loading
Picture of DIY Kitty Crack:  ultra-potent catnip extract
At least two thirds of domestic cats "enjoy" the effects of Nepeta, a.k.a. "catnip." But do they enjoy it enough? If humans were able to isolate the active ingredient in catnip, could we not use it to become omnipowerful CATGODS? Imagine the possibilities! What fool wouldn't want their own personal cat army? A massive fuzzy force with which to execute your every bidding? A united, unquestioning militia that requires nothing other than unfettered access to the super-powerful catnip products that give their adorable cuddly lives meaning?

Nepetalactone is the active ingredient in catnip.* Today we are going to isolate nepetalactone in its pure form through a steam distillation. The distilled liquid will be extracted with an organic solvent (toluene), refined, then evaporated to give the final product.

Now I know what you're thinking: is it safe for cats to be around such a concentrated extract of catnip? Hell yes! Within reason. And we're all reasonable people. Pure nepetalactone has been studied on cats extensively. In fact, "catnip oil" that is available from botanical stores is essentially just nepetalactone, and it is widely used in homeopathic medicine. More details later.

  • Note: pure nepetalactone will not enable you to create a cat army.
 
Remove these adsRemove these ads by Signing Up

Step 1: Crash course in steam distillation

Picture of crash course in steam distillation
apparatus5.jpg
If you've taken any chemistry laboratory classes, or if you have a background in moonshine production, then you know a thing or two about distillation. Heat something up to boiling, then collect the vapors by condensing them into another container. Steam distillation is the same principal and uses the same equipment. The only difference is that you distill something in the presence of water. Steam serves to volatilize certain chemicals, such that they co-boil with the water and can be collected along with the steam when it condenses.

This is particularly useful for extracting plant matter, where the steam serves double duty, breaking open cell walls and releasing volatile oils like nepetalactone. A standard apparatus that you would use in a chemistry lab is shown in the first picture below. Of course, we'll be doing this at home without access to fancy science gadgets.

For this catnip extraction, I've constructed a much simplified apparatus shown in the second picture. The catnip and water goes in the bottom of a big pot, with a cup placed on top. The lid is really the key component here; by simply turning the lid of the pot upside down, the vapors will condense and drip down from the center, collecting in the cup below. By filling the top of the lid with ice water, the vapors are condensed very efficiently.
1-40 of 379Next »
Laral15 days ago

Thanks for the detailed explanation and instructions. Great job.

I see there are mostly irrelevant argumentative comments. That whole first segment on homeopathy should be moved to another site's forum on the subject. It has no relevance here.

w0ot!5 years ago
Are you suggesting we put a couple hand-fulls of frozen water on top of a GLASS lid that is really, really hot? I'm thinking I should use an expendable glass lid...
aspir8or w0ot!5 years ago
Most glass cooking ware is made from Pyrex, a thermal shock resistant glass. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pyrex
Laral aspir8or15 days ago

Not as much as you may think. I had a thick Pyrex bowl break into pieces when I was using it as a double boiler. The problem is where it contacts the very hot metal rim of the pot. The area of contact is small and the metal gets much hotter than the boiling water below. So there is a high thermal gradient between the rim and the glass. The glass expands rapidly locally and cracks.

ya but pyrex dishes have explode on me i still have some glass in my arm lol but seriously be careful even if it is thermal shock resistant it can still explode (U WOULD SAY OUCH!!)
not if you use them properly. ;-)
w0ot! aspir8or4 years ago
Wiki aside, have you ever quenched hot Pyrex? Like raja681 I too have had Pyrex beakers explode.
w0ot! aspir8or5 years ago
oh.

this is a safe way to do it the glass should be cold as the water starts to boil, and kept cold. i agree that filling a hot lid with cold water is asking for trouble but if it starts cold and stays that way ( keep filling it with ice) it will be fine

finfan724 days ago

Maybe someone has asked this already but how good/pure of extraction would you expect by just shredding nip, soaking it in toluene, and then washing out the solids and water solubles?

skidoo5 years ago
talbotron22 wrote: "it is widely used in homeopathic medicine."

"Homeopathic" is an unregulated term in the U.S.

At best it means the "active" substance in solution/pill/whatever has simply been diluted down to pure water, sugar, or, well, sugar-water. At worst it's just a marketing term to hook "natural medicine" adherents into purchasing the product (c.f. Zicam). 

http://www.skepdic.com/homeo.html

In the UK, where homeopathy has seen widespread support over the years, the British Medical Association condemned it as "witchcraft;" the The House of Commons Science and Technology Committee recently released a report concluding that homeopathy is nothing more than a placebo and furthermore that, "The Government should stop allowing the funding of homeopathy on the NHS;" and even more recently, the BMA is calling for an outright ban on the sale of homeopathic "treatments."

