DIY Kitty Crack: ultra-potent catnip extract

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
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.

I loved this. At first I was hoping it would show me how to distill my home grown fresh Meowi Wowwi, but hey, better yet, it made me laugh.

Todd Gehris3 months ago
Great instructable. What do I need to add to the nepetalactone to create a cat army? Can I at least use this to herd cats?
fred_dot_u4 months ago

I'm performing this instructable in steps and have completed the first few distillation portions. The leftover mush apparently has some active catnip going for it. I dumped it outside under my motion-detection camera and have a number of recordings of the neighborhood cats exploring the remains. Some simply sniff it and depart, while others will spread out completely in the three small piles of mush. A few roll around in it as well.

fred_dot_u4 months ago

A well written instructable.

In step 8, you suggest "add a large quantity of salt (about 1 cup) to the water" while in step 11 using magnesium sulfate as an alternative to ordinary salt. Is it also preferred to use magnesium sulfate in step 8?

agiven5 months ago

I do love your sense of humor, but I have to mention in the interest of public feline safety that I disagree with your use of toluene. I am not a chemist, however, and I cannot suggest a safer alternative. I do want your readers to be aware however that not everyone agrees with you on the safety of toluene. I offer a counterpoint:

w0ot!4 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...
djsnowman06 w0ot!6 months ago

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

aspir8or w0ot!4 years ago
Most glass cooking ware is made from Pyrex, a thermal shock resistant glass.
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! aspir8or3 years ago
Wiki aside, have you ever quenched hot Pyrex? Like raja681 I too have had Pyrex beakers explode.
w0ot! aspir8or4 years ago
kliu86 months ago
I find it funny that safety seems to only be an issue when it comes to chemicals here when animals are involved.
"Say my name."
"You're Goddamn right."
frankiedog1 year ago
do not add extract of yarn and rat to this or before you can seal the bottle every can in your state will be drowinging you in furyiness such a cute way to die agggggggggg i dont want to die disclamer do this at your own risk if you drown in kittehs it is you own falt because u hath been warned
" I analyzed it using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry"
That's science being used for utterly important purposes. :) Seriously, most nerdy/crazy scientist/resource overkill statement I heard the whole year (as if distilling catnip wasn't already overkill)
Btw, I would do the same if I had a mass spectometer laying around. I'm just envious. :]
Pure, distilled science. And cat drugs.
Tim Temple2 years ago
Going out in the wild and collecting cougars and bobcats -- that would make an army.
ALogan972 years ago
Infuse this with a stuffed rat toy and introduce it to a cat; and the results would be disastrous and, may I add, highly entertaining
ALogan972 years ago
I'd like to point out the proper word for a term that you used (omnipowerful), which would be omnipotent
Shadowfury5 years ago
Why waste diethyl ether on such frivolous endeavors? Also, as is mentioned below, there are serious flammability issues associated with diethyl ether.
"Why waste diethyl ether on such frivolous endeavors?"

This statement says to me that you aren't fully grasping how much fun you can have being entertained by super happy high cats. Twice as much diethyl ether would be worth half of the fun of seeing a cat fight his nemesis, a stuffed animal from a claw machine...

But seriously, cats love this stuff...
skidoo4 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).

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.
scorallo skidoo4 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 scorallo4 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.
zzoe skidoo2 years ago
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.
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!!!
well 4 1thing we wouldnt question r maker so often. *rubs head* ow this smart talk is making my head hurt...........
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 skidoo4 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.
arikira rpjacks3 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 rpjacks3 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 rpjacks4 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.
joypad2 years ago
could you use butane to extract the nepetalactone?
jakobus9 joypad2 years ago
since it's a gas I wouldn't recommend trying it ;-)
you can try heptane
DrWeird1172 years ago
Shame you can't get a three-necked flask anymore. Friggin' meth cooks.
moep7 years ago
The LD50 mentioned above is the amount that will KILL half of the people or animals who consume it; it's short for "Lethal Dose for 50%". An LD50 of 1.5 g/kg means that if you feed your 5kg cat 8 grams of nepetalactone, it has a 50% chance of DYING -- not just "being harmed". I suggest staying FAR, FAR away from that 8 gram dose.
i agree. Also, ld50 is for acute, not chronic, so get puss to rehab if he gets a catnip monkey on his back! I'm a research chemist and I don't see many instructables like this - nice! I hope your boss doesn't find out you used the gc for this. Note your links to 3 papers are broken - for me at least. I'm guessing those are pay sites for articles.
Stop freaking out, the author said they got 143 mg of nepetalactone out of half a kilo of nip.
Agreed - that would mean extracting the nepetalactone from 56 lb of catnip to get 8g of product.

Anyone who concentrates down 56lb of catnip and force-feeds it to their cat can hardly be surprised when something bad happens.
So, Schrodinger could have used this instead of screwing around with radioisotopes?
nope,... because with the isotopes there was a chance the cat would be alive. With the toluene, Schrodinger's looking for a new cat.
The Toluene is used in processing yet it is not in the final product. Do you know how many poisonous materials are used in processing medications that most people take daily with no side effects? The use of Toluene in this process is much more potentially harmful to the human than it is to the cat.
He could have, but then the test isn't a stringintly testing for quantum states. You could have a cat killed by kitty-crack but not radiation, killed by neither and in a state of euphoria, killed by radiation but not kitty-crack, or killed by both together.
Kinnishian moep4 years ago
His yeild was about 1/40th of that dose. And it looked like he was giving sniffs, no force feeding him it.
Ugifer2 years ago
Great method and a very fine instructable.

Just wondering whether you could omit this step by including some base in the initial salt-out. I guess the nepetalate salt might emulsify the mixture a bit more but it would save the extra step and the losses in washing & drying again if you could avoid the separate washing step.

Just a thought.
dan18972 years ago
I already own a massive medicinal garden with lots of stuff catnip, valerian etc. etc. etc. and i have been looking for a way to distill things for ages- this is brilliant!!!
twarder2 years ago
This seems even more complicated than making human drugs ;D
Gunnar1202 years ago
nepetalactone is also an insect repellant 10 times as effective as deet. This will be my project for the next few months. I just ordered my catnip seeds.
sguad3 years ago
all infos are useful.
triton373 years ago
"Woah man...did you see the hippo too?"
leerose3 years ago
This is... good god man, this is exactly what I was looking for not even three days ago! Hell, it's even better than what I was hoping for! (99% pure? Yes PLEASE.)
I highly appreciate how clear your instructions are; I would have expected instructions for a distillery to have possibly a few steps that left me guessing what I'm supposed to actually do. Other guides I'd read (not on this site,) about getting an extract had this tendency to assume, "Okay, now that step 2 is done, you do the usual thing, and then it's time for step 4!" which left me going "wtf what happened to 3."
So again, thank you for making such a concise intructable. I'm planing on growing my own catnip, and this guide is going to come in handy a few months down the road...!
Idosci7 years ago
If you happen to have a high powered vacuum around you can suck off the toluene in about two hours.
Anyone know what kind of pump system you would have to use to sustain the necessary vacuum without having explosive risks? I was thinking about a similar setup to what you would have to use to make your own vacuum tubes but would a compressor have any explosion risk with vapors in the system. I would think with a still (pressure cooker modified), low heat with a vacuum you could boil off the solvent quite quickly, plus with a condenser you could recover your solvent on the positive pressure side of the pump (right?). Also, I wonder if pure isopropanol or other solvents could be used.
I know it's a bit of a grave-digging, but...
If you modify the instructable a bit you can substitute toluene with liquid butane. I read about this method used to process MJ, but it should work here as well.
What you need is:
Butane (or propane or mix of both) - You can use lighter refills, but some may leave residue. Newport brand refills are reported to be good, Ronsonol are to be avoided. Larger tanks (without pressure regulator) are OK as well, but check first if gas has no additives for making it smelly or something.

Herb you want to extract active ingredients from - catnip in this case, tea or coffee if you want caffeine. The more finely ground it is the better. Dry works best.

Plunger type coffee maker (you want one made from pyrex glass so it will handle rapid freezing)
Pyrex bowl or other large, flat container
Something to put gas through - Piece of wood with small hole to depress valve if you are using lighter refill, some tubing if you prefer larger tanks

Procedure is simple - just put your herb inside your coffee maker (2/3 way up), empty one or two cans of butane inside (to fill it to about 5/6) , put the plunger and push it a bit to make sure all of the herb is below butane and pull it back a bit (but not above butane level), wait couple minutes (you can tell when to stop judging the color of butane - the deeper it gets the more it has dissolved in it, when it stops getting darker it's time, but do not let the butane level to get below herb level) and push the plunger all the way down. Now pour your butane into your pyrex bowl and let it boil off. When it stops bubbling it's done. Congratulations, you have finished. Now collect your product into small bottle made from dark glass (most of things you can extract this way are sensitive to light).

