It’s not just for cats

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

The Coast - Pets Halifax - - Sociables! - BY 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 self­care, 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!

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.

MEL HATTIE One tea­spoon dried or­ganic cat­nip makes a sin­gle serv­ing. Steep for five min­utes or to taste.

Yes, you can make tea out of cat­nip. Just don’t ex­pect it to be a cure-all.

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