Nepeta cataria, Catnip
Nepeta cataria, Catnip, a famous feline euphoric, with an essential oil containing nepetalactone, producing the familiar "catnip response" in felines which may chemically produce cross-reactivity with male cat pheromones associated with courtship behavior. About 14 compounds found in other plant species as well as catnip, elicit the catnip response. The catnip response is characterized by sniffing, licking, chewing, head shaking, chin and cheek rubbing, plus head-over rolling and body rubbing. It is not merely induced by chewing the leaves, rather it requires scent induction, which means the leaves must be crushed, bruised or broken to release the volatile essential oil from the oils glands. Hence the old axiom, "If you sow it, cats won't know it, if you set it, cats will get it," reflecting the fact that if you bruise the leaves while transplanting catnip, interested cats are sure to find it. Not just limited to house cats, large cats such as lions and tigers also enjoy catnip. The catnip response is linked to a specific gene, absent from about one-third of cats. Catnip tea is a traditional herbal remedy to treat colds and fevers. A member of the mint family (Labiatae or Lamiaceae) native from dry soils in temperate regions of the Mediterranean, inland Europe, West Asia and North Africa, naturalized in North America, and a particularly common roadside weed along highways in Virginia and North Carolina.
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