For obvious reasons it should be done outside, far from any source of ignition

Put the condenser between the vacuum and the vial. If it's in an ice bath the solvent will collect and you'll get minimal fumes in your vacuum.
Idosci Idosci4 years ago
Ideally, if you had a science lab you would use a Rotovap.
tentera3 years ago
I.. can't use it to make a cat army?
Would this work for rabbits? I want to take oat groats (which are like crack to rabbits) and use it in a similar fashion that you did with cats.
"DIY Kitty Crack"

I just love this title; can't stop laughing at it. I just keep reading it over and over.

Hehehe... all I can say is, *sweet* - I've just discovered my next project. :-D Nice work!!
lmao weed
Sorry to say, this is not weed...
its weed for cats. chill. he was making a funny.
Derin Berkin5 years ago
The fact that rabidrabbit made "a funny" himself makes it more funnier.
Berkin Derin5 years ago
Derin Berkin5 years ago
xD xd Xd XD
Derin josh13244 years ago
Derin Derin4 years ago
or more rather TRIPLE CROME PLATED STOVEPIPE!!!!!!!111!!!!!!! o-(o)-o
<(^.^<) GHOST/KIRBY/BOO THING FTW!!!!!!!111!!!!1ONE!!!!!!
auntkiki3 years ago
This is an article about distilling catnip, not the definition or validity of homeopathy. Please have this discussion in a more appropriate venue.
gyrogizmo4 years ago
Toluene ??? That stuff is dangerous! Are you trying to poison the cats?Well, I guess I should have realized from Crack for Cats. Read this from Wikipedia! Toluene should not be inhaled due to its health effects. Low to moderate levels can cause tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and color vision loss. These symptoms usually disappear when exposure is stopped. Inhaling high levels of toluene in a short time may cause light-headedness, nausea, or sleepiness. It can also cause unconsciousness, and even death. Toluene may negatively affect kidney function should not be inhaled due to its health effects. Low to moderate levels can cause tiredness, confusion, weakness, drunken-type actions, memory loss, nausea, loss of appetite, and hearing and color vision loss. These symptoms usually disappear when exposure is stopped. Inhaling high levels of toluene in a short time may cause light-headedness, nausea, or sleepiness. It can also cause unconsciousness, and even death. Toluene may negatively affect kidney function
IG-88 gyrogizmo4 years ago
And of course EVERYTHING you read in Wikipedia is 100%, ironclad, undeniable fact.

Besides. It's just a cat. Experiment goes wrong...get another cat.
"It's just a cat."

That's really nice of you.
Thanks, I thought so too :)
You're welcome :)
sqeeek IG-884 years ago
Actually, I'd think Wikipedia is just as accurate, if not more so, than many of the other websites you can find information from. Yes, everyone can edit it, but that's kind of the point - if someone says something wrong and stupid, someone else fixes it. On the other hand, another website could have one or two, or even 20 people saying something, and you never know if those are accurate either. They may say they're experts in the subject or something, but if you discredit Wikipedia as a source, then why believe the other guys either? Having talked to someone I know who has been a chemist for 50+ years, Wikipedia is right in that Toluene is dangerous. But, if you don't believe Wikipedia, you shouldn't believe me either. That said, @moebuspcgold is also right, there shouldn't be any present in the final liquid. And anyway, @gyrogizmo, what the heck happened to the "be nice" policy they always tell me about when I post these things?
"It's just another cat?" I'd rather use it on you to see if it is safe to give it to my cat.
Ha! That wasn't very nice! I don't even like catnip
rpjacks IG-884 years ago
why not? My cats love it and I can imagine that it might even taste good on pasta. ;)
I'll hold IG-88 down while you give him the Toluene :)
Table salt can cause death, too. Toulene IS dangerous as many organic solvents, but it is not toxic as-is. Oxalic acid may also negatively affect kidney function, and guess what - spinach and rhubarb contain oxalic acid.
He also ran his extract through a mass spectrometer, which showed it to be more than 99% nepetalactone. 1% of his reported 143 mL would be 1.43 mL. He also said that the impurities were most likely to be nepetalic acid, which is harmless. I honestly don't see the problem with it.
When distillated properly Toluene will not be present and will no longer present a problem to cats.
pyroelfears3 years ago
isnt magnesium sulfate(step 11,dry the toluene solution) epsom salt? would it work?
bowmaster3 years ago
Could a retort be used for the distillation process?
madara0094 years ago
what happens when you give a human this? XD
Found out yet?
rdaley4 years ago
According to the MSDS for Toluene, these are it's exposure effects. anemia, decreased blood cell count and bone marrow hypoplasia. Liver and kidney damage may occur. Repeated or prolonged contact has a defatting action, causing drying, redness, dermatitis It also causes birth defects and cancer. At the risk of sounding negative, this chemical should not be used outside of a controlled laboratory environment. Chemists always use fume hoods and protective equipment when handling Toluene. Be Careful wih chemicals and always read the MSDS sheet available on the internet.
Does painting a house count as a controlled laboratory enviroment? Because this is a very common paint thinner that has been in use for years and unless you are going to mass produce catnip extract using this method(which would not be very efficient as it only produces 10% of the theoretical maximum yield) you should have no problems. If in doubt, do the steps that involve tolulene outdoors or in a fume hood.
When you paint your house do you weigh under 10 lbs and drink your paint thinner when you're thirsty?
Probably why it is left outside to evaporate :P
Speaking with my friend who is a chemical engineer, that does not matter. There is residual toluene. Even if you wrinsed the precipitate it wouldn't be totally pure.
aattura4 years ago
Toluene is NASTY TOXIC stuff! DO NOT use it -- just give the cats regular catnip -- that's ALL they need!!! TAKE THIS RECIPE OFF INSTRUCTABLES!!!
zizou3614 years ago
Yeah, this distillation method kind of opened my eyes, I've been looking for something like this for a while. However, is it important that the lid is glass? or could I use a metal lid?
paqrat4 years ago
I cannot recall just where I read this but I read something some years ago that the reason humans were not affected by catnip was that we have many fewer scent receptors than cats do. This statement sounds like its more about scent than eating. I have been wondering for some time if distilling the catnip would create something that humans could appreciate. Having said this, there is no way I would try this, either myself or my cat. Toluene isn't anything I want even a slim chance of my cat ingesting. Its been said if you do everything right it is perfectly safe. Well, accidents happen and I care too much for my cat to put his life at risk that way.
I love the second picture just because you can see the moment he knows he going to cloud nine. And people say cat's can't smile.
Using diethyl ether has some major downsides. Some folks may remember Richard Pryor, the comedian who recorded "Pryor on Fire" after a mishap with this stuff. I'm a chemistry professor. Been at it a long while, and I treat diethyl ether with a huge amount of respect, because it will catch fire in ways you may never have experienced. The fumes can travel across tabletops and floors quite some distance before reaching an ignition source, then nasty things happen fast. We don't turn light switches on or off when this is in use, there's a chance of triggering an explosion. So, while toluene certainly has toxicity problems, diethyl ether has huge flammability problems, vastly worse than gasoline (it's a starter fluid for use when it's too cold for gasoline to vaporize, that tells you how easy it is to light!). It's just not the sort of stuff to store around the house, especially if you don't live in a region with Arctic weather. Burn units are terrible places to spend months in, so think this through with care.
It should be pointed out that Pryor set himself on fire while using diethyl ether to freebase cocaine with a torch. It is doubtful that a man under the effects of cocaine foolish enough to play with ether and a torch is representative of readers.

"The fumes can travel across tabletops and floors quite some distance before reaching an ignition source, then nasty things happen fast. We don't turn light switches on or off when this is in use, there's a chance of triggering an explosion." Really? Source on this? Sounds overly dramatic.

While using diethyl ether in Grignard Reactions I never had to worry about this.
The risk here appears somewhat exaggerated. Certainly it's flammable and with a low vaporization point. Maintain adequate ventilation, use steam or boiling water to heat the ether, and otherwise do your homework.Be guided accordingly.
Here's a good reference on the issue of diethyl ether fumes traveling distances to ignition sources: Oxford's chem dept. is not normally overly dramatic. Diethyl ether does this because the fumes are denser than air (consider the molecular mass). The issue is not whether it's safe to do a Grignard in a well-equipped lab using standard taper glassware, a condenser and a steam bath, the issue is using diethyl ether at home with the stuff you've got on hand (making an ignition-safe steam bath at home is tricky, containing the fumes is harder still). For instance, it may not be obvious to all readers that a hot water heater is an ignition source. I don't wish to insult anyone's intelligence, but having a good friend who was severely burned in a flammable solvent accident has made this an issue of concern for me.
repworth Ydobon4 years ago
""The fumes can travel across tabletops and floors quite some distance before reaching an ignition source, then nasty things happen fast. ", "Really? Source on this? Sounds overly dramatic." I set fire to my house this way when a bottle of model diesel fuel (containing some Ether) fell and smashed a very significant distance from a tiny nightlight candle almost completely concealed in a small tin. It flashed over and it took a scaril longy age to put it all out. Lost my entire model aircraft collection and my sisters new guitar, and the curtains of course, but father did not punish me when he came home, he was just relieved that it hadnt been worse . phew! My sister still reminds me of it even after 40 years
sqeeek repworth4 years ago
I agree, I'm no chemist, but that ether starter fluid stuff can blow up in your face if you're not careful. Had a couple of experiences with lawnmower type engines, various different (and distant) ignition sources... You know, @Ydobon, it would've been less typing work to Google it, and then you would've seen the millions of folks online agreeing with @boson.
Seelos4 years ago
Kudos go to you! This is one of the best instructables I've ever seen in content, ease of understanding and comic narrative.

