Three years ago I planted one catnip plant in what I deemed my ‘mint’ garden box. Every single year it just gets bigger and bigger! I must not have any neighbourhood cats. Either that or they got too ‘high’ on my catnip and forgot where I lived!
This year I finally got around to making some catnip tincture and I’m going to show you my process from start to finish. But first let’s chat a bit about catnip. Most people know catnip as a plant solely for cats – a treat that drives them crazy – but Netepa is quite the versatile plant, having so much to offer in terms of medicine.
About Catnip– Nepeta cataria
Catnip is extremely useful for many digestive complaints including gas, bloating, indigestion, spasms and nausea. As with many digestive herbs Nepeta also has a strong affinity for the nervous system. It works very well in formulations for stress related conditions, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Basically it has the opposite effect on humans as it does for cats.
Catnip is also a herb I keep in mind for acute feverish conditions, including childhood fevers such as chicken pox or measles. Finally Nepeta can be used to aid the female reproductive system for conditions such as cramps, emotional symptoms related to menstruation and irregular cycles.
Typically you will want to wait until your catnip has started to flower which, depending on where you live, is around early-mid July. Ideally you want to catch it early in its flowering period. Try not to use it really late as by then most of the flowers have been pollenated.
I was trained to harvest the top 30-40% of the aerial parts of the plant. Once harvested you will want to discard up to ¾ of the main stalk. This portion of the plant is too fibrous and doesn’t contain much in the way of chemical constituents. Once you’ve discarded everything you need to you will want to weigh your herb material.
- Fresh herb material (catnip herb)
- My menstrrum is a combination of alcohol and vegetable glycerin
- Read my blog post about making your own tincture menstruum
- If you don’t’ have access to ethyl alcohol you can easily use vodka (I did for years)
- Sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Digital scale
- 500 ml jars
Weigh Your Herbs
- Once approximately ¾ of the main stalk of the herb has been discarded weigh out your herb material
- You will need 83 grams for every 500 ml of tincture you wish to make
Chop Your Herbs
- Using your knife (I have a mezzaluna and I love it) chop your catnip very fine
- If you don’t chop it fine enough you will not be able to fit all 83 grams in your jar
- Chopping herbs is about finding a balance between getting the herb material fine enough and not spending so much time chopping that all of your herbs oxidize (which reduces its healing power)
Herbs in the Jar
- Place all of your chopped Nepeta in your jar of choice
- I use mason jars but in a perfect world I would actually prefer to use amber packers
- The dark colour of the glass helps to prevent oxidization of the herbs due to exposure to light
- I just make sure I store my herbs in a cool, dark place when I’m done
- I have a wide mouth funnel that I use for canning and this is perfect for ensuring all of your herbs end up in the jar
Menstruum in the Jar
- Once all of your chopped herb material is in pour your menstruum of choice into the jar, filling it almost to the top
- Let the jar sit for about a minute allowing the herbs and alcohol to settle
- Top off with more alcohol
- Seal the jar
Label Your Tincture
- You will want the name of the herb you harvest, date it was processed and if you like to be detailed, the type of menstruum you used
- You can even add where you harvested your herb if you’d like
- As I mentioned before you will want to store your tincture in a cool, dry, dark space
- Most tinctures are ready for use in about three months
- After about a week you can check your tincture and top off with more alcohol if the herbs settled a bit more
- Try to shake your tinctures about once a week until you are ready to press and use them