At Sweet Smoke Herbs we give our customers a reliable list of the ingredients in our smoking blends, and sometimes this means discerning customers encounter ingredients for human consumption that they didn’t expect. Take catnip: you might encounter this herb in different calming blends and think, “Wait--- can you smoke catnip? Isn’t that just for cats?” The answer may surprise you.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria), which belongs to the mint family, is a perennial flowering shrub native to Europe, although it has now spread to other continents where it’s often considered an invasive weed. The plant’s main active ingredient is nepetalactone, a plant terpenoid that affects the central nervous system in both cats and humans (although in different ways). The attraction catnip holds for cats is well-known to many pet owners, although the reason why many cats are drawn to the plant is less clear. Some researchers have speculated that nepetalactone acts as a feline attractant because it is chemically similar to cat pheromones: when cats smell catnip they seek it out, often licking, scratching, or rolling in the plant to release more active compounds. Cats will often appear giddy, drowsy, drunk, and playful after a catnip snack; however, some cats also display heightened aggression after consuming catnip. About one third of cats will exhibit no reaction at all, as sensitivity to catnip is an inherited trait.
Human reactions to catnip vary depending on whether the plant is smoked or taken orally as a tea, juice or tincture. In herbal medicine, catnip tea is used to promote feelings of calm and to relieve chest congestion and muscle tension; some users also report that catnip tea has a slightly hypnotic effect and makes a good evening relaxation or sleep herb. You can control the potency of catnip tea by how long you steep it; a longer steeping will produce more potent effects. Some people who have tried both report that catnip tea is also gentler on the stomach than smoking catnip.
While you certainly can smoke catnip, its effectiveness varies for different people. When smoked catnip is effective, its most common effects include warming throughout the body, a general sense of relaxation and calm, and a sense of mild euphoria sometimes accompanied by giddiness. Inhaling catnip smoke can also bring on physical sensations of minty coolness, which usually spread from the back of the throat to the upper chest and persist for about two hours. Many people report that catnip sedates them and also seems to have anxiolytic action: some users say that smoking catnip helps them find calm after a long day and forget about their worries.
Some people also experience interesting time dilation effects after smoking catnip, and tend to both perceive and react to stimuli more slowly; slightly altered vision, including slower movement tracking, also sometimes occurs with smoked catnip. Be sure not to drive or do any activities that require coordination and fast reaction time, such as outdoor sports, until you know how your body reacts to catnip. While catnip does not produce visionary effects when smoked, some people report that it can be an effective dream-enhancing herb when combined in a blend with other calming or dream-enhancing herbs like valerian or damiana. The overt effects of catnip seem to wear off in about two hours for a small dose (about 1.5 grams), returning people to their baseline with little to no noticeable hangover. So not only can you smoke catnip, but it generally produces quite a pleasant experience!
While Nepeta species are obviously not toxic to humans, smoking catnip can have mild side effects in some people, especially those trying it out for the first time. Side effects of catnip smoking include slight nausea or headache, especially if you take a large initial dose. Some people also experience lack of coordination and feelings of dizziness which they describe as similar to moderate alcohol intoxication. Like alcohol, these effects usually diminish or go away if you lie down for awhile. Catnip may also make it difficult to form complex thoughts temporarily, so plan your evening accordingly if you decide to try smoking catnip for yourself: an evening of Trivial Pursuit is probably off the table!
We hope this article has amply answered the question of "Can you smoke herbs like catnip?" At Sweet Smoke Herbs, our calming blends are specially formulated to bring out the best properties in each of the smoking herbs they contain. If you're interested in smoking catnip, try it in a relaxing herbal blend like Benton’s Blue or our flagship LUCID Smoking Blend, to get the most of this calming, mood-elevating herb. Once you’ve tried some of our catnip-containing blends, we feel confident you’ll be able to answer “Can I smoke catnip?” with a big “Yes!”