Just an FYI.
 
I'm with ya, Skidoo. People who believe in homeopathic remedies cannot be convinced otherwise by logic and science. It's sad and stupid and a waste of time and energy and a gigantic loss of money but it is what it is and I have seen several otherwise intelligent people wander down that road never to return.
Critical thinkers, scientific skeptics, others who support the scientific method and methodological naturalism---call us what you will---we just have to keep educating, educating, and educating. Every once in a while, someone "wakes up." :-)
rpjacks skidoo5 years ago
Homeopathic remedies, although unregulated, are no less helpful to those whom employ them. The "active ingredients" are in fact the natural form of many of the FDA (or whatever authority you Brits use) approved medications without resorting to all the chemistry that goes along with Pharmaceuticals. The "active ingredients" are not diluted, in fact there is as little processing as possible in the preparation of true Homeopathic remedies. The Pharmaceutical companies have such a sway on the "industry" that anything that challenges that is considered bunk or having nothing more than an anectodotal (sp) in order to discredit them. One case in point is Omega 3 fatty acids which we know are good for us, and are found in fish oil. Now there is a Pharmaceutical company marketing this exact product and advertising that only their product provides the proper and regulated dose of the oil. As I am sure you realize, this is utter bunk, there are many "dietary supplements" which are essentially fish oil pills and they provide the same Omega 3 fatty acids, but here in America if the Pharmaceutical companies want to produce something they have to do so in a lab with sterile equipment and all that jazz. The fact that they have realized that so many people are using fish oil to improve their lives has driven them to make a lab technique for doing the exact same thing as fisheries have been doing for over 100 years. To dismiss Homeopathic remedies out of hand is wrong. I personally have a preference to not taking Pharmaceuticals if there is a natural substitute. They are not "sugar water" although some less scrupulous companies will distribute materials that they know are not the product that they purport to be, this is a shame as it makes it so the whole industry suffers from the actions of these charlatans. There are countless examples of useful substances found in nature which are Homeopathy. Does anyone deny Aloe is an effective burn remedy? How about Aspirin for aches and pains? Tea tree oil treats scalp irregularities such as dandruff and mint oil has applications for joint pains. The practice of Homeopathic medicine is not unscientific or harmful, in fact if it weren't for these remedies, we never would have advanced to where we are today. For the record, due to injuries suffered in the Army, I do take several medications, although I truly hate doing so. I balanced the need to be a functioning individual against the potential harm the chemicals are doing to my body and made my decision. If there were Homeopathic remedies for my specific needs, I would consult with my doctor about them and having talked with him several times about my aversion to Pharmaceuticals, I know he would provide me the opportunity to explore those options.
NO. your examples are of Allopathic medicine (Aloe, Aspirin, Tea Tree oil, mint oil, etc..) which is the traditional method of herbal based remedies, and from which many modern medicines were developed: willow bark--->aspirin. Homeopathic medicine is not the same thing as using natural remedies: it draws upon the axiom that "like cures like" using tiny (non-existent?) amounts (or the "energy signature" of the component used) at extremely high dilutions. homeopathy [hō′mē·op′əthē] Etymology: Gk, homoios, similar, pathos, disease n. A system for treating disease based on the administration of minute doses of a drug that in massive amounts produces symptoms in healthy persons similar to those of the disease.
As I am not adverse to admissions of error, I stand corrected. The fact is that most laypersons believe that Homeopathic medicine is about using natural cures, at least in the dozens of articles I've read. As the word actually has a different meaning, I will attempt to properly use it in the future. Thanks.
in simple terms, homeopathic practictioners dilute an ingredient to the point where mathmatically or statistically there could be none of it present. It is completely dependant upon the placebo effect. Luckily for these practictioners, humans are incredibly suggestable and on top of that, they want to "feel" better. But I promise, if you take an innert substance and dilute it down to less than 1 part per billion, it is not going to cure an illness or treat an ailment. In fact, unless it has been run through NASA filters, the water "carrier", even after normal municipal processing, will have thousands of times more material in it like cadmium, lead, pesticides and fertilizer run off.
IMO, homeopathic remedies are the proof positive of the effectiveness of the placebo effect... nothing more, nothing less. but all in all has no more scientific merit than wearing a special pair of "lucky socks" would. :)
Although what you are claiming is correct, and the placebo affect is strongly suspected in the cases you are quoting, it is a fact that many in America use alternative medicines. Many of the extracts, herbs and oils that we (yes I am one) use and have incorrectly referred to as homeopathic, are potent aides that have been tried and tested for hundreds of years. It is unfortunate that there are companies that dilute ingredients, I do point out that the FDA has regulations preveting dilution past a certain point, but I bet enforcement is lack. If the dilution brings something to below 1% or below a percentage of usefulness, it must be listed as an inert ingredient and not as the active ingredient. Therefore if I am selling a Willow Poultice and have diluted the Willow bark extract to less than 12% (the accepted minimal doseage) I can neither call it a Willow product nor list the Willow as an active ingredient in the product. The fact that there are companies who practice deception in the hopes of quick profit is the real detractor of Homeopathy and natural medicine. For those who practice natural medicine (I used to mistakenly call this homeopathy and my Dr never corrected me) the only thing we can do is research our sources or prepare our own, which is of course the best idea anyway. Thanks for the input, I appreciate hearing the views of those who are interested in the same fields as I.
" it is a fact that many in America use alternative medicines" It is a fact that many Americans smoke, but that doesn't mean you should. "... are potent aides that have been tried and tested for hundreds of years." This is an appeal to tradition. Just because people have always done it does not justify its use or prove its efficacy. Hundreds of years ago the average life expectancy was not very long. Placebos can be triggered by many things including old men in musty herbalist shops telling you that they have the truth that science missed. Of course science does not know everything. That is the point of science. But what I trust about science is summed up in two words: repeatable results. I would trust a pharmacologist LONG before I would trust an herbalist. As for the term natural, we must be vary careful how we use it. Hemlock is natural. Uranium is natural. Just by existing ALL things are made up of elements (which are natural), even those big pharma drugs. Those elements are chemically bonded into molecules so trying to set the term natural against the term chemical is an absurd proposition. Just because a plant made it does not, by any stretch of the imagination, make it safe or make it "free of chemicals."
Although science has valid arguments, dismissing out of hand a "natural" remedy because the life expectancy of people when it was developed was half of what it is now is irrational. Science is not the only source of personal health care and that is the point of using natural remedies. Yes, everything is made of elements and that means it's natural is a technically correct argument, but then you could say the Empire State Building is natural, but it isn't. We use the word natural to differentiate between man made and naturally occurring substances. Many of the natural remedies are proven effective, regardless of the Pharmaceutical companies claims to the contrary, they have a vested interest in maligning those remedies. Doctors have acknowledged that natural remedies have little or no side effect, tho the dosages can not be regulated as in modern medication. Lets face it, medication is poison. Look at all the side effects of any modern medication and you tell me that the cure isn't worse than the disease. St. John's Wort is an effective remedy for mild depression, and has no side effects. Sertraline is a chemical remedy and can cause, among other problems, headache, blurred vision, upset stomach, and suicidal thoughts. Gee, if I can take St. John's Wort with no side effects, or take a drug that might make me want to kill myself, which should I take? Don't dismiss that which you choose not to use, it may well be someone else is receiving relief from what ails them through it.
Edbed rpjacks1 month ago