I must say that I wish we all had more access to gc/ms machines. Won't someone here at Instructables invent one that is pocket sized?

If one were interested in gaining more knowledge of this process (specifically the isolation from organics), what references would you recommend? I'm thinking textbooks and more classical pathways to knowledge than quick websites. For example, do you have a degree in organic chemistry? I ask b/c I'm often concerned about local water quality and I'm not afraid of doing a whole heckofalota reading/research.
arhodes184 years ago
would turpentine work instead of toluene?
Yes, but toluene (or his suggested DiEthyl Ether) are pure chemicals and will completely evaporate in a reasonably short time (the ether evaporates nearly instantly! but not so readily available). Turpentine doesn't .. and 'turps' is a mixture of things: ""obtained by the distillation of resin obtained from trees, mainly pine trees. It is composed of terpenes, mainly the monoterpenes alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. It is sometimes known colloquially as turps, but this more often refers to turpentine substitute (or mineral turpentine)."
Oh ok, thank you. I already tried it on a small batch of the catnip distillate, and it is taking FOREVER to evaporate, its already been 3 days...
This is VERY IMPORTANT! Toss all of that turp and catnip stuff now! I might have erred in not underscoring my point: ie, that turps contains many different chemicals!! some of which are NOT volatile and are very toxic! Do NOT smell, use, for Anything other than painting your house!
no, different chemical, when doing chemistry its is very important to use EXACTLY the right substances. Same goes for electronics.
I think the best kitty crack is olive juice. Try it
Just so you know, folks, toluene is the ingredient in paint and glue from which glue/paint sniffers back in the '70s and '80s got their highs. Talk about brain and kidney damage... Please ventilate well.
If you love your cats, you will NOT use this, for two reasons. First, cats have such sensitive kidneys, they are used in toxicity studies. Organic solvents, even in trace amounts, are much more harmful to cats than humans. First, because of their easily damaged kidneys. Second, because they are much smaller than humans, so a much smaller dose would be required... Second, because too much exposure to catnip causes cats to lose their ability to enjoy it. In effect, they become "tolerant". A little fresh catnip, now and then, is great for them. A lot, all the time, and they'll stop getting any "bang" from it. So, as crazy as they might go with this at first, in the long run, it will destroy their ability to enjoy catnip. A final note on cats and kidney disease. Their kidneys are so easily damaged that this is a common problem even in well cared-for elderly cats. I've lost one cat to it, and another is currently dying of it. It is a terrible, terrible way to go. Please don't even consider exposing any cat to this.
Actually I am very interested in this for a completely different reason. I have discovered that roaches (the little nasty kind) really hate catnip/cat mint. I am interested in seeing if this could be a more natural form of bug repellent than the chemical spray stuff I'm feeding them. If it does work, I'll definitely post it here!
Best way to deal with roaches is with Boric Acid. You can buy it about any place where gardening products are sold. A little Boric Acid powder sprinkled behind the refrigerator, under the stove (pull out the drawer), under the sink, behind cabinets, and other places where the little bugs are likely to crawl will do the trick. Make sure house pets and children cannot get into it. (It won't kill the pets or children, but it might make them sick for a few days.) It gives the roaches indigestion and they cannot regurgitate (belch), so they explode (inside their nesting areas). It takes about 3 to 6 months for roach eggs to hatch, but after that, you'll never see another roach. This method works every time and does not stink (like sprays). I have used it several times over the years in different apartments where I lived. ~/Lee
tomasina Kialei4 years ago daughter makes an insect repellent....she sells is made w/an infusion/tincture of mint & nip....& ..some other works....they live in the white mtns of new hampshire....the mosquitoes & black flies can be brutal....the stuff works....make it
New Hampshire is so the right place to be... Herbal remedies for such problems (insects and cat enjoyment) are so much better than using processed materials. Way to go.
Tu for the note I also agree w/bringing a old tenique to the masses The distilation method is very useful info for folks Into home health...I am not interested in blowing hard earned $s @ the pharm cos
moep7 years ago
NOTE: Epsom Salt is magnesium sulfate! :)
woertink moep7 years ago
It is but usually in the form of the hydrate. You need anhydrous magnesium sulfate in order to remove water.
talbotron22 (author)  woertink7 years ago
Yeah, the epsom salt that you get at walgreens for soaking your feet (why do people do that anyway?) is magnesium sulfate heptahydrate. But if you bake it in the oven for a while you can drive off the water and get anhydrous MgSO4. Powder it and you'll have a pretty decent DIY drying agent.
Primarily, magnesium sulfate's inclusion in foot baths was that it reduced pruning caused by long periods of soaking in water. Apparently it also gets absorbed in small amounts and helps with inflammation.
sqeeek Grimarr4 years ago
I've had better results with smashing up lortab and bathing my feet in a solution of that.... Just kidding ;)
sqeeek4 years ago
Lol @everyone that's bashing on him for using dangerous stuff: 1. None of the dangerous stuff ends up in the cat's booze if you do this right. 2. YES, everyone, if you are playing with dangerous, flammable stuff, be careful. We were all quite aware of that, and now are even more so thanks to all of you yapping on about how dangerous the stuff is. But now, I think you can probably stop.
Maybe I'm stupid, but this is the step that looks like genius to me. I've wondered a couple of times about how one would go about distilling stuff with kitchen utensils but didn't think of a good way (I had a bunch of roses and wanted to make perfume).
Actually, this setup has been used for 100's of years .. It's called a 'Stove-top Still' .. and the author's use of it here is a great decision: bringing distillation to the masses ;) Nice 'structable' !
I completely agree. This rig is elegantly brilliant. As I was reading the first steps I started bugging my partner again about buying me a distillation rig, and then I saw his set up on the next page -- facepalm! Will be using this for gastronomical delights.
Why not use a pressure canner or cooker with copper tubing fixed to the top of it instead of putting a weight on it. Just like an old-fashioned still, only smaller!
mista.v4 years ago
Could you just burn off the vapours like the flares on oil rigs?
I'm no expert but I'd expect the heat to mess up the final product.
panks4 years ago sells catnip extract..... Budz in a Bottle Catnip Oil Spray – 28ml glass sprayer bottle for $2.50 They also donate catnip to cat rescue charities :)
vov354 years ago
surprised nobody has suggested human consumption yet... allegedly works... what the hell do you have to lose?
w0ot!4 years ago
A long way to go just as an excuse to post pictures of your kitty!
Kenton4 years ago
I think people are taking this a little too seriously. An Instructable entitled "Kitty Crack" isn't going to be designed with cat health as the first priority.
bettbee4 years ago
Admin alert - Am trying to favorite this instructable, but getting error message:

error 500 -- error: org.hibernate.exception.DataException: could not execute native bulk manipulation query
quiet14 years ago
Is make cat taste betta?
Tumunga4 years ago
I didn't feel like reading through all these comments, so forgive me if I'm repeating something... Isn't toluene found in some kind of industrial solvent, or something? The only time I heard of it was with the dope heads that I went to high school with back in the 70's. They would put something on a rag, and huff it. They called it "Tolly-wog".
JubjubSnc4 years ago
You sir, are a genius.
gmyers21124 years ago
One word of warning - toluene. Unless you are absolutely certain that you can remove all of it (not 99.9% but 100%) then you're playing with organ damage, bone damage, brain damage, cat damage and you damage. There is no safe level of toluene. There are only "acceptable levels of damage".
Ah the kittins seems happy go conquer the World little pussy cat
jamwaffles4 years ago
I very much dislike cats, but I love chemistry, particularly shed/kitchen chemistry. I'd like to point out to people doing this that magnesium sulphate mentioned in step 11 is commonly available on eBay :) James
lazemaple4 years ago
I make a catnip tea... the distillation process here would be good up to that point - then I soak a crocheted wool ball filled with batting the cats play with and let it dry. They go nuts over it. I also dry the cat nip and then crush and sprinkle on the rug or their food for cat ecstasy! Valerian tea and honeysuckle twigs are also cat compatible. These are non toxic cat fun.
lazemaple4 years ago
I'm horrified! Tolulene is highly toxic! Turpentine too for cats especially who are not able to metabolise phenolic compounds nor essential oils! chronic illness/cancer/death are a given when the oils reach toxic levels in the cats tissue. # Toluene - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Toluene, formerly known as toluol, is a clear, water-insoluble liquid with the typical smell of paint thinners. Chemically it is a mono-substituted benzene ... History - Chemical properties - Production - Preparation - Cached - Similar # TOLUENE Exposure to toluene may affect the developing fetus. Aggravation of Pre-existing Conditions: Persons with pre-existing skin disorders or impaired liver or ... - Cached - Similar # OSH Answers: Toluene Toluene; 1-Basic Information on Toluene · 2-Health Effects of Toluene · 3-First Aid for Exposure to Toluene · 4-Working Safely with Toluene ... › ... › Chemicals & Materials › Chemical Profiles - Cached - Similar
tomasina4 years ago
havent had time to read through all the i apologize before hand if anyone has already mentioned this valerian root will also make your "pet"...(sorry dont see them that way)....a total amorous nut doses for small weighted has also been known to bring a female cat into heat but pls.... for anyone who reads your OWN research.... i am a kiersey entp....i believe in autonomy....(to a point) animal/pet....that one has chosen to be responsible for....or have control of....requires an understanding of the animal & its tolerances be we all would like to be treated
Distill ze ether from ze H2SO4 and ethylalcohol mabey wodka will suffice I doubt, good luck! Immerse ether in catnip... allow to ewaporate? My cats can retard zemslefs before zey blastoffv to become a Fearlessch Catstronaut!!
kutz4 years ago
hooray for kitty crack! =3
you said and we are all reonable peapole. not many resonable peapole want a giant cat army to do any thing you want.that aside they will probably just enjoy the extract and poop on evry thing
going to open a vial at my local animal shelter, hopefully it will make everyone's day.
lol catnip grenade
my idea was to get an RC plane and drop it off that...
hellstudios5 years ago
so not all cats like catnip? because i used to feed like 2 lbs of catnip to my cat and it had no effect on her behaviour....
It doesn't work on mine either. Not exactly surprising; recreational drugs don't work on all humans the same either...I literally can't stand alcohol for instance, half a beer makes me sick. In real life (as opposed to inbred lab mice) the effect of any chemicals can be quite different on different individuals.
By the way, if you live near shops that sell fancy kitchen utensils for rich people, you can find gravy separation funnels (like to remove chicken fat from chicken gravy) that look an awful lot like lab sep funnels.
its also a mesquito repellant
thepelton4 years ago
This isn't explosive isit?
flamesami4 years ago
could you use alcohol instead of toluene? I seem to remember that you can use salt to separate alcohol from water, so could the same principle be used to separate alcohol+nepetalactone from water?or am I just proving my ignorance?
francisew7 years ago

There are SO MANY THINGS WRONG in this VERY DANGEROUS instructable!

First: Repeated references specify that Toluene is safe.

See The MSDS sheetMSDS sheet:
"Toluene is toxic if swallowed or inhaled. It is also harmful in contact with the skin.Toluene is very flammable, so presents a significant fire risk.There is some evidence that repeated exposure to toluene may cause reproductive harm."

The toluene can be bad for you, and quite bad for your cat.

Next, you can probably save a couple of steps by doing several things at once. A better solvent for the extraction might be a very pure alcohol. Pure ethanol would be probably work great, but most non-chemists probably can't get ahold of it. That way you don't need to do the distillation. You also wouldn't need to do the dehydration.

You also might try grinding the catnip up much more finely. Maybe an old coffee grinder? The more finely you get the catnip ground, the better the extraction will work.

PLEASE: Read the MSDS (material safety data sheet) on any chemicals you aren't very familiar with, these things are quite dangerous!

Isn't pure ethanol essentially moonshine? and if so cant it be distilled using the same method? for "scientific" purposes of course ;)
Yes, strong alcohol can be distilled using similar processes. However, because of the way that ethanol and water mix together, they can't be entirely separated using just distillation, to get higher purity ethanol, it's necessary to filter it and use a chemical to further dehydrate the solution.

I think that most bacteria (yeasts) will only make alcohols of up to 7 or 8% ethanol (hence common beer strengths). To get to a 40% alcohol, you can separate the ethanol using a distillation. I don't think you would enjoy drinking 100% ethanol, but it can be used to make strong alcohol (or to mix ethanol into other non-alcoholic drinks). A project where you make your own beer or wine would probably be a lot more fun that getting your cat high anyways. Fermentation

The reason pure ethanol isn't sold to non-chemists is so that people don't drink ethanol refined for chemical purposes, that may be contaminated. If even a small trace of methanol (aka. wood alcohol) is present, then a variety of bad things can happen, such as blindness + death. Once again, an activity that isn't much fun.
everclear is pure ethanol or might as well be its 99%.
Everclear is only 95%, to get 99% they have to use methods other than distillation, and Everclear is made only by distillation.
ozetropic max is 97.3% with out further refinement through micro seives
You will want no water in your extraction process. An easy way to make sure that your solution is easily H20-free, just boil your Everclear (in a double-boiler) and hold a smallmirror over the steam coming out of the Everclear. When the mirror stops fogging up in the steam of the Everclear, then you have successfully removed most of the water from your solution. PHDinTHC
Yeah, my dad being a doctor, has seen a fair share of people go blind through moonshining. Definitely dangerous.
Toluene isn't too unsafe. I believe he said to open all the windows anyway to it should be fine with proper ventilation.

Also, ethanol and water are miscible so the instructable would be changed completely. Pure ethanol is unstable since it sucks in water so easily (from the humidity in the air). Perhaps you should create an instructable demonstrating your safer method?

Dichloromethane would be another solvent that would probably work well in this experiment.
DCM (dichloromethane) would work fine. That's not the problem.

These solvents are simply innapropriate for experimentation/hobby use in one's home.

You can try anything you want, but you might want a reference to the Darwin awards first. I also hope that you aren't exposing your family/pets/neighbours to the vapours.
I still don' t think this is unsafe with proper ventilation. It is probably considerably safer than using huge amounts of this chemical as a paint thinner.
Bah humbug. Noone said tolulene is totally harmless. Nothing is totally harmless. In this instructable, nobody drinks it, nobody inhales its vapours, and it looks like talbotron22 evaporated the tolulene in his garage so as to avoid inhaling vapours. If you're worried about it use diethyl ether. Read the other comments to find out how. However grinding the catnip is an excellent idea.
You may think I'm over-reacting, though when I showed the article to a few other chemistry students, they all reacted as strongly as I did. Talbotron22 may have had access to NMR's and mass spec's to check the purity of his product. I doubt that most people thinking of trying this would have similar access, but might think that it was safe anyways because Talbotron22's procedure went well. That could have disastrous consequences: making a cat poison that your cat would be dying to eat. If any toluene residues are left in the final distillate, they could kill the cat. Likewise, if the toluene has any organic impurities (hardware store grade may well have toxic impurities), they may remain in the final product. Diethyl ether is probably less dangerous than toluene for this application, though use in any kind of improperly ventialted area could have unpleasant consequences. Likewise the fire risk is significant, especially if using a brushed DC motor fan to evaporate the ether (brushed DC motors generate lots of sparks, and ether burns really well). The total concentration of flammable vapours required to form a huge explosion is fairly small. In a garage, a highly volatile solvent could easily cause a significant explosion and fire. I'd think that if you have a chemistry lab where you can do this safely and test the products properly, this is a really fun project. But I'd strongly discourage anyone from trying this in their home. As amusing as this was, it's not safe. This instructible is produced well, and has a semi-professional scientific look that may cause people to accord it more trust than something poorly produced. I just hope it doesn't result in any cat deaths, or result in any house-fires. I worry that this is the kind of thing that a kid might end up trying as a cool science project, with sad consequences.
The LD50 in mice for Toluene is so low that I wouldn't worry about a cat becoming ill from the product when there is no longer any visible liquid remaining. Also, this stuff is paint thinner. People leave it sitting in hot garages. I know it may seem dangerous because it's a laboratory chemical but it is just as common in households.
Whoa, let's all hold hands and relax for a minute. It's real easy to get worked up about "dangerous" chemicals from reading MSDS sheets, which always exaggerate the circumstances. The MSDS for acetone reads pretty much the same as the one for toluene. But acetone is the chemical found in nail polish remover. Millions of people put nail polish remover directly on their skin every day, and they aren't dying horrible deaths because of it. Neither are their kitties who catch a passing whiff from a drop that spilled on the floor. I'm a chemical engineer and my professional opinion is that this procedure outlines the hazards pretty well. But if acetone/toluene give you the heebie jeebies, then this one's not for you. ps - the MSDS for table salt, sodium chloride, is also good for a laugh ("WARNING! CAUSES EYE IRRITATION")
I totally agree w/ you. I just deleted this trillion word diatribe on benzodiazepenes, their being labeled narcotics twenty years ago, just to manipulate the public. While dextromethorphan, a relative of fentanyl; while grain alcohol -- the biggest killer med of all, for all time -- go unmolested so to speak, by the powers that be. Heck. Homeopathy is sold by charlatans. There is not one iota of med in liquid preparations. The water supposedly has a memory of the drug. Paging oddball, in it for the money scientists everywhere. And congress allows this, for shame.
Toluene is only going to harm you if you frequently breathe it in. If you just do it once, like in this case, you will just get nauseous. Its like isopropyl alcohol, you really shouldn't inhale it every day for hours on end, and you shouldn't drink it, but using a little to disinfect isn't going to kill you.
Do you think that 70 or 80% ethanol will work ok?
You're asking if 70 or 80% ethanol would work for the Nepetalactone extraction? It might. It wouldn't dry very well though. I'm also not sure how soluble the Nepetalactone is in ethanol vs water. In case you haven't noticed, I don't think this is a worthwhile project for people to try outside of a chem lab. It'll probably end with people or cats getting sick.
Thats why you use either, and enjoy it along the process.
soo...would this mimic the effects of weed or is it jest sumthin ta do with catnip?
mpmayer5 years ago
wow just use ephedra plant instead of catnip and you make meth
ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss im a snake
er, he means methane, the one for gas stoves..
(whispers to guy who said the making meth thing )
why did you say that! You owe me one....
Lol, I'm not that stupid. :3
lofi mpmayer5 years ago
ongissim6 years ago
Could you just buy "catnip oil" and refine that into pure nepetalactone?
Where's the fun in that?
acting like a cat and smelling catnip extract

