3.4.3 Catnip

Catnip #

Binomial / Botanical Name Nepeta Cataria
Street Names Catswort; Catmint
Major Active Compound Nepetalactone
Indigenous Source S&E Europe, Middle East, Asia, China
Form Plant Matter
RoA Smoked / Oral
Personal Rating On Shulgin Scale + / ++


Best known for its behavioural effects on the cat family, catnip has also been used as a traditional home remedy for headaches, stomach and digestive pains, menstrual cramps, colds, fevers and a variety of other ailments. More relevant to this book are the suggestions that it is a cure for insomnia, and that it acts as a relaxant and a sedative.

For my first experiment I smoked it from a bong. It wasn’t a particularly nice smoke, and the effect was somewhat disappointing. I felt that there was something there, but it could easily have been invoked through the act of smoking itself (oxygen deprivation), or via placebo, or both. At the mild end of the scale it is sometimes impossible to say, particularly if there is uncertainty about how clean (drug free) your body is. The catnip itself was also very dry, so could have lost potency through age.

Notwithstanding this, I decided to sample again, this time via the most widely recommended method: tea. On this occasion I made absolutely certain that I had no residue from other psychoactives in my system. I proceeded as follows:

T+0:00 I boil some water. Given that it is frequently stated that boiling water destroys the active ingredients I allow it to stand for 10 minutes.

I then place 4 tablespoons of catnip into the teapot, pour the hot water over it, and leave it to steep for 10 minutes or so. I begin to sip slowly from a small cup. The taste isn’t bad. There is no bitterness or particularly strong flavour or smell, and it goes down easily when it has cooled a little. [3:45pm]

At the start point I feel of fairly average disposition. I have had an afternoon nap, and I am fully awake. I am not particularly anxious or calm, but perhaps have a slight edge, although nothing more.

T+0:30 I have now drunk all the tea and refilled the teapot. I do feel slightly more relaxed. There’s a minor headiness to it in the form of a mild dreamy buzz, and I am now warmer than I was. I feel calm and more content.

T+0:45 Whilst this isn’t strong or overwhelming it is quite pleasing. I suspect that expectation would significantly impact the experience: expect a lot and you will be disappointed, but expect nothing and you will be pleasantly surprised. Pleasant is the operative word, because that is basically what it is.

T+1:00 The refilled teapot has now been polished off, and I am feeling generally sedated. My mind tends to drift with a relaxing aura, as I ease into a more positive ambiance and a gentle sense of well-being. This is definitely not a placebo effect.

As there are online suggestions that excessive dosing can cause nausea and vomiting, I won’t consume any more, particularly as I have probably had quite a large dose already. Indeed, 2-3g is often cited as being adequate.

T+2:00 The effects are now wearing off somewhat. That slight tummy edge has returned, although mentally I still feel a buzz and some sedation.

I should note that a curious moment arose earlier, during which I felt that I entered some sort of collective unconscious in terms of thinking competitors’ thoughts during a parlour game. This was fleeting and sounds irrational, but I document it partly as a marker for my own future research.

T+3:30 I now feel, more or less, back at base.

T+16:00 The anxiolytic properties dissipated as the evening progressed. The night’s sleep was fairly standard, although I detected a mild headache and heaviness during the early hours. However, on rising this morning I feel completely normal.

This was quite a nice experience, which may have been better suited to an evening foray than late afternoon. It wore off after about three hours, leaving a bit of a void prior to bedtime. Had I consumed at perhaps 8pm, I may well have drifted off into a peaceful slumber as the effects waned.

Nonetheless, catnip was more interesting than I expected, and was worth the effort taken to conduct the experiment in a more determined manner.