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Herbal Monograph

Herb: CATNIP (Nepeta cataria; Labiatae)

Other Names: Catmint, catnep, catrup, catswort, field balm  (13) ; Field Balm, nep, Herb Catta  (1);   Nip  (50)                

Character/Energetics:  spicy, bitter, cool   (6)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected: stomach, intestines, nervous system, uterus, skin  (1); lungs, liver  (6);  nerves and intestines  (14)    

Parts used:   leaves  (6);   leaves and flowering tops  (8);   the herb  (13)     tops   (14)

Identification & Harvesting:  Collect aerial parts during flowering season.  Spike-like inflorescence on small individual flowers with short pedicles.  Perennial root.  Stems up to three feet, angular, erect and branched;  entire plant has a whitish grey appearance.  Leaves are 1-3 inch, ovate, crenate or serrate and grey beneath.  Characteristic smell reminiscent of mint or pennyroyal.  Found in Europe and US.  Never cultivated;  harvest in dry and sunny weather and dry aerial parts in shade.    (2)

Catnip is a perennial herb of the mint family. (13)   

The leaves and flowering tops are collected between June and September.  (8)

Stem opaque, hairy, grey.  Leaves stalked, cordate-ovate, pointed, incise-serrate, whitish, hairy beneath.  Flowers are white dotted with crimson, two-lipped, upper lip straight.  Taste and odor are mint-like but characteristic.    (57)

Active constituents:   Volatile oils .2-.7%:  chiefly nepetalactone 80-95% share, epinepetalactone, caryophyllene, camphor, thymol, carvacrol.    (2)

Essential oil comprised of cavracol, nepetol, thymol and nepetalactone  (6)

Volatile oils including citronellol, geraniol and citral; bitter principle; tannins  (8)

Actions:   Antipyretic, refrigerant, relieves cramps, sedative, diaphoretic.  Tea has a diuretic effect and increases gallbladder activity.   (2)

soporific, sedative, digestant, emmenagogue, sudorific, antispasmodic, carminative, stimulant, tonic, diaphoretic, anodyne, aromatic, nervine, refrigerant   (1); diaphoretic, antispasmodic, carminative, emmenagogue, stomachic  (6);  carminative, anti-spasmodic, diaphoretic, sedative, astringent   (8);   anodyne, antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic   (13);    carminative, diaphoretic, sedative; nervine   (14);   antispasmodic, carminative, digestive stimulant, promotes sweating, cooling   (15);  carminative, tonic, stimulant, diaphoretic, antispasmodic, emmenagogue   (50)

Carminative, tonic, diaphoretic, refrigerant.    (57)

Conditions and Uses:    Used for colds, colic, nervous disorders, migraine, gynecological disorders.    (2)

The medicinal use of catnip has a history of some 2,000 years in China and in Europe. Its traditional use was for colds and associated symptoms: cough, chest congestion, and fever. Catnip tea was also one of the most popular beverages in Europe before the arrival of Black Tea from the Orient.

Catnip also is known for helping colicky babies. In addition to giving their children catnip tea, parents used to hang a small bag of catnip from the child’s neck to allow him or her to inhale it’s scent. It can also be used to treat other digestive ailments, especially flatulence and digestive cramps. Conditions treated with catnip  include: headache, eyestrain, anemia, chicken pox, hives, hyperactivity, and measles.

Catnip contains citronella, a chemical that is an effective insect repellent. Crushing the leaves and trailing around doorways will discourage ants.

Modern uses:  Chemists  have  found  that nepetalactone isomers are the constituents that explain catnip’s tranquilizing effect. They are similar to chemicals found in valerian. Drinking a cup of catnip tea may help ease anxiety and prepare you for a good night’s sleep.

It is also used to decrease menstrual cramps where it is very soothing. It can be mixed with nutritive herbs, such as alfalfa, and made into a good female tonic.  (1)

Effective against colds, flu, fevers, upset stomach, hysteria, insomnia and flatulence  (6)

Catnip is one of our traditional cold and ‘flu remedies. It is a powerful diaphoretic, used in any feverish condition, especially in bronchitis. As a carminative with anti-spasmodic properties, Catnip eases any stomach upsets, dyspepsia, flatulence and colic. It is a perfect remedy for the treatment of diarrhea in children. Its sedative action on the nerves adds to its generally relaxing properties.  (8)

Make catnip tea for upset stomach, colic, spasms, flatulence, and acid. It can also be used for an enema. Popular uses in Europe are for chronic bronchitis and for diarrhea.  (13)                                   

Catnip is wonderful for children and infants when stomach cramps, spasms, gas and nervousness is present.

