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Copyright © 1990 - 2016 by Robert Dale Rogers. All rights reserved.
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(Nepeta cataria L.)


(N. racemosa Lam.)

(N. mussinii)


(N. sibirica L.)


(N. clarkei Hook.)

PARTS USED - leaves, flowers, seeds


I did think it was kind of God to make a special flower for cats.


If you set it, the cats will eat it.

If you sow it, the cats don’t know it.    


Catnip acts in terms of friendship between spirit and body.



Nepeta is the Latin name for the plant, from the town of Nepete, Tuscany.

Cataria may refer to cats from the Latin CATTUS, or may be from Catania, a seaport in Sicily. If you think this a funny name, consider the Latin name before Linnaeus introduced his binomial system, Nepeta floribus interrupte spicatis pendunculatis.

In ancient Egypt, the plant was a symbol of fertility, and associated with the goddesses Bast, the cat, and Sekhmet, the lioness. It was thought Catnip helped women transform into cats at night. The Egyptian goddess Bast is associated with the sun and laughter, music, dancing and protection.

Wild Catnip is naturalized all over North America; a perennial growing up to four feet tall. It probably came as a garden plant with the first European settlers and escaped from there. There is a record of Captain John Mason before 1620, planting catnip as one of 11 herbs he considered essential to a fisherman’s garden in Newfoundland. My surname lineage traces back to the cod fishing servitude and eventual settlement in the now-deserted outport of Grole, Newfoundland.

It grows from spreading roots, or from seeds, and is widely distributed in waste and disturbed soils, with dry conditions, and in deep-shaded woods with rich, fertile soil.

However, it is most fragrant when found growing in sandy soil in full sun.

Various Native tribes soon discovered the virtues of the plant, and added it to their medicine bags. The Cherokee used it as an abortifacient, anthelmintic, anti-convulsive, and cold/cough medicine. For the latter, they combined the herb infusions with honey.

The Chippewa used decoctions of the leaves to lower fever, shared by the Iroquois, who used the herb for diarrhea, fever, and stomachache in children. Some Natives, such as the Shinnecock smoked the dried leaves to help relieve rheumatism.

Some modern Cree healers call the plant Twenty Minute Fever Medicine, due to its quick acting febrifuge activity.

In early English herbals, Gerard wrote, “if women ate it frequently, it taketh away barrenness in them.”

Richard Banckes, a 16th century herbalist added, “Catmint destroyeth a mannes talent/appetyte/or ability to perform with hys yard (penis).”

Culpepper weighed in that, “eaten frequently, it takes away wind, pains of the mother, colds catarrhs, short breath, swimming, or giddiness. Bruised and applied to the anus, and lying there 2-3 hours, it eases the pains of piles.” He advised mixing the herb with animal fat to treat wounds, swellings and abscesses. Rinsing the head with decoctions was good for dandruff and encrusted scalps.

Another old recipe involves boiling catnip until the water turns green, and thickening into a paste with cornmeal or wheat bran. This was applied as poultice, hot as possible to boils, nail wounds and other infected punctures.

An Irish Herbal (1735) by K’Eogh recommended catnip for urination and menstruation, to open blockages of the lungs and womb, and to aid internal bruises and shortness of breath.

The French outlawed it for a number of years, because “if the root of Cat Mint is chewed, the gentlest person will become bellicose and defiant.” It was therefore given to soldiers before battle. The French call it herbe aux chats, the Italians call it erba dei gatti, the Spanish menta de gato, and the Germans call it katzenminze.

Langham recommended catnip tea for bedwetting in children while Jethro Kloss suggested catnip enemas to cause urination when it has stopped (anuria).

Catnip, as a stomach soother, was listed in the US Pharmacopoeia from 1842-1882, and the US National Formulary from 1916 until 1950.

In China, the only person who could legally grow catmint was the hangman, to help him steel his courage for the gruesome task, by chewing the root. The root is not sedative, like the tops, but actually quite stimulating and aggressive.

In past years, the root was put into enemy’s water to cause high anxiety that in turn led to confusion and in-fighting.

Catnip was used in Europe in love sachets, usually with rose petals. If you hold catnip in your hand until warm and then hold another’s hand, they will forever be your friend. Hung over a door, it attracts good spirits and great luck. The large leaves are pressed and used as bookmarks in magical textbooks.

