Herbal Remedies: Catnip (Nepeta Cataria)
Healing with Catnip Herbal Remedies (Nepeta cataria)
Catnip, also called catmint or cat nip, is not just for cat toys. The catnip plant is also a versatile, age-old herbal remedy. The therapeutic catnip effects derive from a number of active compounds contained in its leaves, such as citral, citronelloland geraniol.
This hub gives an overview of the catnip herb, its medicinal properties and a number of catnip herbal remedies.
Catnip (Nepeta Mataria)
Catnip Herb - A Brief History
For over two millennia, catnip has been used for medicinal purposes across Europe and the Far East. Catnip tea was drunk in England before the introduction of the more commonly known tea, which was later imported over from China. Centuries later, North American Indians adopted the herb after European colonists brought it over to the continent.
Folklore holds that Catnip will make even the kindest person mean. In fact, this was such a deeply held belief amongst the early settlers that hangmen would drink catnip tea prior to an execution.
Catnip: The Plant
Common Name: catmint, cat’s play, catnep, English catnip
Latin Name: Nepeta cataria
The catnip plant is a straggly looking herb that belongs to the mint (Lamaciae) family. It is a perennial herb that can grow up 36 inches in height. The green leaves have scalloped edges and grow opposite each other along a stem. They are often more abundant at the top of the plant.
Catnip is an aromatic flowering herb that has a spiky, flowering top. It bears little white flowers that are speckled with purple spots on its petals. These appear in tight groupings at the tip of the flower stalks.
Catnip Herb BloomsClick thumbnail to view full-size
Traditional Uses of Catnip Herb Remedies
Among a number of catnip effects, this herb is renown for its euphoric effect on cats. However, it is also valued for its medicinal properties, and often used in a number of herbal remedies for a range of ailments and diseases. A number of these are briefly outlined below.
Catnip’s carminative properties are beneficial in relieving gastrointestinal distress conditions such as gas and bloating, colic, nausea and diarrhea.
The herb has antispasmodic properties that promote muscle relaxation. This is beneficial for relieving cramps and spasms of the gastrointestinal muscles, of the uterus (menstrual cramps), and other sore and tight muscles.
Catnip has strong sedative properties that are beneficial for nervous disorders, such as alleviating stress, easing anxiety, and relieving the symptoms of tension headaches and migraines. Catnip remedies may also be taken to promote general relaxation.
Catnip is a diaphoretic, meaning that it promotes sweating. This property is beneficial for treating respiratory conditions such as colds, bronchitis and feverish conditions like the influenza (the flu).
Catnip is an astringent that is effective as a topical remedy for cuts and scrapes to stop bleeding as well as promote healing
How to Make Catnip Herbal Tea
Catnip tea, brewed from dried or fresh catnip leaf, has a number of centuries-old, medicinal uses as a home remedy. Catnip effects derive from its active chemical compounds including nepelactone and tannins. Here is how to use catnip tea for your home remedies.
Catnip herbal tea is usually prepared in the form of an herbal infusion. It can be prepared from dried catnip leaf in loose form or as store-bought teabags. Here’s how to prepare catnip herbal tea from the dried form:
Catnip Leaf Tea
- 2 Teaspoons Catnip Leaf, dried
- 1 cup Water, Steaming hot
- Honey, to taste
- Measure out two teaspoons of the herb into an infuser or muslin tea bag.
- Add one cup of steaming hot water to the herb. Cover the cup to prevent its volatile oils from escaping through evaporation.
- Allow the catnip leaf steep for ten to 15 minutes.
- Strain the infusion and, if desired, sweeten with honey or stevia.
Catnip Leaf Tea
Tips for Growing Catnip
- Sip on a cup of hot catnip tea as a nightcap at bedtime to induce sleep. A primary active constituent in catnip, called nepelactone, has sedative properties that are similar to those of valerian, a popular sedative herb.
- Calm hyperactive kids with a small, warm cup of catnip tea. You can sweeten the brew with some honey or stevia.
- Take advantage of catnip’s relaxant properties. Relax tension headaches with a strong infusion of catnip tea. Take this herbal tea to relieve tension in the digestive tract that is associated with colic. It also helps to alleviate menstrual period pains.
