- Nepeta cataria L.
- Mint family
Parts Usually Used
Leaves, fresh or dried
Description of Plant(s) and Culture
Catnip is a perennial herb of the mint family. Its erect, square,
branching stem is hairy and grows from 3-5 feet high. The oblong or
cordate, pointed leaves have scalloped edges and gray or whitish hairs
on the lower side. The bilabiate flowers are white with purple spots
and grow in spikes; these are small and hooded, and grow in crowded
whorls from June to September. The plant has a pleasant, aromatic
Found in disturbed habitats throughout much of North America. Native
to Europe. Common inhabitant of hedges and waste places.
Anodyne, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac (for cats), aromatic, carminative,
diaphoretic, nervine, emmenagogue, sedative (for humans), stimulant,
Acetic acid, biotin, buteric acid, choline, citral, dipentene, inositol,
lifronella, limonene, manganese, nepetalic acid, volatile oils, PABA,
phosphorus, sodium, sulfur, valeric acid, and vitamins A, B1, B2,
B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12.
Legends, Myths and Stories
Good-tasting aromatic tea. Old country favorite in England even before
oriental tea was introduced there. High in vitamin C. Stimulates the
appetite if served cold before meals; aids digestion if served hot
after meals. Hot tea also makes a soothing nightcap.
Catnip has been used since Biblical times as a tea; it has a calming
effect on humans. It's extremely exciting and attractive to cats,
who are apt to romp in and tear up the plants, which does not effect
From an English herbalist comes the sobering advice that the root
of catnip "when chewed is said to make the most gentle person fierce
and quarrelsome, and there is a legend of a certain hangman who could
never screw up his courage to the point of hanging anybody till he
had partaken of it".
In Colonial times, catnip tea was much used as a substitute for hard-to-get
chamomile flowers. Catnip grew like weeds wherever the pioneers lived.
Like chamomile, the warm tea was used for infants and children to
soothe their stomach (simple colic) and help them sleep. Catnip tea
is still very popular among folks living in isolated communities in
the Cumberland Mountains, Kentucky and the Ozarks.
Rats are said to be repelled by catnip; so it might be a suitable
protective plant around grain crops. In fact, The Herbalist Almanac
tells of catnip growing around buildings of old farms because of an
old belief that the odor of this plant drove off rats. The plants
were set as a barricade around the buildings.
One beekeeper is sold on catnip; claims catnip yields considerable
honey. If there is any plant that should be cultivated specially for
honey it should be catnip he declares.
Catnip is one of the oldest household remedies.
Controls fever (catnip enemas
reduce fever quickly). Good for colic,
leaves chewed to relieve toothache,
and convulsions. Stimulates
the appetite. Aids digestion
and sleep. Relieves stress,
promotes sweating, relieves painful
menstruation, used to promote menstruation. Popular uses in Europe
are for chronic bronchitis
and for diarrhea.
A tbsp. steeped in a pint of water and used as an enema is soothing
and quieting, especially in children, and very effective in convulsions,
and for expelling worms in children.
Leaves bruised and applied to hemorrhoids
eases the pain.
Formulas or Dosages
Never boil catnip.
Infusion: use 1 tsp. herb with 1 cup boiling water. Steep
only; do not allow to boil. Take 1-2 cups a day.
Tincture: take 1/2 to 1 tsp. at a time.
Vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B9, and B12 and C.
Capsules: take 1 to 3 daily.
Extract: mix 1/2 to 1 tsp. in 1/2 cup warm water and drink
as a tea.