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 (Blackburn


Jackson, B., and A. Reed. 1969. Catnip and the

alteration of consciousness. Journal ofthe

American Medical Association 207: 1349-50.

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