats usually have lower potency, while concentrates have much higher potency for cats. Always follow package instructions for best results.
Is Catnip Legal to Buy and Use?
Yes, catnip and products containing it are legal to buy and use. Catnip is not considered a controlled substance. It can be easily purchased online or at most pet supply stores.
There are no federal or state laws in the U.S. prohibiting the cultivation, sale or use of catnip. Both fresh and dried catnip are readily available. Products containing catnip are also legal, as long as they are not making false claims about the effects on humans.
Nepeta cataria is a species of catnip native to parts of Europe and Asia. It grows wild in some areas of the U.S. and Canada and is also widely cultivated on farms. The catnip sold commercially is generally grown under controlled agricultural conditions rather than foraged from the wild.
No permit or license is required to buy, sell, grow or use catnip. Individuals can purchase and use catnip products freely for personal use. However, always check any local regulations, as a small number of cities or counties may have restrictions.
Can Catnip Be Addictive?
There is no evidence that catnip is addictive or habit forming for humans or cats. The euphoric response catnip produces in cats is temporary and dissipates within 5-15 minutes. Cats show no signs of craving catnip between exposures.
Some sources claim the nepetalactone in catnip can bind to opioid receptors and have an addictive effect. However, studies have not found any addictive alkaloids or compounds in the catnip plant.
While cats may enthusiastically seek out catnip, they do not display drug-seeking behaviors. Their interest quickly wanes once the catnip “high” has worn off.
In humans, there are even fewer concerns about addiction, since catnip does not produce psychoactive effects. Consuming catnip does not lead to dependence or withdrawal symptoms.
Therefore, catnip consumption or use is considered very low risk in terms of addiction potential for both cats and humans. It does not appear to activate the brain’s reward pathways like addictive substances.
Is Catnip Considered a Drug?
No, catnip is not classified as a drug. Calling catnip a “drug” is inaccurate when it comes to both human and feline consumption.
In humans, catnip is not considered to have any intoxicating or mind-altering properties characteristic of recreational drugs. As previously mentioned, nepetalactone does not have any psychedelic or hallucinogenic effects in people.
In cats, while catnip creates a temporary euphoric state, it is not addictive. Cats do not display drug-seeking behavior, experience withdrawal, or show signs of dependence with catnip use. Therefore, referring to catnip as a “drug” for cats is also misleading.
Compared to real drugs like cocaine, opioids and cannabinoids, catnip has no pharmacological action in the human brain. Any effect it does produce in cats is very mild and non-addictive.
Overall, catnip is best described as an herb, tea or natural cat supplement, not a drug. While it induces a behavioral response in cats, labeling it as a feline “drug of abuse” is overly simplistic and inaccurate.
Dosage and Consumption
There are no standardized dosing guidelines for catnip consumption in humans. Most commonly, people ingest catnip by:
– Drinking as a tea – Steep 1-2 teaspoons of dried catnip in 8 ounces of boiling water for 5 minutes. This produces a mild minty, herbal tea.
– Adding leaves to food – Chopped fresh catnip or dried flakes are sometimes added to salads, soups or other foods as an herb.
– Taking capsules – 500-600 mg catnip capsules are available, but there is no established effective dose.
– Smoking – There are no appropriate dosing guidelines, and smoking carries health risks.
Since the safety profile and effects have not been well-studied in humans, it is not possible to determine an optimal dose for catnip. There are no government agencies providing dosage guidance. If consuming catnip, it is advisable to start with small amounts such as a cup of tea and increase cautiously if needed.
For cats, products will provide suggested usage guidelines. These involve how much catnip to sprinkle or apply to toys, or how frequently to offer catnip treats. Follow product labeling when giving catnip to pets.
What Does Catnip Taste Like?
Catnip has a minty, herbal flavor profile. The taste is similar to other mints like peppermint, spearmint, and pennyroyal. Nepetalactone gives catnip its characteristic minty taste and aroma.
Many describe the flavor of catnip tea as milder and less sweet than chamomile tea. The taste can vary slightly depending on the catnip blend. Lemon catnip and catnip with honey have citrus and floral notes in addition to mint.
Overall, the taste and smell of catnip is notably minty, but more subtle than the intense peppermint flavor associated with candy canes. The aroma can have a “green” or grassy component as well.
People who enjoy herbal teas like peppermint, spearmint, or lemongrass will likely enjoy the flavor of catnip tea. The taste can be overpowering in high amounts, so steeping a mild tea is recommended to start.
How to Grow Catnip
Growing catnip is relatively easy. It can be planted outdoors in gardens or grown indoors in pots under the right conditions. Here is an overview of catnip plant needs and how to start your own catnip:
– Lighting – Catnip grows best in full sun, meaning at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day. Indoor catnip should be placed in a south facing window.
– Soil – Catnip thrives in slightly sandy, well-draining soil. Amendments like compost help drainage.
– Planting – Catnip can be grown from seed, sprouts, or small starter plants. Plant in spring or fall, covering seeds 1/4 inch deep.
– Spacing – Space catnip plants 12-15 inches apart. They can reach 1-3 feet tall at maturity.
– Watering – Keep soil consistently moist but not soggy. Water whenever the top 1-2 inches become dry.
– Temperature – Catnip grows best in temperatures between 60-70°F (15-21°C). It can withstand down to freezing temperatures.
– Fertilizer – Use a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.
– Pruning – Cutting off flower heads after blooming can promote leaf growth.
Catnip is deer-resistant and relatively pest and disease free. Harvest leaves just before plants flower for the most flavorful catnip to dry or use fresh.
In summary, catnip is safe for cats to consume but has not been shown to provide any health benefits to humans. While small amounts may be tolerated, using catnip marketed for cats carries a degree of risk and uncertainty.
Consuming a little catnip tea is unlikely to cause harm for most people. However, stronger doses of essential oils or extracts can be more problematic due to concentration. Any psychotropic effects from human use of catnip remain unproven.
When it comes to recreational use, catnip lacks the active compounds found in marijuana. Smoking it does not induce a high and can damage lung health.
While catnip has an alluring mystique for some people, current evidence suggests it is best reserved for use with our feline friends. Anyone curious about trying catnip should exercise caution and temper expectations. Ultimately, catnip appears better suited to amusing cats than providing medicinal value for humans.