nerdcuddle5 years ago
Yikes! I wouldn't let my kitties anywhere near this, because of the toluene. Toluene is touted as "safe" by irresponsible companies who still use it in their products, but has been shown to be extremely toxic. I understand that the toluene supposedly evaporates away in this catnip extract -- like the alcohol does if you cook with wine, for example. However, I don't trust that the toluene wouldn't leave some trace, and that's not something I'd take a chance with.
you evaporated the toulene, no nned to worry...
PLUS if cats enjoy catnip, why do you still need to use extremely pure catnip extract?
Which gives me the idea of a catnip incense
Kitty always tries to lick mommys vodka, I think that's enough plus some catnip.
Qcks4 years ago

Not a bad Instructable.
I'd never seen the method for steam distillation that was used. That method is the traditional method used for extracting essential oils for things, and after seeing the laboratory grade steam distiller, It suprised me.

After that, Eh... i think the yield could be improved by doing 1 thing different.

If you nuetralized your pH prior to your drying step you'd waste less product.

 I was thinking that you could do this with ~80% pure catnip oil and get huge amounts of pure kitty crack.
80% pure catnip oil would be pretty pure already... in fact... i doubt the kitties could tell the difference between pure and 80%
avlis134 years ago
 Out of curiosity, using a similar method, could you use a still?
Shoubi5 years ago
Dear lord, someone is recommending the use of organic solvents as non or low toxicity? This isn't the 1950s anymore, ether and toluene are incredibly toxic, even in low concentrations. Check an MSDS before you follow any directions here...
You get more of these chemicals in a general chemistry lab than is used in this little experiment. The ether and toluene are highly volatile organic compounds which means they are flammable and they evaporate off very, very easily. At room temperature nearly all of them will evaporate off. If you apply gentle heat, say leaving in a sunny window seal, you will remove somewhere around 99.99% of both compounds. The fan method works similarly because it reduces the vapor pressure, what controls evaporation, and has a similar effect. The two are as lethal as using spray paint. Point being, if you are careful and don't go around huffing the compounds as they evaporate you're fine. As a biochemist and someone who has over two years of college level chemistry including organic, I have no fear of performing any of these reactions with the compounds or keeping them near my cats as long as you are smart and keep things well ventilated.
could you just roll a kitty joint?
Foaly74 years ago
Why is there no such thing as dognip? (Woo hoo! Chihuahua on crack!)
My dog actually goes just as mental over catnip as my cat does. So try catnip, just make sure it's a dog-proof toy, because my dog completely destroyed all the cat's toys =(
i am peter4 years ago
catnip is a hallucinogen for cats, even in its regular form. so this is basically making DMT for cats. probably not the best idea to have a cat tripping serious balls on this, potentially could kill kitty.
bowmaster5 years ago
Release it from a plane flying over your town. Like a crop duster.
After reading the comments I'm feeling a little nervous about this. Some are saying that all the chemicals are safe (as long as you're careful) and in almost non-existent quantities. Others are saying that if you even think about buying ether or toluene then you'll go blind and your cat will explode. I'm not a chemist by trade but I've handled dangerous chemicals before and know (more or less) what I'm doing. I'm not worried about myself but how dangerous is this for my cat?
if i can refin this better can i splash it on some one and have a ton of cats eat off there skin
wii is mint6 years ago
could this be done with cannabis??
I'm afraid not, but there is other ways of extracting the THC (the junk that gets u high) from cannabis sativa. do a Google for "thc extraction" or something like that OR just click here:
pyro13 drwtbr5 years ago
(removed by author or community request)
Derin pyro135 years ago
It's illegal...
ajn1425 years ago
I'm curious, is there any way to prevent the formation of the nepetalic acid? it seems like that would greatly improve your yield.
montdor17 years ago
Many herbs and plants can be concentrated in similar ways, creating near-drug like purity and percentages of active ingredients. Take poppy seeds. A jar of them. Boil. The eventual sludge? Pretty strong opiate. Do this with saffron, or sassafras, either. And you get a unique, strong amphetamine, sold everywhere everyday. Because all of this is about information, people must get good info. Hence, instructables!
austin montdor15 years ago
saffron like the spice ? or the saffron crocus? cause the spice is ridiculously expensive.
If applied directly to skin would this cause irritation? I was wondering if this would work as a cologne or perfume or something. Also what would be a good diluting agent for application to the skin?
so you want to be mobbed by cats?
kind of reminds me of that family guy segment where peter gets mobbed by all the sick cats.
by using, tag, "body spray for sick cats"
Not necessarily but atleast it would make life more interesting!
lemonie5 years ago
Your GCMS trace doesn't start at 0 - I don't believe this was completely free of toluene - can you comment on this?
(Also 0.03% is an order of magnitude from 0.3%, which is far off to me)
Great Instructable though.

gawumpi7 years ago
greetings y'all had me a chuckle while reading, can just imagine my cat on catnip not promoting illicit activities, but what would be the effect of smoking catnip? anyone tried it?
Smoking catnip isnt illict, and it gives one a short lived, minor, head buzzing high. I thought of it as a tobacco alternative for a month or so, but too much gives you a headache. Once when me and some friends were motoring down to Tuscon from Flagstaff we got hassled by the cops, they saw my big bag of catnip and wigged with guns drawn, etc, we were like no man its catnip, they examined it more closely and let us alone as they were amused...
didn't do much for me, but maybe i didn't try hard enough.

i had a friend in college who heard you could get buzzed on catnip, so he went out and bought a giant bag of it. i had the pleasure of being in the same room as this dude as he plowed through about 10 bowl of catnip, hell bent on getting high. about an hour later he said he finally felt something.

