A few days ago on, November 27, 2015, we published a story titled Westside Story – One Dozen Writers.
After visiting the writers group at our Lakewood Senior Activity Center, I offered to publish a few of the works written by individual class members. These writers are ordinary looking people who walk among us in our community. As they walk past you might never know they possess not only writer’s talent, but the courage to take risk by making their writing public. Not everyone is willing to do that.
Today’s piece is written by class leader, Janet Hall Rich. Her work is researched, fun and informative.
Pass the Catnip
by Janet Hall Rich
Hooked on a recreational drug, Yoda rolls around with the agility of an Olympic gymnast performing a floor exercise. Catnip’s powerful effect intoxicates my sedate Persian, transforming her mellow mood into a frisky fever. She licks, bites, purrs, growls, rolls over and smothers her catnip mouse with love. Although Yoda does not understand that she has inhaled an aphrodisiac, she thoroughly enjoys a delirious romp.
Catnip is the popular name for a plant called Napeta Cataria, which contains the chemical Nepetalactone. The plant is a harmless herb of the mint family that affects only cats with an inherited sensitivity. Even big cats, lions, leopards and bobcats enjoy it. Feline addicts suffer no side effects, unlike humans when they smoke cannabis, a “kissing cousin” to catnip. When ingested, this plant sedates a cat, but if the cat sniffs it, it will have the opposite effect.
Cats, like most carnivores, are equipped with a scent organ located on the roof of their mouth. When smelling catnip, Yoda opens her mouth, wrinkles her nose and curls back her lips. This unique facial contortion blocks off her normal breathing route and channels the chemical odor to the Jacobsen’s organ, which transmits the sensation to her brain. Although humans do not have the same reaction, they have been experimenting with this herb for centuries.
Native to Europe and Asia, catnip was used over 2,000 years ago by the Romans for cooking and healing. During the middle ages, it was used in the treatment of nervousness, colds, and gastrointestinal complaints. Catnip tea was the tea of choice long before Chinese tea became available. In the 1600’s the colonists brought catnip seeds to America for medicinal purposes and as America expanded, so did the popularity of catnip.
Today catnip tea is used as a mild sedative for relief of colic, and to treat colds, flu, and fevers. The herb is a remedy for anxiety and used for hyperactive children, while the oil is an appetite stimulant used in the treatment of anorexia. The plant provides nectar for honeybees, is used as an insect repellent, and planted to repel rats.
Yoda wasn’t the first to use catnip to get “in the mood”. Desperate humans smoked and snorted it in the seventies, seeking a hallucinogenic experience. Even the colonists used this herb as a mood-altering drug.
Early Americans believed the catnip root could make the kindest person mean. Hangmen consumed it before executions, convinced it put them “in the mood” and it became known as the “Hangman’s Root”.
Today, many people innocently provide their cat this seductive treat, unaware of its full potential.