Catnip also known as catmint is in the Mint family and has many of the same attributes as other types of Mint.
Catnip contains an active ingredient "nepetalactone" a plant terpenoid that has an affect on the central nervous system in both cats and people.
Cats are drawn to the plant, it is believed because the nepetalactone is chemically similar to cat pheromones and triggers a euphoria in felines.
In the gardening realm it is frequently grown in "tea-gardens" or paired up with up other plants for its qualities as a companion plant. Catnip repels some harmful insects , flea beetles in particular.
Humans are also affected by catnip , but not as drastically as cats. Tea made from catnip induces a sense of tranquility, it promotes a meditative state of well being.Some people claim it has a slightly hypnotic effect. Catnip is also sometimes smoked, unlike some other herbs it is not a controlled substance. It produces a mild sense of relaxed euphoria. People claim that catnip sedates them somewhat. . It also has uses in herbal medicine , for insomnia, anxiety, headaches, minor respiratory infections, colic and gas.
Catnip is a hardy perennial herb, it averages 3- 4 feet tall, sometimes as tall as 5 ft.It produces small lavender flowers with light green foliage. It is a hardy plant that will grow almost anywhere in any soil but does best in a light and loamy well drained soil. A mildly alkaline soil is also best with an optimal pH range of 6.0 to 7.5.
It grows in partial shade but does best in full sun.
Plants can be started indoors or out via seed, cuttings or root stock. If starting by direct seeding they seeds can be sown in late fall for a spring crop, or started in spring. If you start them in the fall and allow them to over-winter expect to loose a few due to lower germination rates - but the ones that do sprout are generally lusher and more aromatic.
You might find it necessary to thin the plants in order to achieve an optimal spacing of a foot to a foot and a half once they reach 4-6 inches tall.
Water regularly, don't drown them just regular watering. Allow the soil to go dry between watering, then soak thoroughly.