- Use a hot catnip tea infusion as a natural inhalant for cold and flu, coughs and sour throat. Catnip is also an effective decongestant.
- Reduce fevers with catnip tea. Drinking hot catnip tea induces perspiration and helps to break your fever.
- Speed up cell tissue repair by using catnip tea as a natural disinfectant and anti-inflammatory for cuts, wounds, insect bites and skin infections.
- Use catnip tea as an eyewash to alleviate inflammation and swelling that results from airborne allergens, "bloodshot eye" syndrome (from excess alcohol intake) and from cold and flu.
You drink up to three cups of catnip herbal tea a day. If you make more catnip tea than you can drink, refrigerate the left-over tea in a well-sealed jar or bottle
Buying Catnip Herb
Catnip is available in a variety of forms, including fresh or dried catnip leaf, liquid extract or herbal supplements capsules are the most common. It is also be used to prepare herbal creams and poultices for topical application.
Dried Catnip leaf is the most readily available form of the herb, and is commonly prepared as an herbal tea. To retain its medicinal potency, dried catnip should be stored in an airtight container, in a cool location and out of direct sunlight. Proper storage also protects it from absorbing moisture and odors.
How to Grow and Dry Catnip!
The best catnip is always the freshest, directly from your herb garden. Growing catnip seeds - indoors or out – is a simple, fun process. Here's how to grow the best catnip money can’t buy.
- Wait for the spring before planting outdoors for the best catnip crop. This is the best time to plant catnip seeds.
- Buy catnip seeds online or from your local home improvement store. Check the seed packet to make sure that they bear the Latin name: Nepeta cataria. Check your seed packet as well, for the best time to plant catnip in your planting zone.
- Select an area to plant and grow your catnip. This should be an area that receives full or partial sun and soil that has good drainage. If you plant it indoors, place the pot in an area that receives at least 5 hours of direct sunshine.
- Prepare the soil to sow the seeds. Work some organic mulch into the soil if available. You can purchase this or make your own homemade mulch.
- Sow your seeds. For the best catnip crop, plant the seeds about 1/8 inch deep. Space the seed holes 18 to 20 inches apart to allow for growing space, because catnip herb grows up to 3 to 4 feet tall, and tends to self-seed once its flowers begin to bloom. Cover the seeds with soil.
- Water the catnip seeds lightly until they begin to sprout, which usually happens in 10 to 20 days. Continue to water regularly, taking care not to over-water.
- Weed your catnip crop as needed. Since catnip self-sows quite easily, you will likely need to remove unwanted catnip plants. To grow bushier plants, pinch off the first flower buds as they appear.
- Prune with pruning shears or a knife for the best catnip plants. While it does not really need pruning, this herb tends to grow more leaves if pruned.
- Wait for your catnip to begin to bloom before you harvest it. Take care to harvest the catnip before its leaves turn yellow.
Using Catnip Herbal Remedies Safely
Herbs are currently classified by the FDA as nutritional supplements rather than drugs. While the FDA regulates herbal supplements, they don’t need to undergo as stringent an approval process as pharmaceutical drugs before coming to market.
There are no known or reported health hazards, toxic reactions or side effects that have been associated with taking recommended dosages of catnip herb. However, pregnant women should avoid using it, particularly in the first trimester, because if its capacity to induce menstruation. Nursing women as well as individuals who have chronic conditions should first consult with a licensed health care practitioner.
Furthermore, although there are no negative reactions reported between catnip and other herbs or medications, the therapeutic effects may be heightened by drugs that have similar medicinal properties.
Always obtain catnip from a reputable source, which has stringent quality control procedures and observes industry-accepted good manufacturing practices.
Side Effects of Catnip Leaf
- Since catnip has diuretic properties, it may increase the amount and frequency of urination.
- Catnip may also cause an upset stomach in some individuals.
- Given the sedative properties of catnip leaf, caution should be taken when driving or operating machinery.
How Catnip Gets Cats High
This video by Discovery News describes the benefits of catnip for your feline friend - and why it drives them crazy!