Biological Name: Nepeta cataria
Labiatae (Mint family)
Other Names: Catmint, catnep, catswort, field balm, Catnip
Parts Used: flowers and leaves
The essential oil in catnip contains a monoterpene similar to the valepotriates found in valerian, an even more widely renowned sedative.
Animal studies (except those involving cats) have found it to increase sleep. The monoterpenes also help with coughs.
Catnip is famous for inducing a delirious, stimulated state in cats.
Throughout history, this herb has been used in humans to produce a sedative effect. From Europe to China, catnip had been used medicinally for at least 2000 years. In teas, its pleasant, lemon-minty vapors were considered a cold and cough remedy, relieving chest congestion and loosening phlegm. Old herbalists also praised its ability to promote sweating, a traditional treatment for fever.
Catnip tea was a regular beverage in England before the introduction of tea from China. Several other conditions (including cancer, toothache, corns, and hives) have been treated with catnip by traditional herbalists.
Catnip also has a long history of use as a tranquilizer, sedative, digestive aid, menstruation promoter, and treatment for menstrual cramps, flatulence, and infant colic.
Equal parts of catnip and saffron were once recommended for smallpox and scarlet fever.
The leaves were also chewed for toothache, smoked to treat bronchitis and asthma!
Colonists introduced catnip into North America. It now grows across the continent. The Indians adopted the herb and used it for indigestion and infant colic and as a beverage.
Early Americans believed that catnip makes even the kindest person mean. It was traditionally used by hangmen prior to execution “to get into the right mood!”
Catnip is used as an tranquilizer, sedative, digestive aid, and treatments for colds, colic, diarrhea, flatulence, and fever. Extract of catnip has been found to be cytotoxic to HELA-S3 cancer cells in cell culture.
Digestive Aid: Catnip may soothe the smooth muscles of the digestive tract (making it an antispasmodic). Have a cup of catnip tea after meals if you are prone to indigestion or heartburn.
Women’s Health: Antispasmodics calm not only the digestive tract but other smooth tracts as well, such as uterus. Catnip’s antispasmodic effect supports its traditional use for relieving menstrual cramps. Catnip is also used as a menstruation promoter. Pregnant women should avoid using this herb.
Tranquilizer: Catnip is a mild tranquilizer and sedative.
Infection Prevention: Catnip has some antibiotic properties. It is used for the treatment of diarrhea and fever.
Catnip is a gray green aromatic perennial that grows to 3 feet and bears all the hallmarks of the mint family, a square stem, fuzzy leaves, and twin-lipped flowers. The oblong or cordate, pointed leaves have scalloped edges and gray or whitish hairs on the lower side. The flowers are white with purple spots and grow in spikes from June to September.
A catnip tea can be made by adding 250 ml (1 cup) of boiling water to 1-2 teaspoons of the herb; cover, then steep for ten to fifteen minutes.
Do not boil catnip. Boiling dissipates its healing oil.
Drink 2-3 cups per day.
For children with coughs, 5 ml of tincture three times per day can be used.
No adverse side effects were reported if used in reasonable quantities or doses. Some people may experience upset stomach. FDA classifies catnip as a drug of “undefined safety”. No significant toxic reactions have ever been reported.