Catnip is planted commercially, and in southern Alberta is processed into essential oil. Producers can expect two to three thousand pounds per acre, perhaps more in intense cultivation with irrigation.

Cats certainly do respond to the plant, as they will to honeysuckle wood and valerian root. The catnip response includes sniffing, licking and chewing, with head shaking, chin and cheek rubbing. And it is not just domestic cats that respond in this manner. Bobcats, lynx, and mountain lions are affected, a fact not lost on Natives trying to trap the animals for furs. Actinicide, an iridoid glycoside, also found in valerian, is believed to cause the stimulating effect on cats.

The effect is not achieved by chewing the plant, but by smelling it. Only about two-thirds of cats respond in this manner due to an inherited autosomal dominant gene. Our now deceased cat, Lunea certainly loved it! Apparently, young cats do not react until they are at least three months old. Ceres, the newest member of our family, went into our essential oil room when four months old and immediately grabbed a 5 ml bottle of catnip in her mouth. This was in a room containing several hundred different bulk essential oils!

One story relates to a young tiger that took a sniff of catnip and leaped a metre into the air. It urinated and fell back flat on its back; got to his feet and ran head first into the cage wall. Remember that for cats, the tops are stimulating and the roots sedative; whereas for humans, the tops are calming and the roots stimulating.

A suspected poisoning of two cats is noted in the literature. Forslund et al, Veterinartidning 2002 54:1.

On the other hands, rats dislike it, and when thickly planted around a granary, or chicken coop, it may help deter them. Even cockroaches are repulsed by nepatalactone, as are spittlebugs and ants. Dr. Eisner, from Cornell University in 1964, drew a circle around a group of ants with a grass rod containing the chemical. The ants refused to cross the barrier.

The herb infusion helps remove scalp dandruff and give a glossy coat to hair.

The leaves and flowers buds can be added to fresh, wild salads, as well as soups and stews in moderate amounts.

Catnip seeds look a lot like poppy, and can be used in the same manner. They add a slightly minty flavour to breads, pastries and muffins.

Catnip repels cabbage pests, aphids, flea beetles, cucumber beetles, squash bugs, and ants if companion planted. Nepetalactone repelled 20 of 27 insects in one study.

Iridoids from Catnip have been used as an herbicide and insecticide. Iridoids are named after the ant genus, Iridomirmex, which uses similar chemicals for self-defence.

It likes the company of ox-eye daisy, and black-eyed susan, but sometimes carries the cucumber mosiac virus.

Rats and mice are equally repelled, so the dried herb can be scattered or put into a sachet to protect your home and properties.

Catnip is notoriously slow to germinate, and can lie dormant for up to three years. Greenhouse germination is at 20-30 degrees Celsius, for two months before transplant to field. Root division produces up to four new plants from a single growth.

Harvest plants when 25% of bloom has turned brown for optimal oil yield. If early enough, a second crop is possible several weeks later, if first cutting is 5-8 inches above crown. Dry yields of 3-5 thousand pounds per acre are normal. Standing in a field of catnip in full bloom is an aromatic adventure!




CONSTITUENTS - N. cataria -deoxyloganic acids (1R,5R,8S,9S), nepetalactone (including epinepeta-lactone, dihydronepatalactone, neo- nepatalactone, and isodihydro-nepatalactone), trans-cis-nepatalactone, acetic acid, citronellal, thymol, pulgeone, butyric acid, citral, dipentene, limonene, lifronella, iridoids, tannin and terpenes, nepetin, nepetrin, nepetalic acid, nepetaside, and iridoids like epideoxyloganic and 7-deoxyloganic acid.

seeds- linolenic, linoleic and oleic acids

N. clarkei - actinidine

Catnip has been used traditionally for a variety of medicinal purposes. The tea is used for headache, stomachache, colic and sleeplessness in children and elderly. The herb is a gentle carminative, soothing the digestive system; relieving flatulence and hiccups.

Like other mints, it both stimulates appetite, before meals and improves digestion, when taken after. And like peppermint, it is both cooling and stimulating.

It combines well with angelica root, caraway and peppermint leaves as a stomach antispasmodic.

Michael Moore suggested using catnip tea for mild gastralgia with a red-tipped tongue.

The fresh leaves can be chewed for headaches, fighting off colds, nervous tension, nightmares and fevers.

