|Cats seem to be magically attracted to this plant
(and to its varietals), which is frequently grown as
an ornamental, and they appear to feel a strong
psychoactive effect-hence its name (Siegel
1991a*). The dried leaves can be smoked alone or
in smoking blends. The extract can be sprayed
onto other smoking herbs. A tea made from equal
parts of catnip and damiana (Turnera diffusa)
(add 2 tablespoons of each to 1/4 liter of water and
allow to steep for five minutes) is said to have mild
euphoriant effects (Schuldes 1995,54*).
Catnip contains an aromatic essential oil
composed of nepetalactones, dihydronepetalactone,
and isodihydronepetalactone. It also contains
the psychoactive alkaloid actinidine. There
are many reports of the psychoactive efficacy of
smoking catnip leaves, including some from
sources that may be taken seriously (Ott 1993,
414f.*; Schultes 1970,42*).
Amazingly, the active substances in catnip
(nepetalactones) are also found in the animal
kingdom. They have been demonstrated to be
present in the toxin of Myrmacomecocystus, a
genus of ant from California. As part of their
initiations, some California Indians swallowed
these ants alive (wrapped in eagle down) to
induce altered states of consciousness. The ants
apparently bit into the stomach lining, thereby
introducing the active principles into the blood.
The ritual use of psychoactive ants was very similar
to the use of Datura wrightii (Blackburn1976*).
Jackson, B., and A. Reed. 1969. Catnip and the
alteration of consciousness. Journal oftheAmerican Medical Association 207: 1349-50.