|Catmint cultivar, "Walker's Low"|
|Catnip and lime tree|
I love catnip, Nepeta cataria! I confess it's probably not for the same reason that my tabby does (a chemical in catnip, nepetalactone, is chemically similar to the pheromones produced by a housecat's anal glands!) I love it because it smells sweet, looks pretty, has medicinal uses and above all, does well at my house with very little care. Actually, I should extend that love to include all the different species of Nepeta, which are more collectively called catmint.
When my younger son was an infant, he was a colicky little thing, but something that really helped him was catnip tea consumed by his mama. Catnip is used medicinally as a carminative, which means that it helps get rid of intestinal gas. The chemicals in catnip that do this are readily secreted in breast milk. I will always associate the smell and taste of catnip tea with the sweetness of holding my tiny son. Catnip's volatile oils are also believed to have sedative and antispasmodic properties in humans. These same chemicals make it a good companion plant in the vegetable garden, and it is recommended for planting alongside potatoes and leafy greens to ward off common pest insects. By contrast, it is a draw for beneficial insects. One beekeeper I know recommends planting catnip near bee boxes since bees love to visit the flowers, and the volatile oils seem to help control Varoa mites. Catnip is also a food source for some butterfly species. Deer and rabbits,on the other hand, don't care for it much- a nice plus virtually anywhere in North America.