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Can You Get High Off Catnip?

Clinically Reviewed by: Charee Marquez, LMFT

Hey there, dear readers! Welcome to California Prime Recovery’s blog, where we strive to provide you with informative and engaging content about addiction treatment and wellness. Today, we’ll be delving into a curious topic that often sparks intrigue among pet owners and curious minds alike: Can you get high off catnip? We’ll dive into the science behind this fascinating herb and clear up any misconceptions surrounding it.

What is Catnip?

Catnip, scientifically known as Nepeta cataria, contains a compound called nepetalactone, which is responsible for its effects on cats. When cats encounter catnip, whether by sniffing, chewing, or rubbing against it, nepetalactone binds to receptors in their nasal tissue, triggering a temporary response characterized by hyperactivity, rolling, rubbing, and vocalization. This peculiar reaction has long fascinated cat owners and researchers alike.

Types of Catnip

Catnip, scientifically known as Nepeta cataria, is a member of the mint family and is well-known for its effects on cats. There are several varieties and types of catnip, each with its own unique characteristics and growing conditions. Here are some common types of catnip:

  1. Common Catnip (Nepeta cataria): This is the most well-known and widely available type of catnip. Common catnip has heart-shaped, gray-green leaves and produces small, white flowers with purple spots. It contains the compound nepetalactone, which is responsible for its effects on cats.

  2. Lemon Catnip (Nepeta cataria citriodora): Lemon catnip is a variety of common catnip that has a lemony fragrance. It is similar in appearance to common catnip but has a citrusy scent that some cats find especially appealing.

  3. Nepeta racemosa (Racemose Catmint): This type of catnip is native to parts of Europe and Asia. It has small, lavender-blue flowers and a compact, bushy growth habit. Racemose catmint is often grown as an ornamental plant in gardens and landscapes.

  4. Nepeta grandiflora (Large-flowered Catmint): Large-flowered catmint is another ornamental variety of catnip that is prized for its showy flowers. It produces larger flowers in shades of blue, purple, or pink and has a more upright growth habit compared to other types of catnip.

  5. Nepeta mussinii (Mussin’s Catmint): This type of catnip is native to the Caucasus region and is known for its low-growing, spreading habit. It has small, lavender-blue flowers and is often used as a ground cover or edging plant in garden borders.

  6. Nepeta faassenii (Faassen’s Catmint): Faassen’s catmint is a hybrid variety that is popular in gardens and landscapes. It has gray-green foliage and produces clusters of lavender-blue flowers. It is prized for its long blooming period and low maintenance requirements.

  7. Nepeta subsessilis (Japanese Catmint): This type of catnip is native to Japan and has large, heart-shaped leaves and spikes of lavender-blue flowers. Japanese catmint is often grown in shady or partially shaded areas and is valued for its attractive foliage.

These are just a few examples of the many types of catnip available. Each variety may have slightly different growth habits, flower colors, and fragrances, but they all share the common trait of containing nepetalactone, the compound that affects cats. Whether grown for its ornamental value in gardens or as a treat for feline companions, catnip adds interest and delight to both humans and cats alike.

The Catnip Experience for Cats

Here are some common effects of catnip for cats:

  1. Excitement and Playfulness: One of the most well-known effects of catnip is its ability to induce excitement and playfulness in cats. After coming into contact with catnip, some cats may become more active, energetic, and playful, engaging in activities such as chasing, pouncing, and batting at objects.

  2. Euphoria and Contentment: Catnip can also elicit a sense of euphoria and contentment in cats. Many cats display signs of pleasure and relaxation when exposed to catnip, often accompanied by purring and kneading behaviors.

  3. Rolling and Rubbing: Cats may exhibit rolling and rubbing behaviors when exposed to catnip. Rolling in catnip or rubbing against it with their bodies and faces is a common reaction and is thought to help spread the scent of the catnip over their fur, enhancing the experience.

  4. Sniffing and Licking: Cats may sniff, lick, or chew on catnip leaves or toys to further engage with the scent. This behavior allows cats to ingest the volatile oils released by the catnip, which can enhance the effects of the plant.

  5. Temporary Disinterest: Not all cats are affected by catnip, and some may show little to no reaction when exposed to it. Additionally, the effects of catnip are temporary and typically last for only a few minutes before wearing off. Afterward, cats may lose interest in the catnip and return to their normal behavior.

It’s important to note that the effects of catnip can vary from cat to cat, and not all cats are responsive to its effects. Sensitivity to catnip is hereditary, with an estimated 50-70% of cats exhibiting a reaction to catnip, while others show no response at all. Additionally, kittens under the age of six months may not exhibit a response to catnip until they reach sexual maturity.

While catnip is generally considered safe for cats and can provide enrichment and entertainment, it’s essential to offer it in moderation. Excessive exposure to catnip may lead to overstimulation or hyperactivity in some cats, so it’s best to use it sparingly as an occasional treat. Additionally, catnip should not be ingested in large quantities, as excessive consumption may lead to digestive upset.

Can Humans Get High off Catnip?

While catnip is known to have a peculiar effect on cats, inducing behaviors such as excitement, playfulness, and relaxation, its effects on humans are quite different. In general, humans do not experience a psychoactive high from catnip in the same way that cats do.

Catnip contains a compound called nepetalactone, which is responsible for its effects on cats. When cats encounter catnip, nepetalactone binds to receptors in their nasal tissue, triggering a temporary response characterized by increased activity and euphoria. However, the structure of human nasal receptors differs from those in cats, and as a result, humans do not experience the same reaction to catnip.

