This herb is a feline favorite. Native to Europe and Asia, catnip has known fame in such cartoons as Tom & Jerry and has played a leading role in Tweety and Sylvester skits on Looney Toons. Catnip has been used to make “narrow escapes” from fictitious cartoon foes, and the volatile oils in catnip really do induce ecstasy in about 2/3 of domestic cats and even some large pumas. It is most often seen dried in cat toys.
As for humans, the leaves are known to have a calming effect, and is even known to induce sleep, making it a common ingredient in teas. Folklore, however, has it that hangmen used to chew the roots of this herb in order to build up the courage to do their mortal deeds- the root is also known to make a gentle person fierce and quarrelsome.
Catnip is actually part of the mint family. It is a perennial and grows to 2-3 feet. Its soft gray-green leaves grow 1-3 inches long and are shaped like elongated hearts. It grows tiny two lipped flowers that are white with purple spots- the flowers bloom in mid- to late summer.
Catnip is a hardy herb and does well year round. Keep it away from other plants as cats will rub against it – and other plants in the vicinity!