InternalChicken pox: Infusion                     ExternalConstipation: Enema

  Colic: Infusion                                                  Mumps:  Fomentation

  Colds:  Infusion                                                Painful swellings: Fomentation, Poultice

  Dizziness: Infusion

  Fevers:  Infusion

  Gas: Infusion

  Headache: Infusion

  Hysteria: Tincture*, Fluid Extract*, Infusion*

  Insomnia:  Infusion

  Morning Sickness:  Infusion

  Mumps:  Infusion*

  Smallpox:  Infusion*

               Urine retention: Infusion*

* Usually used  in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem. (14)

For colds and influenza: cools fevers, promotes sweating; astringent in mucous congestion/take an infusion or tincture 3-4x daily/for feverish colds can be mixed with yarrow, elderflower, boneset, ground ivy, angelica, or mulberry leaf to enhance specific actions.

For colic:  carminative and anti-spasmodic; can encourage sleep in restless babies/add 5-10 drops tincture to a baby’s bottle of water or to feeds, or give a diluted infusion/Use as a simple.  (15)

CATNIP (Nepeta cataria; Labiatae)

Conditions and Uses (cont):

Catnip is carminative, tonic, stimulant, diaphoretic and antispasmodic in hysteria and colic. One of the best remedies for wind colic, especially in children and infants; produces gentle sleep. Also used extensively for febrile, nervous and infantile disorders and to restore menstrual secretions. Cats are very fond of it and eat it for its aphrodisiac effect.   (50)

As a diaphoretic it is very useful in colds etc.    (57)

Combinations: When mixed in equal parts with saffron it is a good remedy for scarlet fever and smallpox. (and) It can be mixed with nutritive herbs, such as alfalfa, and made into a good female tonic.  (1)

May be used with boneset, elder, yarrow or cayenne in colds. (8)

For feverish colds can be mixed with yarrow, elderflower, boneset, ground ivy, angelica, or mulberry leaf to enhance specific actions.  (15)

Tincturing Process:   Vita Mix: fill container 1/3 full with catnip herb. Process: 45 seconds forward; 22.5 seconds reverse.   

Tincture 1 lb catnip proportionately between (1) 2-qt and (1) 1-qt mason jars.  (1a)

50-60% alcohol  (10)

1 oz herb: 5 oz (50%) alcohol   (11)

Dosage & Applications: standard infusion or ½-6 gms.  (6)

    Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 tsp. of the dried herb and                     leave to infuse 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x daily.

    Tincture: Take 2-4 ml of the tincture 3x daily.  (8)

 Infusion: Use 1 tsp. herb with 1 cup boiling water. Steep only: do not          allow to boil. Take 1-2 cups daily.

    Tincture: Take 1/2 to 1 tsp. at a time.  (13)

Make the infusion in large amounts and use as an enema to expel worms, release gas or treat fevers and hysterical headaches. The enema will also increase urination. Mix with chamomile and lemon balm for nervousness in children and adults. Drink the infusion for headaches caused by digestive disturbances.

    Infusion: steep 5-15 minutes. 1 oz to 1 cup as needed (do not boil herb)

    Tincture:  1/2  to 1 tsp. as needed

    Fluid Extract:  1/4  to 1 tsp. as needed

    Powder:  5 to 10 #0 capsules (30 to 60 grains) 3x daily.   (14)

Infusion:  1 oz. to a pint of boiling water, adult dose 2 tbsp frequently, children 2 or 3 tsp, to relieve pain and flatulence.    (57)

Precautions:    No known hazards or side effects with designated dosages.    (2)

Divination:  t  r  (48)

General Notes: During the hippie era, catnip was smoked as a hallucinogenic, though it’s not very effective in promoting hallucination or intoxication in humans. For cats the story is different. It not only intoxicates them, but it also acts as an aphrodisiac. Cats actually do not eat catnip, but rather they bruise and tear it to release the vapors of the volatile oils. Not all cats are attracted to catnip, but rather it is an inherited trait. It is safe for “kitty” and may be a good treat.  

One interesting note is that catnip has a reputation of hardening the heart of the even kindest person. Executioners used to eat catnip roots to help them “get in the mood.”  (1)

Catnip is very similar to mint, but has more relaxing properties. Although catnip is classified as warm by the Chinese, because of its calming and relaxing properties it is included in Michael Tierra’s category of surface relieving herbs.  (6)



(1) Cayuga Botanicals Research Data, “Catnip” file (Catnip monograph, Nature’s Field July/August 1996

(1a) ibid Research Data, “Catnip tincture” file

(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), p. 991

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 157 

(8) The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, pg. 189

(10) Herbal Preparations and Natural Therapies by Debra Nuzzi St. Claire, M.H., pg. 127

(11) Herbal Materia Medica (5th edition) by Michael Moore, pg. 21

(13) The Herb Book by John Lust, pg. 150

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 98-99

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 134-135, 174-175, 180

(48) The Rulership Book by Rex E. Bills, pg. 23

(50) The Practical Herbalist and Astrologer by Ira N. Shaw, pgs. 33-34

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., p. 77