It is a gentle remedy for children, and body temperature infused tea, well strained as an enema, is a traditional remedy for severe constipation. The flowering tops may be dried and put in capsules to treat pinworms in children.

It is specific for children’s colic and fever in which the legs are flexed upward.

Herbalists use catnip for chronic bronchitis, anemia, as well as, menstrual and uterine disorders. The herb is dispersive, relaxing, and has a bitter, cool and dry nature.

Boericke wrote in the Eclectic Medical Journal in March 1899.

“Catnip relieves pain and produces sleep. We give it to the colicky baby…In acute coryza or catarrh, bad colds, or la grippe, no remedy surpasses full doses, say ten to twenty drops, in hot water every hour or oftener.”

Catnip’s cool, dry quality is ideally suited externally to painful, hot swellings, mumps, hives and lesions, or to muscular cramping and pain. Inflammation of the stomach, indigestion, and abdominal colic are relieved by the tea, internally at body temperature, and with external application of hot poultices, fomentations, or tincture/water rubs.

For hives, simmer one litre of catnip tea down to one cup and drink when cool.

Painful menstruation, irregular and delayed menstruation, and PMS are all helped by catnip. It may, however, increase menstrual flow in some individuals, and is contraindicated during pregnancy.

Felter, in his Materia Medica wrote. “When marked nervous agitation precedes menstruation in feeble and excitable women and the function is tardy or imperfect, this simple medicine gives great relief.”

One exception may be a warm tea and compress in the case of false labour, or Braxton-Hicks contractions, during the first trimester.

Traditional Chinese Medicine uses N. cataria for hemorrhages, post- natal bleeding, heavy menstruation, colds, measles and nettle rash.

When taken hot, it creates sweating, like all mints. This helps relieve intermittent fevers, congested head and sinuses, wheezing, and chills. It combines well with yarrow, and elderflower for fevers; and with ground ivy for congestive stages; and fireweed for sore throat.

At body temperature, the tea is an effective diuretic, and increases gall bladder activity.

And whereas it appears to excite the nervous system of cats, it actually soothes and relaxes unrest and nervous tension in humans. Its mild sedative effect may be useful in the treatment of ADHD and other hyperactivity disorders in children.

The roots, however, speed up the production of adrenaline in humans and can cause feelings of claustrophobia, hyperventilation and anxiety.

A strong root tincture (see below) can be helpful in those suffering angina pain or even a heart attack in an emergency situation.

In experiments with chickens by Sherry et al, Experientia 1979 low levels made them sleep more, whereas high levels created the opposite effect.

Catnip extracts were found to significantly inhibit coagulase, DNAase, thermonuclease, and lipase activity of methicillin resistant and 43 other strains of Staphylococcus aureus. The enzymes are believed responsible for the pathogenicity. Nostro et al, Int J Antimicrob Agents 2001 18.

Activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa was noted in work by de Billerbed et al, Phytothérapie 2007 5:5. Both S. aureus and Bacillus subtilis show inhibition in a manner similar to streptomycin. Bashir A et al, J Pharm Res 2011 4:9.

Catnip inhibits calcineurin, that regulates T cell mediation of inflammation, suggesting immune modulation, as well as possible herb-drug interaction potential. Prescott et al, Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2011 August 6.

Nepatalactones, one of the main constituents of catnip, possess specific opioid receptor sub-type agonistic activity. Aydin et al, Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacognosy July 1998 gives evidence of catnip’s ability to act on certain receptors in the brain, similar to valerian root.

Catnip contains aldose reductase inhibitors that may help in the treatment or prevention of cataracts. This may be due to the compounds nepetin and nepetrin.

Some individuals enjoy smoking the herb, for its mild euphoric effects. Both the smoked herb and tincture have been used to curb cravings for nicotine; or take the edge off withdrawal from marijuana. An article by Poundstone in 1969 208 JAMA confused catnip and marijuana. Despite 1612 letters to the editor pointing out the error, the retraction did not discourage many readers from lighting up.

The tincture makes a good friction rub for rheumatic and arthritic joints, while an ointment helps treat hemorrhoids. The fresh, green herb is poulticed and applied to painful piles for quick relief.

Clark’s Catnip is a perennial native of Pakistan, and hardy to zone 3. It has beautiful lilac blue flowers with white patches on the lower lip; growing two metres or more.

