Catnip Benefits

Catnip
Latin Name

Nepeta cataria

Also Known As

Catnep, Catrup, Catmint, Catswort, Field Balm, Nep, Herb Catta

Origin

Europe

Parts Used

Aerial parts

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Catnip is famous for inducing an almost drug like stupor in cats. It is thought that this herb’s ability to produce an almost euphoric state in cats is be due to the phytochemical “nepetalacatone”, a substance that also contributes to its sedative effect upon humans.

Known as “catmint” or “nep” in the Middle Ages  both people and cats loved Catnip, using it in herbal medicines formulated to treat intestinal cramps, indigestion, to cause sweating, induce menstruation, as a sedative, and to increase appetite.

Catnip Benefits

Digestive System

Catnip is particularly effective in aiding digestive issues, especially constipation, excess flatulence, cramping, and bloating. Catnip is a carminative, helping to remove air stuck in the intestines by pushing it downwards until it’s expelled from the body. The relaxing, anti-inflammatory effects of Catnip's organic compounds can ease the knots and inflammation of the gastrointestinal system and relieve tightness and discomfort.

Insomnia

Catnip is so safe it is a long standing remedy for irritability and restless sleep in toddlers and babies. The sedative nature of this wonderfully calming herb helps to induce a fitful and restful sleep, making Catnip the go to remedy for insomnia or other sleep related problems. The phytochemical "nepetalactone", responsible for its effect on cats, also contributes to its sedative effect on humans. 

Anxiety/Stress

The active components of Catnip are "iridoid glycosides", which are thought to contribute to this herb's anxiolytic and sedative effects. Used by herbalists for centuries to treat anxiety and other nervous disorders, it works particularly well against tension headaches and can induce a sense of relaxation, triggering relief from stress and anxiety.

Fevers/Colds

Fevers are usually regarded as a symptom of an acute infection or underlying illness. In response, the body raises its temperature in order to stimulate the immune system and speed up detoxification. A fever is the body’s natural defense against infection or illness and having a fever is a good indication that the body’s immune system is taking action. Reducing a fever can actually be counterproductive and may actually increase a cold or virus’s duration. Using herbs to help your body sweat out a fever while supporting and strengthening your immune system will help you get well faster. Catnip is classed as a “diaphoretic” herb, meaning it can induce perspiration without raising body temperature to help break a fever. Drinking it hot as a tea will help enhance its effects.

A hot Catnip infusion works as an excellent antiseptic inhalant and as a remedy for tender throats, coughs, colds and flu, in addition to working as a decongestant to alleviate sinusitis and catarrh as well as relaxing croup and asthma.

Wounds/Burns

Catnip possesses antiseptic attributes which are effective in treating skin infections. This herb contains high levels of tannins which help to accelerate the process of repairing damaged tissues and stop hemorrhages from grazes and cuts. The tannins are also useful in curing burn injuries and scalds, insect bites, piles and skin problems accompanied by inflammations.

Typical Use

Infusion or tea: Steep 1-2 tsp of dried herb for 5-15 min in hot water, in a tea pot. Take 1 oz to 1 cup as needed. Take 3 times per day.

Folklore and History

Nepeta catataria is thought to have taken its name from the Etrurian city of Neptic (today the town Nepi in the province of Viterbo). Although there is no documented evidence, given the Egyptians love of cats, it is highly likely that they were amongst the first people to give Catnip to felines. The Romans also regarded Catnip very highly and used it in their recipes and herbal medicines. Catnip was introduced to America around the 18th century. Settlers took plant cuttings with them for food and medicinal purposes when they traveled to the New World and there is a recipe from Massachusetts 1712 that includes Catnip in the list of ingredients. 

Native Americans also began to use this herb in their medicines and recipes when they came across it. Several Native American tribes used Catnip to treat coughs, colds, pneumonia, sore throats, fevers, and colic. The Mohegan tribes relieved infant colic with a tea made from Catnip leaves.

Catnip
Constituents

Iridoids, tannins, volatile oil (mainly alph- and beta-nepetalactone, citronellol, and geraniol) antioxidants, flavonoids, vitamins C and E, minerals (especially chromium, iron, manganese, potassium, selenium, and cobalt.

Precautions

Do not take during pregnancy.