By Dr. Becker
Even for novice gardeners, herbs are incredibly easy to grow. And an herb garden needn't take up much space. If your apartment balcony or a windowsill in your home gets plenty of sunlight, you're good to go.
If you also happen to be owned by a cat, you might be interested to know that certain herbs can provide healthful benefits for your pet, while others can be used to treat specific feline ailments.
And, of course, you can grow herbs for your own human purposes as well. An herb garden requires minimal effort and can provide wonderful benefits for every member of your family.
Cat's claw and dandelion root. A solution of dandelion root and cat's claw can help relieve itching in kitties with allergies. Dandelion root promotes healthy digestion and liver detoxification, while cat's claw helps modulate the immune system.
Dig up pesticide-free dandelion roots, rinse them well, chop into 1/4 inch pieces, place on roasting pan and dry in the oven for 2 hours at 250 degrees, occasionally flipping them to make sure they are evenly dried. Once they are dried out, finely chop (or pulse in a coffee grinder to mince). Store in an airtight container.
The outer parts of the stems (bark) of the cat's claw plant are used for making tea. Harvest a 10 inch section of plant, strip the outer layer of material off the stalk, chop, dry and mince just as you did the dandelion roots.
When you're ready to make tea, steep 1 tablespoon of each herb in a cup of water for 20 minutes. Let cool. Mix a tablespoon of prepared tea with two tablespoons of bone or chicken broth (to increase palatability) and serve.
You can also use the tea topically on the spot where your kitty is itching. Dab the cooled tea on itchy skin three to four times daily. Store tea in the refrigerator and discard after 48 hours.
Catnip. Catnip is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family Nepeta cataria. It's the chemical nepetalactone in catnip that triggers a response in the brains of susceptible cats. The response is a kind of euphoria. Fortunately, catnip is neither harmful nor addictive for felines, and most susceptible cats absolutely love it. Your cat's reaction will depend on whether he sniffs or eats the herb. Sniffing produces a stimulant effect, while ingesting catnip has a sedative effect.
For cats with itchy skin, a catnip tea bath can be soothing. Steep a cup of fresh leaves in a quart of boiling water, allow the water to cool completely, and strain off the leaves. Pour the cool tea over the kitty (not her head), massage in and towel dry.
Cat thyme. Cat thyme (Teucrium marum) is not actually thyme at all, but a germander. It is a mounding, tender perennial with grey-green leaves tipped by pink flowers that bloom in the summer. Cat thyme has a similar effect to catnip on susceptible kitties. Unfortunately, it also has an unpleasant, musty odor that people may not like, but cats are attracted to. You may find neighbor kitties nibbling this right out of your garden or your housecats most interested in this plant, if potted indoors.
Goldenseal. Goldenseal can be used as a natural wound disinfectant for cats. It may soothe allergies or an infection. All parts of the plant can be used medicinally, but it's the roots that are most commonly used for teas and poultices. Goldenseal roots can be harvested, dried and minced and made into a tea (same instructions as the dandelion root tea, above). The cooled tea is excellent as a topical wound cleanser. It can also be dabbed on itchy, inflamed skin and is safe for use around the eyes.
Licorice root. Not only do many cats like the taste of licorice, this herb can be used as a natural anti-inflammatory or cortisone to soothe allergies, endocrine and digestive issues, and respiratory problems. Licorice root also has anti-inflammatory properties that can be helpful for arthritic kitties, and also supports liver detoxification.
Peppermint, chamomile, and rosemary. The oils from these herbs have soothing properties for a cat's itchy skin and also act as natural pest repellents. You can make an herbal dip using one, two or all three of these herbs together. Pour 1 quart boiling water over 2 cups packed fresh peppermint and/or chamomile and/or rosemary and allow it to steep for 30 minutes. Strain the liquid and dilute with 4 quarts of warm water. Saturate your cat's coat thoroughly with the dilution and allow it to air dry. Important note: Don't use essential oils in place of real herbs in this recipe.
As always, you should consult your holistic vet before using any type of remedy on your kitty.
For information and tips on growing an herb garden indoors, read here.