Catnip is anti-fungal, especially against various Candida microbes. It contains actinidine, a highly active anti-microbial for

Macrophomina phaseolina.

Studies conducted by Saxena et al, at Kumaon University, India in 1996 revealed the presence of actinidine in the above ground plant.

This may be one of the reasons that various Kiwi plant leaves (Actinidia spp.) also stimulate cat response.

Clark’s Catnip contains kirmanoic and kurramanoic acids, both of which are anti-inflammatory, analgesic, as well as CNS sedating and muscle relaxing. Hussain et al, Fitoterapia 2012 Jan 14.

Some natives of California would eat a particular genus of ant live, wrapped in eagle down to induce altered states of consciousness.

The toxin in these ants is nepatalactones. The ants would bite into the stomach lining and introduce the principle directly into the bloodstream. The ritual use of psychoactive ants is similar to Datura ceremonies.

Catnip variation citriodora was added at 10% ratio to rat diets for four hours. This was found to increase penile erections via dopaminergic systems. Bernardi et al, J Ethnopharm 2011 August 5. Relevance to humans is unknown, as are most rat studies.




Nepeta cataria - Catnip is used to break up a cold; for infantile colic, and for hysteria. It helps in cases of nervous headaches, abdominal complaints, pain and flexing of thighs or twisting of body.

DOSE - Mother tincture to 30th potency. Use 5-10 drops of tincture as needed for physical conditions.




CONSTITUENTS - Yield can be up to 0.7%. The main constituents, and perhaps the most important are nepetalactone/nepetalic acid (80-95%), camphor, carophyllene oxide, dihydro-nepetalactone, humulene, thymol, pulegone, citronellal, carvacrol, aldehyde esters, and hydroxylactone.

N. clarkei - actinidine

Nepetalactone is related to repellant secretions from certain types of insects. Work in England is looking at nepatalactones and related molecules as a renewable resource for production of insect semio- chemicals. Lacewings, for example, utilize nepatalactone to locate aphids and other prey. Birkett et al, Phytochemistry 2003 62:5.

The oil is used externally in aromatherapy for its analgesic and anti- spasmodic activity. It combines very well with fennel for colic and stomach ache in children, and for relieving menstrual cramping, and bringing on delayed periods when combined with wild mint.

Work by Gilani et al, J Ethnopharm 121:3 found the oil spasmolytic and myorelaxant, due to inhibition of calcium channels and PDE.

The content of pulegone may contribute to this effect. Flamini et al (Italy 1999) found that the pulgeone content of catnip oil is very antimicrobial against all species of Salmonella.

Catnip oil showed activity against all 11 bacteria and 12 fungi it was tested against. Adiquzel et al, Pol J Microbiol 2009 58:1.

A form of nepetalactone is very similar in chemical molecular structure to valepotriates found in valerian.

Work by Peterson and Coats tested female mosquitoes with nepatalactone and found that after ten minutes, 80% had moved to the untreated side. In lower doses, 75% had moved away. When similar tests were conducted using DEET, a compound found in many commercial insect repellants, ten fold higher concentrations had to be used to obtain similar repellant effect. Pesticide Outlook 2001 12:4.

Catnip essential oil is used in various mosquito repellants. Remember that all cats, including the large, wild ones are attracted!

The essential oil may be effective against various mosquitoes including malaria-carrying Anapheles and Culex species, brown ear tick and red poultry mite. Birkett et al, Phytochem 2011 72:1. The oil is toxic to field mice.

The LD50 of catnip oil is 1300 mg/kg. Remember that catnip oil is heavier than water, if you are attempting to steam distill the plant yourself. This means you need a reverse clavenger to extract from the bottom. How do I know? Live and learn. Birch bark essential oil production requires the same apparatus.




Catnip water is distilled from the leaves in flower. It causes one to sweat and provokes menses. It is combined with wine for vile lust of melancholy. It is recommended for pain in womb from heat or cold, women abiding of their childbearing, evil humors in breast, good for any narrow breast, warms cold kidneys, strengthens sight, stomach and liver diseases, lung conditions, spots on face as a wash and for tertiary fevers.    BRUNSCHWIG




We have two cats. And they love Catnip-anytime, anywhere, and in large handfuls.

But not all cats are attracted- it depends on a genetically inherited tendency.

In humans, catnip can help to induce sleep, but in some people it acts as a stimulant.