i put it in the same category as smoking banana peels or peanut shells (anyone else read the anarchists cookbook when they were a kid?)
i've seen those smoking things before i saw it on but they clsoed down the website awhile ago. NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!
HAHAHAHA!! My foolish younger self once tried smoking peanut skins (it was the skins, not the shells). Yummy peanutty headache!
ahh... the anarchists cookbook. is that thing still in press? there are soooo many things wrong with that book. i remember when i was in high school a bunch of football-jock-types got busted for smoking banana peels out in the woods. it made the front page of all the local papers. i think the AC cited "banadine" as the active ingredient :)
_soapy_ t_klun6 years ago
Careful with that. A kid in the UK is currently on bail for terrorism offences. The offence was possession of one of these anarchists cookbooks! Yes, free speech is dead! Long live the Government, they are all knowing and good! (Can I still say that without fear of arrest?)
Big Brother is watching you O.o (no not Divina...)
pyro13 msnthrop5 years ago
Haha thats great. Catnip oil works though doesn't it?
I've eaten catnip. It grows wild around where I live. To me as a human it tastes just like plain old mint. My kitty's not a big nip fan in the first place so she doesn't really go for it.
We have Catnip growing wild here too. I've made catnip tea and drank it, not bad. The cats were very affectionate. ;) The cats also like it when we dehydrate the catnip. If you do this too, don't leave it in bags where the cats can reach it, put it in jars or put the bags out of reach.
I bought a pack of "ecstasy" cigarettes one time and it was mostly catnip(and some lettuce among other things) and all it did to me was leave a bad taste in my mouth.
In about 1970 or so some kids in my hometown (mostly under 15) discovered they could put catnip oil on cigarettes, smoke it, and hallucinate. This went on for about a month until the health food store there found out why they were suddenly selling so much of the oil and took it off the market.
Berkin5 years ago
OMG, I HAVE to try this!!! Where do you get tolulene?!?!?!?!?!?!?
Hardware store.
Meroki5 years ago
so u basically made crack for furries xD does it make humans hyper as well?
actually catnip is a slight sedative for humans. As far as I have noticed my cat always crashes shortly after actually eating much of the stuff.
oh o.o
I am so glad you posted this article. As the Manufacturer of Bella Mira Essential Oils, (the Largest Selection and Highest Quality Available, Guaranteed) You have proven what I tell people everyday. Most essential oils are adulterated or use chemicals to extract them. How sad that you would use Toluene to extract a chemical meant for cats. Cats cannot handle chemicals (metabolize or break them down), even in the smallest amounts and anyone who uses enough of this chemical will possibly harm or kill their cats. This is why Vets (including myself) are so careful about what they prescribe for pets. It should also be noted for those who aren't' chemists, when the author says organic, he means in the chemical form, not organic as in USDA Organic etc.. Now, lets talk essential oil. If you got pure essential oil. It would be so potent every cat would run the other way if you opened the bottle. You would have to put say one drop on the carpet and after the scent really faded the cats would then be attracted to it. Cats hate strong smells. Cats also like oregano, nutmeg and evergreen tree essential oils more. Please just use regular organic catnip for your cats. If you really want to drive them crazy try mixing in a small amount of other herbs or teas until you find the perfect one for your cat. All cats are different, about 40% hate catnip anyway. Who needs all the hassle, it's not worth the risk.
is there any toulene left in it? like acetone or any other solvent, won't it just evaporate? I suppose you could light a match over it after it is dry. If it burns, it needs to evaporate more.
Got to agree with your assesment on the organic catnip: there has to be residual toluene in there, which I wouldn't give to my cat. However, you might try harder to resist the urge to plug the ol' website, tho. Seems cheap.
I wasn't plugging the ol website because I need to. i have over 2 million readers per day. But because it is the only place that you can get a real good explanation of what I was trying to explain. I post in Instructables all the time and this was the first time i listed it. Because I totally agree it is cheap. There is no toluene in catnip it's only left in the oil when you chemically distill it like in this article.
bowmaster5 years ago
Best idea ever!! Get a small (tiny) glass bottle and take it to the kitty pound. Smash it where no one will see. Instant Kitty madness.
posie785 years ago
I would not ever put that substance anywhere near my cat. Toluene? You've got to be kidding. I'll stick with Alaskan catnip, thanks.
shamansmith5 years ago
is this the plants essential oil or is it just "A"oil in the plant?
Real essential oils are just steam distilled plant leaves, flowers etc.. So it is just the oil in the plant. hope that help.
CarStalkerZ5 years ago
aww i wanted my own little kitty army
mondostud7 years ago
Would there be an advantage to using diethyl ether? If so, what? Any drawbacks?
talbotron22 (author)  mondostud7 years ago
Diethyl ether would be my first choice doing this in a real lab. I used it the first time I did this as a proof of principle, and it worked just as well. It's way more volatile than toluene, so it'll evaporate in just a few minutes whereas toluene takes overnight. The drawbacks are that you can't get pure ether from the hardware store; I think the best you can do is a can of starter fluid from an automotive store, which is mostly ether.
mmt talbotron227 years ago
As the nalgene degrades, is there any risk of it entering you're drinking water?
Yes, Nalgene can leak chemicals into your liquid beverages. Don't be wasteful! Nalgene is incredibly difficult to recycle. Please re-use your nalgene bottles. Plastics typically only leach into liquids. Your old nalgenes can be reserviced as travelling or storage containers for dried rice, dry pasta, crackers-- what have you.
laernmoer mmt7 years ago
Don't re-use the nalgene if you're worried about that. They're cheap nowadays, just go get a new one.
To get the close to pure Diethyl Ether you would want to mix the starter fluid with distilled water(1:1) in a separatory funnel and letting sit in the fridge or cold room overnight. The Ether made is reason enough to take the extra step and buy a sep-funnel.
P.S. - Kudos to having such a great project, I had at one time wanted to extract nepetalactone but never really got to it, though with all the thought taken out of it, I will definitely extract some and stone my cats. P.P.S. - What would the estimated purity of tetrahydrocannabinol and the other active ingredients if extracted with this method? If you used a strain like White Widow I imagine that the purity would be quite high (pun intended) due to the crystalline coating of the buds, leaves and stems.
I've used White Widow marijuana for supercritical butane extraction and it produces the.finest hash oil known to man. It is relatively easy to do, requires a small PVC pipe that you modify to accommodate the tip of the butane bottle. I just went ahead and purchased mine already constructed.

Important!: I do my butane THC extractions into a bowl of water, instead of onto a plate. The water helps purify my end product which I scrape off the surface of the water with an old credit card. Impurities and toxins fall to the bottom while all potent oils stay on top of the water, awaiting your collection.

Toluene? No way! I've used Everclear to extract THC prior to using butane and it's almost as good as supercritical butane extraction. Since you want to use a solvent with little to no water for best results, simply boil your Everclear and herb in a pot 'inside another pot' of water (simple double boiler to protect the Everclear from getting too hot and combusting). Boil it for three-four hours and then strain it through coffee filters onto a plate or glass cooking dish that you will evaporate the solvent from. Use a hairdryer to gently move the Everclear around the glass pan (carefully!) and it will evap off the Everclear within minutes. Scrape & Enjoy. This will strip off all essential oils from most plants, including cannabis.

For more on how to build a simple supercritical butane extractor go here:

To buy one already constructed for just a few bucks (recommended) try here:

For a complete guide on this form of plant oil extraction, this is well written:

Hope this helps and don't forget to always grind your plant matter into bone dry powder for the best yields in your extractions.


PS: If you're hellbent on using either, don't use starting fluid unless you know how to separate the ether from the other compounds in starting fluid. I've pulled straight ether out by taking a can and spraying it into a jar filled halfway with tap water. Shake vigorously for several minutes. The water and ether layers will then separate easily.
I suspect this wouldn't work to extract THC. My impression is that steam distillation only works on chemicals that have a relatively low boiling point. Pure THC boils way above 200 C (according to my trusty Merck index), so it would probably just sit and stare if you put it through this process. Alcohol, on the other hand, should distill just fine using the same catnip contraption. I've never actually made moonshine, so I don't know the nitty gritty, but at the least you could distill some crude alcohol away from all the yeast and sugar in the fermentation broth.
THC dissolves very well in lipids. So if one were to heat the source in an oil of some sort that might be the first step to extracting it from plant matter.
you mean like, say... butter? maybe have some brownie mix lying around? ;)
epa mondostud6 years ago
well, fwiw, this is from the EPA's website under info re: toluene. i know that as a former environmental litigator, many Superfund sites were slated for cleanup because of very few parts per billion in groundwater. the EPA info begins:

"Toluene is added to gasoline, used to produce benzene, and used as a solvent. Exposed to toluene may occur from breathing ambient or indoor air. The central nervous system (CNS) is the primary target organ for toluene toxicity in both humans and animals for acute (short-term) and chronic (long-term) exposures. CNS dysfunction and narcosis have been frequently observed in humans acutely exposed to toluene by inhalation; symptoms include fatigue, sleepiness, headaches, and nausea. CNS depression has been reported to occur in chronic abusers exposed to high levels of toluene. Chronic inhalation exposure of humans to toluene also causes irritation of the upper respiratory tract and eyes, sore throat, dizziness, and headache. Human studies have reported developmental effects, such as CNS dysfunction, attention deficits, and minor craniofacial and limb anomalies, in the children of pregnant women exposed to toluene or mixed solvents by inhalation. Reproductive effects, including an association between exposure to toluene and an increased incidence of spontaneous abortions, have also been noted...."
winky42 epa6 years ago
Speaking as a former chemist, I would also encourage any men to use caution when working with toluene. I was always taught that toluene is bad for a guy's little swimmers, if the stories are true. Otherwise here's the MSDS info on this subject, which jives with what EPA says

I also like the ether option though my preference would be towards using ethyl acetate as the extraction agent. It isn't as high boiling, as biochemically dangerous or as water-soluable as toluene.

