You are probably most familiar with catnip in its dried herbal form. The minty herb is famous for driving cats wild and helping shy felines become more playful and outgoing. However, you may be surprised to learn that catnip oil has a long history of use in herbal medicine for humans as well.
While many cat owners grow catnip at home and dried catnip is easy to find, catnip oil is also a useful tool for home remedies and aromatherapy. You may be wondering how to make catnip oil at home or what the process for making catnip essential oil is.
We’ll introduce you to the various uses of this soothing herb and discuss the various methods of creating catnip oil in this guide.
Benefits of Catnip for Humans
Catnip is a member of the mint family, so it can be used in teas like other mints. Catnip essential oil can also be diffused for aromatherapy. Catnip is rich in antioxidants and other compounds that have been used for centuries to treat day-to-day illnesses.
Dried catnip herb can be brewed as a tea for consumption, but as with any herb, some people may have a negative reaction to it, and it also may negatively interact with prescription medications, so be sure to check with your doctor. It’s also not recommended for those who are pregnant or small children.
For those who aren’t at a higher risk for negative effects, catnip tea can be sipped before bedtime to help calm your body and prepare it for rest. It is also believed to help with anxiety and nervousness overall.
Catnip tea has also been used to help relieve gastrointestinal distress and stomach cramping. It can also be used in brews to help with cold and flu symptoms.
If you want to enjoy some of the benefits of catnip without drinking it, you can use it as an oil. Catnip oil can be diluted and used topically, or you can diffuse it for its aromatherapy benefits.
When diffused, catnip oil can also help with stress relief and promote restful sleep.
It can also be diluted with a carrier oil or added to a homemade salve and used for a gentle nighttime massage in areas of the body where you carry stress, such as the neck and shoulders. Massaging into the temples can also help relieve tension headaches.
The anti-inflammatory and antiseptic compounds found in catnip essential oil can also make it useful for treating skin irritations and minor cuts.
How to Make Catnip Oil
If you think the benefits of the catnip herb are right for you, you might be interested in making catnip oil for yourself, especially if you grow the herb in your own backyard. There are two main methods for making herb oils: infusion and steam distillation.
Catnip Infused Oil
The simplest method of making catnip oil is to infuse it. This will give you an oil that is appropriate for topical use but not diffusion. The finished oil will be perfect as a massage oil or as an ingredient in salves and soaps.
Collect Your Greens
First, you’ll need to collect a large quantity of fresh catnip. Fresh will be better than catnip that’s already dried out. You will want to wilt your catnip slightly before you begin infusing so there isn’t too much water left in the plant.
You can hang your herbs in a dry cupboard for a few hours up to about a day before you start infusing them or spread them on a tray. They shouldn’t feel crunchy but should feel a little limp.
Choose Your Oil
Choose a high-quality food-grade oil, such as extra virgin olive oil to infuse your catnip in. You can also use almond, grapeseed, or sunflower oil if that’s what you prefer for topical usage.
You need enough oil to fully cover your herbs. Remember that the higher the concentration of herbs in your oil, the more potent your infusion will be.
The quickest way to infuse your catnip oil is to use heat. You can use a stovetop method or an oven method depending on your preference.
For the oven method, you will spread your herbs in a shallow oven-safe dish. Top with the oil of your choice and set your oven to 180° or 200° Fahrenheit. By keeping the temperature low, you will ensure that your oil doesn’t scorch. You can place the dish in the oven before it has preheated.
Let the herb and oil mixture cook on low heat for 2-3 hours. Then, allow it to cool completely on the countertop. Strain out the herbs pieces and bottle your mixture.
You can also achieve the same effect on your stovetop. Simply set up a small pot of water on your burner with another heat-safe bowl over the top. Make sure the upper bowl does not come in contact with the water below.
Add your herbs and oil to the upper bowl and set your heat to a simmer. Simmer your mixture for about two hours, stirring occasionally and adding more water to the lower pot as it evaporates.
Just as with the oven method, allow it to cool before straining and bottling.
A low-tech option for infusing oil with catnip is to solar-infuse the mixture. Add your herbs and oils to a large jar and place it on your window sill for two to four weeks. Once a day, shake up your mixture to ensure the herbs are not clumping together in the bottom.
For this option, time does the work for you, with a little help from the sun’s warmth.
Making Catnip Essential Oil
Essential oils are a pure, undiluted concentration of the volatile compounds found within a plant, ideal for diffusing. These are a lot more complicated to make at home and require specialized equipment to prepare. They also require a very large quantity of herbs to create a small amount of oil.
Most herb enthusiasts prefer to source their essential oils from a reliable essential oil supplier instead; we recommend this one.
Distilling Essential Oils
Most essential oils, including those from catnip, are made through a distilling process. You’ll need lab-quality distilling equipment to safely do this at home. This device will have two chambers and a condenser tube for collecting the oils.
The bottom chamber will be filled with water and the upper chamber is where the herbs are placed. Underneath, there will be a heat source under the bottom water chamber.
The water will turn to steam, and that steam will pass through the herbs in the chamber and collect in the condenser tube. Collect the liquid in the condenser tube in a separate container underneath and allow it to settle for about 12 hours.
After the distilled liquid settles, it should separate into two clear layers: water and oil. The oils on the top are the essential oils extracted through the steaming process. They can now be collected and stored for use.
Enjoy the Benefits of Catnip
As you can see, catnip is a versatile herb that can be very useful in your medicine cabinet. While catniptea is a popular therapeutic beverage, the oil is great for diffusing or using in topical recipes.
Making your own catnip-infused oil is simple but requires some patience and basic kitchen equipment. However, making a pure and concentrated essential oil is a bit more complicated, so you may want to leave it to the professionals.