Would you consider an anthill to be natural?

Would you consider a city to be unnatural?

What difference is there between an ant hill and a city?

They are both constructed by living beings out of materials from the earth.

Following this logic a city is natural.

So why inst everything we make including all drugs natural?

arikira rpjacks4 years ago
@rpjacks: no one is saying that "natural remedies" should be dismissed out of hand. All they are saying is that homeopathy is, by and large, a joke. Homeopathy is a collection of chemical treatments based on a set of unproven beliefs/ideas/philosophies rather than a holistic system based on observations, hypothesis, tests, results, repeated results, statistics, etc. (aka the scientific method). Natureopathy, which is what you seem to be more aligned with, is actually a part of western medicine as well. It combines long term observations, including anecdotal evidence, and is sort of a mish-mash of scientific method and adherence to a strict philosophy of simpler methods of chemical refinement than are generally used by large pharmaceutical companies. If you really look at all these practices, they are all TRYING to adhere to some form of scientific method, however it is quite clear that the mainstream internation community of university educated scientists police their own community with certain standards that every one of them are held to: they need to produce viable data sets that meet certain minimum criteria and are provable -- they can't just come out and say "this works" and put their treatments on the market simply because there products are "naturally occurring" and "generally regarded as safe", wheras naturopaths do not have strict rules to adhere to, are not regulated by the government, and strictly deal with treatments and concoctions that are G.R.A.S.