The other mentioned option, diethyl ether, is more flammable and lower boiling. It can also overwhelm a person easily if used in a confined space. Caution. Caution. Caution.
i am gonna become a cat drug lord.
is too much poisons
yoshine6 years ago
the word drugs comes to mind though...
Sandisk1duo6 years ago
careful, your cat may become an addict
Earl_Grey6 years ago
Just for ones notes: Magnesium Sulphate is freely available as Epsom Salts all over the place but needs to be 'dried' first by putting into an oven or microwave. (NB - Not good for drying acetone!) IF you used activated charcoal ( a little) you can remove all colour from your extract.
What about extracting directly into a solvent??
PoisonedV6 years ago
This is sweet, some chemistry that isn't pyrotechnics... I am all for pyrotechnics, but hey, I wanted to use the distiller that came in my glassware set!
I know what mean fire is sweet and all but but all that glass seemed to getting lonely .
deth2all6 years ago
have you tried any? any effects??????
i grew some catnip once. one of my cats LOVED it and one hated it. cool project, though!
u could like load a bowl and put the catnip stuff n there n smoke it........
after reading most of the comments, I am disgusted by how argumentative people are. great instructable, too bad people try to ruin it by arguing. I don't care who's right about how dangerous Toluene is, people shouldn't attack other people on a personal level.
Kelani7 years ago
Hm, while reading this Instructable, my cat (Swipe, the 6 1/2 toed demon) jumped on my desk, yowled insistently, pawed my screen then stared at me. As this has never happened before, I'm taking that as a hint...
Do wat the Meow says and no one gets hurt :3
ha... cats are taking over the world!!!
diylyhbilly6 years ago
Nice instruct inuff about solvents o.k. Theres something everyone missed catnip when made as a tea infusion and ingested by humans makes us sleepy. Also once you make the catnip extract put it on a non porus item hang it up on something WILL keep those flying bitting insects far away from you. nitey night don't let the bed bugs bite!
Why not just buy the 80% oil and refine that? Wouldn't it be simpler and more cost effective?
Columbo7 years ago
The lactone compound in catnip is, I presume, chemically similar to the active lactones found in the so-called "kava kava" herb. Which in turn is somewhat similar to another highly restricted lactone compound (gamma hyroxy butyrolactone) popular amongst some of the youth of our day as an intoxicant. The latter compound is dangerous and not recommended, but the former two are pretty mild. I tried to get a "boost" off catnip a long time ago, back in the early 70's when I was a boy. And a tea made from the stuff was mildly relaxing, but at the end of the day it wasn't really worth the trouble. Kava is much more effective, but that's been banned in a lot of areas due to allegations about possible liver toxicity. The banana peel hoax was real...I can attest to this. That stupid "anarchist’s cookbook" back then had everyone believing they were going to get high off "Mellow Yellow", ala Donovan's parody song about the phenomenon. But NOTHING was worse than inhaling burning peanut shells...that one was quite literally for the birds.
my cat Chucky is a hhhuuuuuggggeeeeeee spaz i cant amagine what hed be like with this. ither rrrrrreeeaaaaalllllllyyyyy high (slow), Or rrrreeeeeeeaaaaaalllllyyyyyyyy tripped out (spazing) but either way im sure it'd be funny.0_o
ItsTheHobbs7 years ago
lol, im gona keep a bottle o this in mi room and in also gona make som and giv it to my frend. mi cats are gona luv mi room............. cant wait to try!!!
How about distilling the catnip oil you got online?
MER CAT ARMY!!! love love love it
justan7 years ago
i found twas easier, instead of pouring off melted ice, just to use a sponge. [totally enjoyed this btw]
HOMEPIE647 years ago
2 things 1this reminds me of that movie where these 2 scientists a guy and a girl make this soulution that when rubbed on lips makes the other sex want them and they used it on a monkey and another monkey jumped through the wall and started humping the cage after said monkey screeched 2 Does anyone think this would be good for training cats or would they just spaz around rubbing and scratching????
awesome project, btw. i will start amassing cats for my army. then we'll see who's first up against the wall when the revolution comes.
jrigby7 years ago
very nice piece of work! reminds me of an old boyscout trick i learned once upon a time. imagine you're in a gilligan's island type of situation; shipwrecked with no fresh water to drink. you can make a solar powered desalinizer using a coconut, saran wrap (or a leaf) and pebble. stick a small cup on the bottom of the coconut, surround with saltwater, put the plastic wrap on top, then center the pebble over the cup. stick it in the sun for a while and voila, fresh water condenses. pardon the MS paint graphic
C:\Documents and Settings\group\Desktop\coconut2.png
talbotron22 (author)  jrigby7 years ago
We must have read the same boyscout manual, because that's what gave me the idea for the upside-down lid condenser. I fiddled with the pebble/plastic wrap combination first, but air cooling is really inefficient. So I switched to a glass lid with ice... 10x faster.

There's other clever plans for solar powered saltwater (or god forbid, urine) distillers out there too. One of my favorites uses a 2 L soda bottle painted black as a means to vaporize the water. A sketch below borrowed from this site. Can't get much simpler than coke bottles, eh?

Funny coincidence, I got a topical piece of advertising from Buchi last week (manufacturer of laboratory rotary evaporators). They're celebrating the 50th anniversary of their first commercial rotovap, and have an interesting discussion about the history of distillation here

Apparently, the notion of distilling really took off 2,500 years ago when ancient Greek sailors noticed that the water dripping down from the masts and sails on their boats was freshwater. A lightbulb went off and the first still was born (using a clay bowl and a piece of wool as a condenser).
There's other clever plans for solar powered saltwater (or god forbid, urine) distillers

oh, that's an image.

here's hoping i never find myself pissing into a black soda bottle. talk about survival tactics.
Chrislee7 years ago
Great instructable and oh yes, magnesium sulfate is epsom salts (but I can't remember if they're cooked in the microwave or not).
montdor17 years ago
I have to add a medicine, so forgive me. But sudafed? I do not like it. But if I had bad allergies, I probably would put up with it. Why phenephrine, a more dangerous (induces more heart attacks), crude drug as substitute? How can a whole country of pseudoephedrine users, obviously highly effective, let our state (NY) do this? Where are the drug companies. Changing formulations must have cost quite a bit. It all makes no difference. Ah, Ephedra. Asthmatics take ephedrine in Bronkaid (tm) and other, similar OTC medicine daily. Some feel ephedrine, qualitatively, like amphetamine (it is the mirror image of that molecule (l-amphetamine or d-amphetamine equals ephedrine, I guess. I'm not a chemist.) Cyclizine and meclyzine. Both are potent anti-pychotic meds and if used for a long time can cause facial tics. This drug is used like diphendramine, diphendrimate and prescription scopalamine -- for quesiness (sp?). (Bonine. Dramamine. Read the ingredients. Buy or borrow a PDR (Physician's Desk Reference) to give ballpark dosing info. How many people can make ginormous quantities of amphetamine using pseudophed? Exactly zero, without getting caught. And I"m told the reaction does not work in small, personal use batches (maybe, maybe not). A hint: sodium hydroiodide is a common chemical one can get from any chemical supply house. Government frowns upon this chemical. (Even though time-honored, imp't things can be taught to H.S. chem students with it.) 'nuff said -- pass the mexican vanilla please.
insxid7 years ago
wow, was drawn to this from the term "kitty crack" thought it would be a funny joke post...since it ain't, this maybe a cute chem experiment, but to actually test it on a cat is irresponsible even if the chance of harm may be minuscule. If y'all really feel the need to create this & truly feel its safe, then I'm sure you wouldn't bat an eyelash to test it on yourselves of hands?
bervinator7 years ago
I need to say that I checked this out because my son's cat loves catnip and I laugh really hard when he is on it so I thought Super nip would be great. I am a hardcore engineer and college professor and I am amazed with the CHem. talk. You guys make me feel really out of the science community. I thought freezing my homemade beer to get it clear was a great thing. I am going to investigate this process and see where I go with it. Thanks for posting these comments it is interesting.
'you ARE really out of the science community. obviously, not too many chem majors out there. the BEST solvent is ethyl acetate. somewhere around .003% evaporative residue, and a relatively low flashpoint (lower than than those of the solvents in this "instructable". newbies: use everclear. close enough, but more work, watch out for blowing yourself up. hard to do, but not impossible. people not prone to living short lifespans: you can do very fast evaporative processes on a hotplate or electric range w/out killing everything you know. watch your spark vectors and don't be stupid. why anyone would attempt this with ether is beyond me, as ether has an ugly tendency to EXPLODE. And is very greasy and tends to stick to things. lots is left behind anyway when evaporating stuff (maybe 40x ethyl acetate)...and to all you wannabe meth "cooks": please don't blow stuff up. like the city block i live on.
brodie7 years ago
Very nice!! Now i just need to start my cat army to fight off yours!
Would this work with marijuana?
What would be the point? Nowadays it's strong enough to where you wouldn't need to make it more potent.
that's actually mostly hogwash. there have been a lot of 'heirloom' strains lost since back in the day due to the gub'ment destroying crops.
Maybe. But fat/oil extraction is a much better bet.
andross rarcke7 years ago
supercritical butane extraction is probably the best.
I don't see why it wouldn't. Steam distillation works with most plants to release the essential oils, but honestly, you'd be better off not wasting that much money/pot/time. Besides, cannabis won't get you a cat army.
Freedster7 years ago
Thanks for the instructible. Wouldn't it be less work to do one of the following: 1) Skip the distallation and water removal processes entirely and just make your slurry by putting the catnip directly in a gallon of toluene? 2) Buy commercially produced catnip oil and extract the nepetalactone from it? Thanks! - Freed
At Liberty7 years ago
"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?"

