Ahhhh, catnip — the feline’s answer to pot. You can’t help but be tempted to get in on the fun when your floofy friend is high on this pungent herb. Looks like a good time, right?

Technically, you can smoke catnip, but you won’t get a psychoactive effect. Still, the herb, a member of the mint family, is thought to have benefits for humans.

But there are other methods of consumption that’ll help you reap these benefits without harming your lungs.

Catnip has long been used in traditional medicine to relieve numerous ailments. It’s thought to have several potential health benefits. Its effects appear to depend on how you consume it and your dose.

It calms and sedates

You may be surprised to learn that catnip is mostly used by humans for its calming and sedative effects. This is a far cry from the wacky effect many cats seem to enjoy.

It’s hard to say how effective it is as a sedative, though. Aside from anecdotal evidence and a couple of outdated animal studies, there isn’t much to go on in the research world around humans and catnip.

Catnip does contain a compound called nepetalactone, however, which has properties similar to valerian, a popular herbal sedative.

The compound may promote relaxation, which is why people may use catnip to help manage:

  • anxiety
  • restlessness
  • insomnia

It may relieve headaches

The calming effect of catnip has also been thought to help relieve headaches, according to older reports.

There’s no clinical data to support the use of catnip as a headache remedy for humans. Plus, headaches are actually one of the reported side effects of catnip.

Still, some people swear by catnip tea to help relieve their headaches.

It can treat certain types of infection

Catnip poultices made from the dried leaves and flowers of the plant are a folk remedy for toothaches that people still use today. Tea made from the herb has also been used for centuries to relieve toothaches.

It turns out that those people were onto something!

Extracts of catnip have been reported to have antibacterial and antifungal properties that stop the growth and adhesion of certain types of bacteria.

There’s also evidence that catnip’s antimicrobial properties could effectively treat and prevent oral infections.

It’s an aphrodisiac — sort of

Catnip was once believed to have aphrodisiac properties. Now, this hasn’t been proven in humans, but an older animal study had some interesting results.

Rats were fed chow enriched with catnip leaves, which resulted in increased penile erections and improved sexual behaviors. So, there’s that.

Here’s what you’ve been waiting for.

Yes, you can smoke catnip. There are older reports that catnip was once used in place of cannabis or as filler in weed since it produced similar effects, like making you feel happy and slightly buzzed.

For a while, people would even buy catnip-infused cat toys to get their hands on the herb.

People eventually stopped smoking catnip for several reasons.

First, cannabis is way more potent and effective than catnip for those looking to enjoy psychoactive effects.

Catnip also burns too fast on its own, and needs to be mixed with tobacco for a more complete burn. That means smoking it carries the same risks as smoking tobacco does.

Even without throwing tobacco into the mix, inhaling any type of smoke — even from herbal products — is harmful.

According to the American Cancer Society, all smoke contains particulates, chemicals, and toxins that can cause cancer and be dangerous to your health.

A handful of Reddit users who’ve smoked catnip also concur that it’s not worth it. Most said it didn’t get them high. Some reported getting a wicked headache and vomiting from it.

If you’re looking to enjoy some of the wellness benefits of catnip, there are a few ways to do it, none of which involve smoking it or rolling on it the way your cat does.

Ingesting it is the way most humans get their fix.

You can do this by:

  • making catnip tea from the dried leaves and flowers
  • drinking prepackaged calming tea blends that contain catnip
  • adding a few drops of catnip extract to a drink

You can also use catnip essential oil to help you relax and relieve a tension headache.

There are a couple ways to do this:

  • using a diffuser
  • diluting it with carrier oil and applying a small amount to your forehead and temples

If you’re considering using catnip, there are possible side effects you should be aware of.

Depending how you use it, catnip may cause:

  • headaches
  • upset stomach
  • drowsiness
  • uterine contractions
  • skin and eye irritation

Here are some safety tips to keep in mind before using catnip:

  • Don’t use it if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Keep it away from infants and children.
  • Avoid using if you have a mint allergy.
  • Don’t use catnip if you have pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
  • Always dilute catnip essential oil with a carrier oil before applying to the skin.
  • Keep catnip oil away from your eyes.
  • Stop using catnip if you experience any uncomfortable side effects.
  • Don’t use catnip before driving or operating heavy machinery.

As with trying any new herb, supplement, or vitamin, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider if you have an underlying medical condition or take any medication. They can determine whether you may experience any negative interactions.

There’s currently not much scientific evidence to back most of catnip’s uses and benefits, but strong anecdotal evidence makes it worth a try. Smoking it just might not be the best way to do so.

Adrienne Santos-Longhurst is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and lifestyle for more than a decade. When she’s not holed up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.