In humans, the effects of catnip are generally mild and may include feelings of relaxation or calmness, similar to those produced by other herbal teas or aromatherapy products. Some people may use catnip as a natural remedy for conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, or digestive issues, although scientific evidence supporting its effectiveness for these purposes is limited.

Ingesting or inhaling catnip is unlikely to produce any significant psychoactive effects in humans, and attempting to use catnip as a recreational drug is unlikely to result in any meaningful high. While catnip is generally considered safe for humans and is not associated with serious adverse effects, it’s essential to use it responsibly and in moderation.

Overall, while catnip may hold allure for its effects on cats, it does not possess the same psychoactive properties in humans. Instead, it is best enjoyed for its calming aroma, potential relaxation benefits, and as a source of entertainment for our feline companions. As with any herbal remedy or supplement, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before using catnip for medicinal purposes.

Side Effects of Catnip for Humans

While catnip does not typically induce a psychoactive high in humans like it does in cats, some individuals may experience mild side effects or reactions when exposed to catnip. These effects are generally rare and tend to be mild, but it’s essential to be aware of them. Here are some potential side effects of getting high off catnip for humans:

  1. Drowsiness: Some individuals may experience feelings of drowsiness or sedation after inhaling or ingesting catnip. This effect is generally mild and may be similar to the relaxation induced by other herbal teas or aromatherapy products.

  2. Headache: In rare cases, catnip may trigger headaches or migraines in sensitive individuals. If you experience a headache after exposure to catnip, it’s best to avoid further contact with the plant.

  3. Nausea or Upset Stomach: Ingesting large quantities of catnip may lead to digestive upset or nausea in some individuals. This effect is generally mild and may resolve on its own after a short time.

  4. Allergic Reactions: Some people may be allergic to catnip or other plants in the mint family. Allergic reactions may include itching, rash, hives, or difficulty breathing. If you suspect you are allergic to catnip, discontinue use and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or persist.

  5. Sensitivity: Individuals vary in their sensitivity to catnip, and some may be more susceptible to its effects than others. Factors such as age, weight, overall health, and genetic factors may influence how a person responds to catnip.

It’s important to note that the side effects of catnip for humans are generally mild and temporary. Most people can safely enjoy catnip without experiencing any adverse reactions. However, as with any herbal remedy or supplement, it’s essential to use catnip responsibly and in moderation. If you have any concerns about using catnip or experience persistent or severe side effects, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional for guidance.

Risks of Getting High On Catnip

While catnip is not typically used by humans to induce psychoactive effects, there are some potential risks associated with ingesting or inhaling catnip, especially in large quantities or for individuals who may be sensitive to its effects. It’s essential to understand these risks before using catnip for any purpose. Here are some potential risks of getting high off catnip for humans:

  1. Allergic Reactions: Some individuals may be allergic to catnip or other plants in the mint family. Allergic reactions to catnip may include itching, rash, hives, swelling, or difficulty breathing. If you experience any allergic symptoms after exposure to catnip, discontinue use and seek medical attention if symptoms worsen or persist.

  2. Digestive Upset: Ingesting large quantities of catnip may lead to digestive upset or gastrointestinal discomfort in some individuals. This may include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal pain. It’s essential to use catnip in moderation and discontinue use if you experience any adverse digestive symptoms.

  3. Drowsiness or Sedation: Catnip may have mild sedative effects on some individuals, leading to feelings of drowsiness or relaxation. While this effect is generally mild and temporary, it may impair your ability to perform tasks that require alertness or concentration, such as driving or operating machinery.

  4. Headache or Migraine: In rare cases, catnip may trigger headaches or migraines in sensitive individuals. If you experience a headache after exposure to catnip, discontinue use and avoid further contact with the plant.

  5. Drug Interactions: Catnip may interact with certain medications or herbal supplements, particularly those with sedative effects. If you are taking medications or other supplements, it’s essential to speak with a healthcare professional before using catnip to avoid potential interactions or adverse effects.

  6. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: The safety of catnip during pregnancy and breastfeeding has not been well studied. Pregnant or breastfeeding individuals should avoid using catnip to prevent any potential risks to themselves or their babies.

It’s important to note that while the risks of getting high off catnip for humans are generally low, individual sensitivity and reactions may vary. If you have any concerns about using catnip or experience any adverse effects, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional for guidance. Additionally, using catnip responsibly and in moderation can help minimize any potential risks.

In conclusion, while catnip may hold allure for its curious effects on cats, it does not possess the same psychoactive properties in humans. Despite rumors and urban legends suggesting otherwise, consuming catnip is unlikely to produce a significant high or induce altered states of consciousness. Instead, catnip is best enjoyed for its calming aroma, potential relaxation benefits, and as a source of amusement for our beloved feline friends.

Let’s continue to appreciate catnip for what it is—a fascinating plant with unique effects on our furry companions—and approach discussions about its potential human uses with scientific skepticism and a healthy dose of curiosity. After all, sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction, even when it comes to something as seemingly innocuous as catnip.

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FAQs

While some individuals may experience mild relaxation from catnip, it is not a recommended treatment for anxiety. If you’re dealing with anxiety, seek guidance from a healthcare professional.

No, catnip is not addictive for cats. It simply elicits a temporary response due to its interaction with their olfactory system.

It’s best to offer catnip to your feline friend occasionally, as too much exposure might reduce their sensitivity to it.

It’s generally safe to introduce kittens to catnip, but they might not exhibit a response until they are a few months old.

No, catnip is not a suitable treatment for drug addiction. If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, professional help is crucial for recovery.

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