Okay, I dunno about all y'all...but my cat gets insistent enough with freakin' Pounce Treats...I'm not sure I can handle the feline equivalent of, "aw, man, ya got the s***? I really need some nip bad, man. You got a little? Just a little? I'll do watcha want...anything....pleeeease, just hook me up widda little nip..."
nigtv7 years ago
why did you leave it in that vial? with such a small amount, why not put it into a glass baking pan, say 8" x 12" x 3" or w.e, and leave it out in the sun, and then take a razor blade and scrape it all up...thats the easiest way to do it, if you keep the liquid depth to under 1/4" then it will usually evaporate in under 2 hours :)
John Smith7 years ago
What if you just evaporated the toulene in step 9, and kept that? It would still work just as well, if a little less, right? I just dont think I want something so small; I'd rather have more of something less pure.
By "that" I meant what was left after evaporation.
dchall87 years ago
Before you throw away all that water (hydrosol) in your purification process, you should have your cat do a quality check on it. It may contain substantial amounts of essential catnip oils. What would happen if you put your first distillate into the freezer to freeze the water? Could you then pour off the oil and leave the frozen water?
Idosci dchall87 years ago
Freezing probably wouldn't work. The oil prefers to dissolve in the organic solvent, but when an organic solvent is not present the oil remains dissolved in the water.
talbotron22 (author)  Idosci7 years ago
I'm curious if you have any idea what concentration of an essential oil it takes in order for it to separate from steam distillate without solvent extraction. My original hope in this project is that the nepetalactone would separate out from the water of its own accord, and you would be able remove it directly. But it seems just too dilute to do so. I'm wonder how this differs with oils from other plants (lavender, etc).
I can just see the cops trying to figure this one out when they bust in thinking it's a meth lab. lol
the last picture makes it all worthwhile!
Fenwick7 years ago
I can just imagine the side effects of drinking those shot glasses >.>
jcampbell7 years ago
This is one of the best Instructables I've seen. Bravo!
Mitten7 years ago
Thats a lot of work for such a small amount... Or could you try and "steep" the catnip directly in the toluene Don't get me wrong, you really did your research on this, but it seems very inefficient.
talbotron22 (author)  Mitten7 years ago
It's true, you could definitely do a crude catnip extraction just by soaking the plant matter in toluene overnight, filtering, then evaporating (or a butane extraction as suggested below). An even fancier way would be to use supercritical carbon dioxide.

The problem with that is that you would also pull out a lot of other random organic compounds like fatty acids, lipoproteins, etc, and there would be no simple way to separate those. Your extract would contain some nepetalactone, but a lot of other junk as well. I'd be curious to actually do the experiment and check the purity of what comes out.

The nice thing about the steam distillation is that it very specifically separates the volatile oils, leaving everything else behind. That's how you get 99% pure product.
An even fancier way would be to use supercritical carbon dioxide.

Holy crap... You're the second person that has mentioned that within a few days!

Now, if only I could find a CO2 critical point dryer... Then we can start making aerogel :)
talbotron22 (author)  trebuchet037 years ago
Here's an interesting article that answers all of the above. These folks did a quick and dirty extraction of catnip with ether. From 10g of plant material they got out 3.35g of stuff, which they say had to be further cleaned up by column chromatography in order to get nepetalactone. Just to do some rough math, assuming most catnip has 0.3% nepetalactone by weight, their primary extract contained at most 0.03g of nepetalactone. So that's about 1% purity.

Another extraction using supercritical carbon dioxide gave material that was 6% pure nepetalactone (again using my rough calculations).
Thanks for the link :) So it seems that SC CO2 extraction would give you a greater % yield -- less pure. But the method outlined here is significantly more pure at a low yield? I probably should have mentioned the other day.... I was the guy that sat next to you at the A's/Red Sox game :)
does catnip have any effects on humans?
are fatty acids and lipoproteins toluene solulable ?
asscore7 years ago
You could probably get a better yield using the supercritical fluid extraction technique with iso butane.
Vendigroth7 years ago
is nepetalactone a ketone? i spose it is, 'cos it's got an oxygen atom double-bonded on, but please clarify this because my chemistry's decidedly haphazard. All i need now is a cat!
i thought it was because the -one ending, but i looked it up and apparently its a "lactone"
A ketone contains only the -(C=O)- functional group.

An ester contains the -(C=O)O- group, but if this group is also part of a closed ring then you have a lactone. As a consequence, you want to avoid adding acids or (even worse) strong bases, since those will serve as catalysts for hydrolysis of the ester group, and lower your overall yield. That's why you should use baking soda or calcium carbonate to neutralize the acid impurites, and not lye.

Also, for the clarification step: In a chemistry lab, we would use 'anhydrous magnesium sulfate. Epsom salts are already hydrated and might be slightly more effective than table salt, but you would be better off using an anhydrous sulfate like plaster of paris as a drying agent.
And it's not just a lactone either, you have the enol-functionality too. Who's rules are they for ring closure (I forget...) L
lemonie lemonie7 years ago
Balwin's rules. Baldwin, J.E.; J. Chem. Soc. Chem. Comm. ; 734 ( 1976 )
I would assume you have similar rules to forming hemiacetals and hemiketals--five and six membered rings tend to be more stable than larger or smaller rings.
ketones have an R group on each side of the (C=O), i know what you mean but you left that out

strong bases would also leach silicates out of the glassware

we used table salt added to the extraction step to decrease the solubility of the organic product in water to aid in seperation, you would still need to dry with the MgSO4
John Smith7 years ago
Could you just use the catnip smelling water, too? Just after it was condesned in the pot? Also, is there any other solvents that will work instead of toulene? Acetone?
John Smith7 years ago
I'm thinking about making a lot of it, and smearing it on a rottweiler. Any suggestions?
cavalaxis7 years ago
Would it be possible to use this steam distillation technique to extract other essential oils? Like lavender or spearmint? Or is this process specific to catnip?
Yes you can. Here's a link to some more info.

Thank you! I'm also curious about your "cracking" idea. "Cracking" is the process of taking fermented cider and freezing them (long New England winters make for creative brewers apparently), leaving only the liquid alcohol behind. I'm not sure about using the same process to extract oil, tho'.
Man, everything about this instructable is bad-ass! It's humorous, has great instructions and I love the fact that all the equipment is improvised at need for a chem lab. Also, the GC analysis and the photos of an obviously intoxicated kitty are the icing on the cake...great proof of concept. One thing that lingers in my mind, however, is what are those impurities in your final product? Could it be byproducts of a toluene + polypropylene/polyvinyl (or whatever the nalgene is made of) reaction? And could this be potential harmful (perhaps carcinogenic) to kitty even in very minute quantities? Why not just eliminate the potential for harmful byproducts and use a glass mason jar instead? From what you said about the nalgene not being the same afterwards, it sounds like there is definitely a reaction occuring. And it might not be moral or responsible to let kitty sniff it unless you can definitively indentify those other compounds as non-toxic. And one more you think you could isolate tetrahydrocannibinol from cannibis plants using this method? I'm wondering how you could "clean" an extract that was made by soaking cannibis in pure ethanol for a long time, so there are less impurities (such as chlorophyll)?
talbotron22 (author)  climber_geek7 years ago
Well... the topic of carcinogens coming out of naglene is a can of worms I don't want to get in to. My $0.02 is that polycarbonate is generally pretty robust and concerns about nasties leaching out of it tend to get blown out of proportion. See also: nutrasweet and cell phones causing brain cancer.

At the risk of sounding defensive, I'll reiterate that the product from this procedure is extremely pure. The only other minor peak (<1%) in the GC/MS, the little bump at 11.6 min, also has molecular weight of 166, meaning it's an isomer of nepetalactone (the cis-trans isomer to be specific). It's also observed in the commercial sample of catnip oil.

You're right, a way to avoid these matters entirely would be to use glass, and a mason jar would be great. If I was doing this in a lab I would use a specific piece of equipment called a separatory funnel, which has a tap on the bottom and makes it easy to separate biphasic liquid mixtures.
lemonie7 years ago
Good practical techniques. What's the availability of ethyl acetate like (as in nail varnish remover)? I'd much prefer it to toluene. Also, being volatile, how much lactone do you think is lost in the evaporation step? 0.03% to 0.3% is an order of magnitude, the phrase 'not far off' is being stretched quite a bit. L
I started reading this thinking you were gonna figure out a way to harness what makes cats like it to make us like it as well... Either way, this seems cool enough.
Put a little dab of this on you, and the cat will like you plenty. Once, I drank some catnip tea and had my roommate's cat fascinated by the scent of my breath. I ended up having to brush my teeth after the cat tried to stick its head in my mouth.
25Kilovolt7 years ago
wouldn't an instructables nalgene be awsome
You mean like this one? We gave a couple of these away as prizes for the Homemade Gift Contest.
wesc7 years ago
phaedrus wesc7 years ago
Titles are everything. Can you rename this? Call it DIY Kitty Hash and it'll get diggs :)
MadScott7 years ago
Great intro to steam distillation/volatile extraction and if you find cats with opposable thumbs you'll be unstoppable! One comment though: Toluene is not quite as safe as the article implies -- good ventilation is a must.
cool isolation and extraction. i got a couple questions wouldnt adding the salt to step 9 allow you to seperate out the organic layer easier? and you have access to a GC/MS but not a distillation kit or any magnessium sulfate? :( adding to the "DYI at Home" theme would be to use paper layer chromatography,TLC or rigging up a simple column chromatography, but that would probably be an instructable in its self.
Ushanka7 years ago

"Because nepetalactone is volatile and will degrade over time, cat owners should store catnip in a freezer to preserve its potency."

Just a tip.
a tip for the toluene layer extraction: if you have a cup with a distinct low point in the middle at the bottom use this (preferably see-through too), and then remove the bottom layer rather than the top. it's much easier to get all of one layer this way than the way described. Otherwise, i really liked the setup you had, very nifty!
canida7 years ago
I'm definitely going to have to try this- I love that you gave directions with things I can find at home! But where will I find a cat? Any volunteers?
i don't suppose you could do a butane extraction?
mikesty7 years ago
Meow! This reminds me of the movie Perfume, except with people there instead of cats.