It’s hard to believe that one plant can produce such a plethora of effects. But how one responds- or if one responds at all- is so dependent on the individual. Think about the places you have been or have lived. For any given place, some will love it, others will hate it, some will be bored by it, and the rest will have no opinion. Busy cities are believed to be stimulating by some, lonely or dangerous by others.

Some people find positives wherever they go, and their attitude is reflected in the faces of those who call that place home.

Catnip of a kind is offered in many places- it is up to us to choose whether we will delight in it.    G. MOHAMMED

Catnip is a cosmic joker, light-hearted and powerfully charismatic. Catnip enhances the possibilities of the moment, bringing everything into a tingly, brighter, livelier place. It is useful for both ends of the emotional spectrum, depression or hyperactivity as it brings both into an appreciative state.    EVELYN MULDERS

Catnip is for the quiet child who never says anything, internalizes stuff and is closed down. An Irish practitioner notes that it should be thought of for children “when trouble is suspected at home”.          WOOD

When you sprinkle a little bit of dried Catnip around the rooms of your house, your guests will just seem happier, and so will you. Some long lost friends may even show up at your door.   S. GREGG

A recent study showed that if you’re having trouble falling asleep, you should take two teaspoons of catnip in boiling water before going to bed. The only trouble is that instead of falling asleep in front of the TV, you fall asleep on top of the TV.  






The signatures that identify most nerve medicines can be seen in Catnip also. This includes the squared, purple stems, purple flowers, and paired, serrated leaves that indicate the balancing of frayed nerves. The balancing effect is also indicated by the fact that Catnip grows best in a balance of partial sun and partial shade. The cool taste and cool places where it likes to grow in indirect sunlight indicate that it has a cooling effect on fevers.        TIS MAL CROW




Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Here’s an herb to help relax Unless of course you are a cat

If you’re a cat, you’ll get excited Stimulated and ignited

But if you are a human chap Nepeta Cataria will help you nap For a fever, breaks a sweat Helps a tummy that’s upset

For diarrhea in a child

Make flatulence and colic mild Use the leaf and flowering top Spasm of the colon stop

Relax the gut and calm your nerves Insomnia you’re sure to curb

Yes, Catnip, cats go wild for it Yet it’s a tea you’ll want to sip If you’d like to feel sedate

It’s a remedy that’s great!





In Egypt, notably in the worship of the feline-headed goddess Bastet or Bast, cats were benign and sacred creatures. Bastet, originally shown as a lioness, was a tutelary lunar goddess, linked with pleasure, fertility and protective forces. In her honor, cats were venerated and often mummified, along with mice for them to eat.

In iconography, the cat appeared as an ally of the sun, severing the head of the underworld serpent. Cats were also associated with other lunar goddesses, including the Greek Artemis, and with the Nordic goddess Freya whose chariot they drew.  





FRESH PLANT TINCTURE - One quarter to one teaspoon as needed up to five times daily. The fresh plant tincture is made at a 1:2 ratio of wet plant to 90% alcohol. For a newly dried plant 1:5 at 50% alcohol will also give a good product. Plant should be in full flower.

Dr. Cook suggested a fresh plant tincture/juice by cutting it up, adding moderate pressure and covering with 30% alcohol for a day. One teaspoon daily as needed for children.

ROOT TINCTURE - Tale two parts dry powdered root to one part pure alcohol. Let sit for one week, shake daily. For angina pain, use 3 drops under tongue every half hour as needed.

INFUSION - 2-8 ounces as needed. Heat destroys the active volatiles, so it is best to place one half ounce of dried plant material for ten minutes in a pint of water well below boiling point, and straining out with pressure.

A strong infusion, prepared with boiling water and then chilled, is quite bitter, and astringent, and works as an emmenagogue.

CAUTION - Avoid during pregnancy, as pulegone is a potential tetrogen, and catnip may stimulate uterine activity. Catnip may lead to excessive menstrual bleeding in some women. Several herbalists warn to avoid extended use as it has almost narcotic effect when overused. Some authors suggest it does not combine well with echinacea. Not sure why.

OINTMENT - Sun infuse fresh wilted catnip in coconut oil at 1:5 ratio for 10 days. Use a crockpot at lowest temperature as alternative. Pour into a suppository mold. Use for hemorrhoids as needed. Combines well with fireweed oil for this purpose.



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