I think that naturopaths, since they are attempting to act as doctors (they are being relied upon by some rather credulous citizens to cure their diseases) should be regulated/certified/licensed by the government, and data should be collected on the efficacy of their treatments -- so as to benefit society from sharing the evidence of success, or to benefit society from sharing the uselessness thereof.
skidoo rpjacks4 years ago
"I do point out that the FDA has regulations preveting dilution past a certain point, but I bet enforcement is lack. If the dilution brings something to below 1% or below a percentage of usefulness, it must be listed as an inert ingredient and not as the active ingredient."

This is not true. The homeopathic pharmacopoeia was grandfathered into the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, which I link to here as I did above. If some nonsense concoction is included in this "reference," including its ridiculously implausible dilution, it is listed per the labeling standards (10x, 30x, etc.).

Homeopathy is pre-scientific bunk that the FDA should regulate accordingly. It should not be afforded any status resembling a legitimate treatment modality, it being utterly untenable as such. 
Wow, let's let this one go guys. Clearly, the world is divided into two distinct camps. On the one side there are people who need proof and science and results and stuff you can see and touch and on the other side you have a bunch of morons who will believe anything ... because they want to. This second group is made to feel better when they think that the universe is smart and taking care of them. It also makes them feel smarter than they are to believe in something that very few others do. It's the, "I know something you don't know" theory. And though many things can be said about this second group, the one thing we can say without fear of contradiction is that logic and reason will not bring them to a better understanding of the world, science and other fact based systems. Logic is not how they got where they are now and it won't be how they move from it if they ever do.
@gmyers2112: You speak the absolute truth & kudos for being hilarious while you do so.
The world is divided into two groups, you just got the groupings wrong. There are those who rigidly and blindly follow what they are told is the only true answer to any question, and those with open minds. You are obviously in the former group. To claim that science is only stating facts is absurd, they propose theory after theory only to be disproven a few years later by yet another theory. The facts that they work from are extremely subjective and often "cherry picked" to support their position. If you are not open minded, you can not accept the facts that are presented daily by the world which do not agree with your position. The phrase "the acception that proves the rule" is an example of this. If a rule does not encompass all of the group that it claims to represent, then it is in fact wrong. That is a scientific axiom, I learned it in my school days when we discovered that taking short cuts in science can cause bad grades (or dead patients in the real world). For years the Pharmaceutical companies claimed there was no support of fish oil in scientific study and that fish oil pills were not regulated and did nothing positive for you. Now a company is extolling the virtues of fish oil because they have developed a pharmaceutical method of producing the same product. I'm sorry if you are not open minded enough to consider the financial motives of those companies to claim that remedies they can't produce are ineffective, but the fact is, natural remedies are sometimes a better choice.
skidoo rpjacks5 years ago

Kudos to rpjacks!

Unfortunately homeopathy is a confusing mess in the U.S., largely due to the unfortunate "grandfathering" of the practice into the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.


I am a chef and I have worked before in the health industry. ANY food you consume be it processed, unprocessed etc...anything you put on your body (same as in since it gets absorbed) is a drug. My son is a type one diabetic. We give him carbs which the body treats as sugar. We combine it with a protein to slow the absorption so he doesn't spike and crash. Food is medicine. Anything you put into your body is going to affect you. Why would you think because it's natural it's good for you? Also when distilled down or "Pure" its so much stronger than in nature. What you need to realize is this: Just because it's natural doesn't make it good or safe for you and just because the doctor prescribes it doesn't make it good or safe.
gaieb skidoo2 months ago

There are none so dumb as those that don't know how uninformed they are, for those will never have an open mind and search for the truth.

scorallo skidoo5 years ago
Before you discount it I would suggest finding your nearest homeopathic college or something similar and ask to take part in something called a proving. Im not saying you are wrong or that the reports are wrong all I am saying is that we think we know everything - but theories and things once thought to be fact (as proven by science) are being effectively disproved on a daily basis. Eventually we all have to accept the fact that we do not know everything and that there are some things that science cannot explain yet (notice I said yet). Where would we be without science??? I don't want you to think im some crazy hippie social anarchist rejecting science or anything like that because I'm not - I just think we should all be a little more open to the possibility that we don't know all the factors involved. All that report says to me is that with the information that we have, with what we know now - we cannot prove 100% that Homeopathy works in the way it is portrayed. This, however, does not mean that it is simply a placebo - it may (or may not) just mean that we do not have the ability as of right now to truly understand how or why it does work. We aren’t at the apex of human science and understanding, and nothing is ever truly a case of simple true or false - it's more complicated than that.
skidoo scorallo5 years ago
You presume much. But let's let that slide, and I'll distill my response down to its essentials (pardon the pun).

