encyclopedia

Catnip

Scientific Names:    

Nepeta cataria L. [Fam. Labiatae]    
    
 
Forms:    
Dried leaves and flowers of catnip used for making infusions and extracts.    

     
Traditional Usage:    

– Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD/ADHD)
– Antispasmodic
– Bronchitis
– Cataract Prevention
– Colds
– Colic
– Corns
– Cramps
– Digestive Disorders
– Fever
– Female Health Maintenance
– Flatulence
– Headaches
– Hives
– Insomnia
– Menstrual Health Maintenance
– Muscle Spasms
– Nerve Health Maintenance
– Nervousness
– Poultice
– Respiratory Health Maintenance
– Restlessness
– Skin Disorders
– Sleep Disorders
– Stomachache
– Toothaches     
     
    
Overview:    

Catnip, Nepeta cataria L. [Fam. Labiatae], also known as Catmint, Catswort, and Field Balm, is a perennial herb common in Europe and North America. The leaves and flowers are medicinal and have a strong odour that attracts cats. The plant is extremely versatile and can be made into tea or can also be chewed, smoked, used as a poultice, and as a spice for food. As a folk medicine, it was used to treat abnormal growths, respiratory conditions, colic, colds, stomach ailments, nervousness, restlessness, corns, hives, and toothaches. Catnip is believed to reduce stomach acid and gas, allay muscle spasms, nervousness, fever, and headaches, and promote perspiration, menstrual flow, and sleep, although there has yet to be any scientific evidence to verify these claims. Dr. James Duke in The Green Pharmacy recommends using catnip for preventing cataracts, as well as for treating amenorrhea and insomnia. Dr. Duke's assertion that catnip may help to prevent the common – and potentially blinding – eye disease of cataracts is speculative, but he believes it is a three-star herb for those at risk and recommends drinking catnip tea daily (or other mint family plants) by using hot tea in the winter and tasty iced catnip tea in summer. He also notes that in addition to helping prevent cataracts, this herb is a mild tranquilizer, so it not only will stop the worry about cataracts but will also reduce worries in general. Foster and Duke (1990) in Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants notes the folk use of catnip for treating bronchitis, diarrhea, fevers, chicken pox and irregular menses. Catnip is also said to promote sweating and alleviate restlessness in children. Studies show that the main aromatic compound, nepetalactone, is a mild sedative, giving credence to the popular use of catnip for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).    
    
     
Active Ingredients:    

Leaves and flowers of catnip contain: volatile oil with the main active compound being nepetalactone (70-99%). Fractionation of a commercial sample of catnip oil by either distillation or gas chromatography yielded 40% nepetalactone and 43% nepetalic acid. Catnip seeds contain: protein (18.4%), fat (21.3%), and 3.2% ash. The fats are comprised of: linolenic (57%), linoleic (18%), oleic acid (12%), and saturated fatty acids (6%). The variety citriodora contains acetic acid, butyric acid, citral, citronellol, dipentene, geraniol, limonene, nerol, tiglic acid, and valeric acid.    
     
    
Suggested Amount:    

Take 2 to 60 drops of extract per day or 2 tablespoons of expressed juice 2 or 3 times per day. For tea, add 1 ounce of dried catnip to 1 pint of boiling water, steep for ten minutes, then strain. Drink 2 to 3 cups per day.    
   
     
Drug Interactions:    

None known.    
     
     
Contraindications:    

Do not use during pregnancy as catnip may induce menstruation.    
     
    
Side Effects:    

None known    
     
    
References:    

Duke, J. 1997: The Green Pharmacy, The Ultimate Compendium of Natural Remedies from the World's Foremost Authority on Healing and Herbs. Pp. 53; 155-158; 362. Rodale Press.
 
Duke JA. 1985. Catnip. In Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, Pp. 325-326.
 
Harney JW, Barofsky IM, Leary JD. 1978. Behavioral and toxicological studies of cyclopentanoid monoterpenes from Nepeta cataria. Lloydia 1978 Jul-Aug; 41(4): 367-74.
 
Hart BL, Leedy MG. 1985. Analysis of the catnip reaction: mediation by olfactory system, not vomeronasal organ. Behav Neural Biol 1985 Jul; 44(1): 38-46.
 
Hatch RC. 1972. Effect of drugs on catnip (Nepeta cataria)-induced pleasure behavior in cats. Am J Vet Res 1972 Jan; 33(1): 143-55.