Nepeta cataria

Also known as catmint.

The catnip plant has an aromatic, characteristic odor, which bears a certain resemblance to that of both Mint and Pennyroyal. It is owing to this scent that it has a strange fascination for cats, who will destroy any plant of it that may happen to be bruised. There is an old saying about this plant:

“If you set it, the cats will eat it. If you sow it, the cats don’t know it.” (From an old English rhyme).

Catnip as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

catnip flowersThis aromatic herb is not just for cats! Herb users have known for centuries that catnip has a lot to offer humans.

A survey of the literature indicates that catnip has been used at one time or another to cure just about every human disorder. Some of its more popular uses in Europe would include curing chronic bronchitis, diarrhea, upset stomachs, infant colic, flatulency, spasms, and “various lower type female disorders”.

Southern Appalachian folk used catnip tea to treat indigestion (Cavender 2003). Catnip was used as a domestic remedy for infant colic, teething, fever, boils, and colds.

Catnip is effective alone or combined in herbal remedies for colds, flu, fevers, upset stomach, childhood illnesses, and insomnia. This herb is particularly good for children with upset stomachs, made into a very mild infusion. The same mild infusion will help colicky babies. Catnip tea has a satisfying, earthy flavor.

Producing free perspiration, it is very useful in colds. Catnip Tea is a valuable drink in cases of fever, because of its action in inducing sleep and producing perspiration. It is good in restlessness, colic, insanity and nervousness.

Old writers recommended a decoction of the herb, sweetened with honey for relieving a cough.

An infusion has been used as a rinse for dandruff and applied to acne as a lotion.

A tea of equal parts Catnip and Saffron was once used for small pox and scarlet fever.

Modern research indicates that catnip is effective for anemia (iron deficiency) and toothaches (Weiner and Weiner 1994). According to the PDR for Herbal Medicines, catnip does have antispasmodic and sedative effects.


The herb should always be infused, boiling will spoil it.

Infusion or tea: Steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried herb for 5 to 15 minutes on hot water. Take 1 ounce to 1 cup as needed.

Culinary Uses of Catnip

In France the leaves and young shoots are used for seasoning, and it is regularly grown amongst kitchen herbs for the purpose.

Catnip was used as a salad green by the Romans.

Euell Gibbons (modern father of natural foods) used to make an after dinner treat of candied catnip leaves by dipping them in beaten egg white and lemon juice, then sprinkling each side with sugar and allowing to dry for a day or two; these were then placed in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.


Some folk names for Catnip include: Catmint, Catnep, Field Balm.

Catnip was once worn as a fertility charm. According to English folklore, 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.”

Use with rose petals in love sachets. Catnip enhances beauty and happiness. Grow it near your home to attract good spirits and great luck.

Catnip Cat Toy

You will need:

  • Thin cardboard
  • Soft pencil
  • Two 5 x 6-1/2-inch rectangles of fabric
  • Sewing thread
  • Dried catnip
  • Small bell

Trace a fish outline onto some thin cardboard and cut out a template. Place the fabric rectangles right sides together. Trace the fish onto the wrong side of one rectangle, remembering to add 1/4-inch seam allowance all around.

Stitch the two shapes together, leaving a small opening for turning. Trim seam, clip curves and turn right side out. Fill with dried catnip and stitch opening closed. Stitch a small bell to the head of the fish.


Generally considered safe and non-toxic, catnip can be taken by most everyone without side effects. The herb may cause mild sedation, however, and should not be taken before driving or operating machinery. Women who are pregnant or nursing should also avoid taking catnip. Use the herb medicinally only under the supervision of a qualified medical or herbal practitioner and do not exceed recommended dosages.

In rare cases, taking catnip herb may cause upset stomach. Decrease dosage or cease using altogether if any unpleasant effects are experienced.

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