In homeopathy's corner, we have:

1. No conceivable plausible mechanism of action.

2. No studies whatsoever showing any statistically significant efficacy.

3. A simple syllogistic contradiction in its very principles (i.e. dilution and the Earth's water cycle, etc.).

There "may or may not" be a tiny teapot, orbiting an icy planet in a distant galaxy, so far away that our most powerful telescopes cannot detect it. Why should I care?

The scientific method tells us that the burden of proof rests squarely with the The Tiny Teapot believers. 

You wrote, "...Theories and things once thought to be fact (as proven by science) are being effectively disproved on a daily basis."

The scientific method yields no thing called "fact." Hypotheses are tested, tests are repeated, and after some variable period of time, certain principles get promoted to the status of "theory," or even "law." But NEVER fact.

Science is self-correcting by design. And just as any naturalist or biologist would LOVE to see actual evidence of Bigfoot, imagine the glory of the chemist who's finally able to re-write the book on homeopathy?

Furthermore, promoting magical thinking and pseudoscience, no matter how innocent it seems, causes harm.

Homeopathy kills.
gaieb skidoo2 months ago

what a bunch of BS, which drug company do you get paid by?

zzoe skidoo3 years ago
Skidoo,
I am 95% in agreement with your statement above, but the final site you mention, while justly pointing out certain egregious cases, feels to me as if it indulges in a certain amount of faulty generalization. While i find myself DEEPLY skeptical about homeopathy (and a number of other 'alternative' methodologies), i feel i should point out the following for consideration...
1) Some alternative medical methods and various traditional medicines HAVE been subjected to clinical tests, and have done quite well.
2) One should perhaps be reluctant to create categories where none exist naturally, for example, generalizing alternative treatments negatively may be analogous to the U. S. govt.'s approach to drug and alcohol legality.
3) in short, good science should carefully avoid 'throwing the baby out with the bath water'.
That said, BRAVO! for what you wrote, it needs to be said.
-Z
pardon the pun really well i guess nerds like yall have somtin 2 do during weekends
i thought that homeopathy is simply natural treatment of disease and disorders, as the term is often used around these parts, and by which the author of this article probably meant it. i read the medical definition of the term and it seems you guys are right, homeopathy is largely B.S. although i understand that there has been some homeopathic success in treating allergies.

that being said, natural medicine, on the whole, is not hocus pocus. it is legitimate and is frequently a source for modern "traditional" medicine. this is often denied and vehemently denounced by the pharmaceutical companies and their pet politicians.

i am not opposed to the use of modern medicines, but much prefer natural alternatives when they are available and proven as effective.

whether you are using natural or traditional medicine you should always get a second opinion, and always be cautious of "the newest thing". medicine is a source of scam, from "big pharma" to the traveling snake-oil salesman. from the doctor who gets his free lunches from the pfizer rep to the patented, cures-everything, all-natural, drug-free, remedies advertised by your favorite radio host.

sick people are viewed by these swindlers as desperate and therefore easy targets. often this view is accurate, making medicine a VERY lucrative business.
> that being said, natural medicine, on the whole, is not hocus
> pocus. it is legitimate and is frequently a source for modern
> "traditional" medicine. this is often denied and vehemently
> denounced by the pharmaceutical companies and their pet
> politicians.

1. The great majority of so-called "natural medicine" is, in fact, bunk. Otherwise it would be efficiently extracted or synthesized and turned into ACTUAL MEDICINE. C.f. aspirin and countless other examples.

2. Who do you thin owns all of these dubious companies we refer to as purveyors of "natural medicine?" Do some digging and get get back to us. :-)
1. the fact that "real medicine" comes from natural remedies is exactly what i'm talking about. the "efficient extraction or synthesizing" is often really just over processing, renaming, and over charging.

2. i don't often go for pre-packaged "natural remedies". i research the symptoms or illnesses i wish to treat and then i usually pick my own plants or select whole herbs from herbalists. if one of the "purveyors" of an ingredient i wish to obtain happens to be owned by a big pharma company, all well, at least i know what's going in my body, why, and what to expect from it.
You told him! But your are right. The scientific method results are not considered facts. That the method is self correcting, builds upon it's self and reinvents it's self when new information becomes available. Try giving some kid just a little bit of peanut...or someone like me just a bit of bee venom.It's middle ages and ignorant. Like the idea that eating tiger penis will make you a tiger under the sheets or eating monkey brains will make you smart. It's hoc-us- pocus quackery and it can kill.
Thanks! I caught that at the start of the instructable and had a hard time not racing to the bottom to comment on it. LONG LIVE RANDI!!!
1-40 of 379Next »