Like many of you, my first knowledge of Catnip, (Nepeta cataria), was learned thanks to my cat. He loves the stuff, and can be easily coaxed into a frenzy with a simple sock-full of catnip. I tend to think of it as kitty crack. But I’ve learned there’s more to this herb than feline frenzy:
Nutritionally, Catnip contains quite a bit of vitamins and minerals.It is very high in Chromium, Iron, Manganese, Potassium and Selenium, high in Cobalt, contains average amounts of Aluminum, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphorus, Riboflavin (B2), Tin, Vitamin A and low to trace amounts of Folate (B9), Niacin (B3), Silicon, Sodium, Sulfur, Thiamine (B1), Vitamins B5, B6, B12, C, Zinc.
Energetically, Catnip can be described as cooling and drying with a pungent and bitter taste.
Catnip leaves and flowering tops are antidiarrheal, antispasmodic, antitussive, aromatic, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, nervine, refrigerant, sedating and mildly stimulating.
For those suffering from diarrhea, Catnip’s antidiarrheal and astringent qualities help to slow and stop diarrhea.
As an antispasmodic and antitussive, Catnip makes a great tea for soothing coughing spasms for respiratory conditions including bronchitis.
Catnip is wonderful for soothing upset stomachs. As a digestive, the tea is minty and helps to sooth the digestive system. A weak catnip tea is great for easing colic and gas in babies. Catnip has also been known to help those who suffer from mild motion sickness as well.
The refrigerant and diaphoretic properties help to cool the internal body temperature while raising the external temperature to cause the body to sweat, making Catnip great for treating fevers.
If you have fears of flying in an airplane, try some Catnip tincture or tea before a flight to help calm your nerves and make flying easier. It is often used in formulas for treating ADHD in children as well as calming children who are irritated or overwhelmed. Catnip is often combined with Skullcap, Passionflower, St. John’s Wort and similar herbs for treating ADHD and ADD. Catnip is safe for children.
After a hard day of working in the garden, I like to take a bath with Catnip infusion or drink it to help lessen the fatigue from muscular exertion. It is very soothing!
Bugs do not like the smell of Catnip, making it an effective deterrent for mosquitoes and other bugs. Studies have shown Catnip to be 10 times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET! If you don’t have a catnip spray on hand, you can grab a handful of Catnip and rub it on your exposed body parts.
As far as the cat connection, it is said that cats go wild over catnip because the plant exudes a feline sex pheromone called nepetalactone, and gives cats a sense of euphoria or overwhelming happiness. The effect has been compared to that of a hallucinogenic drug on humans.
Catnip is a perennial herb that is native to England and can be found growing throughout most of Europe, Asia and North America as well. There are over 250 species in the genus Nepeta, with N. cataria being recognized as ‘true’ Catnip. Catnip grows to about 3 feet (1 meter) in height and has the typical square stems of a mint plant. The stems are covered with a fine fuzzy down as are the leaves that are heart shaped, toothed and grow opposite on the stem, rotating up the stem. The down is white in color giving catnip a greyish appearance. Flowers are small and white and grow in whorls on the upper stem. They are about 1/2” long and have 5 petals which are combined into a 2-lipped tube.
Although catnip can be a bit strong and bitter when dried, young, fresh leaves are aromatic and mint-like in taste. Catnip is one of the first mints up in the spring garden and one of the last to die back in the fall making him easy to harvest as needed for 3 seasons of the year. It also grows well in containers and can be overwintered in the house. Catnip grows easily from seed and will spread in the garden by seed after he is established. The leaves, flowers, and seeds are harvested.