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Crazy for Catnip

Updated on March 3, 2014

What is Catnip?

Catnip is known mainly for the hallucinogenic effect it has on approximately 50% of cats. But, catnip is available in over 250 species, and has a variety of uses, including many medicinal properties.

The active ingredient found in catnip is an essential oil called nepetalactone. Nepetalactone is a chemical that stimulates the olfactory epithelium. This chemical has only a mild affect on humans, yet has been found to repel mosquitos and roaches.

Catnip varieties range in size from 1-3 feet tall plants with white, pink, and purple color shades of flowers. Catnip is known by different people by different names, including:   Cataria, Catrup, Cat's Heal All,  Catmint, Catnep, Cat's-play, Cat's Wort, Chi Hsueh Tsao, Garden Nep, Catswort, Catwort, Herba Cataria, Herba Catti, Nebada, Nep, and Field Balm.

Catnip is a perennial herb as well a member of the mint family, and a distant relative of marijuana.

Medicinal Uses

Catnip is commonly used to make teas that are excellent for a long list of ailments. When it is mixed with elderflower and honey, catnip makes a great tasting tea for upset stomach, colds, fever, and flu. It also helps soothe a colicky infant and settle down indigestion.

Additional Uses:

  • arthritic joints
  • Scarlet fever
  • Hantavirus
  • stimulates sweating
  • headaches
  • hemorrhoids

Culinary Uses

English kitchen gardens of the 13th century once used catnip as a rub for meats before they were cooked. Chopped catnip also adds flavor to salads, soups, sauces, and stews.

Rats and mice are believed to have a strong dislike of catnip, avoiding places where it grows.

Nepetalactone is approximately ten times more effective at repelling mosquitos than DEET.

Effects on Cats

Cats who respond well to catnip will exhibit some common behaviors as their senses of sight, sound, touch, smell, and taste, come into play. Some behaviors that a cat who is responsive to catnip include:

  • Sniffing
  • Sneezing
  • Head shaking
  • Eating the catnip
  • Licking and chewing
  • Meowing and purring
  • Chin and cheek rubbing
  • Head-over roll and body rubbing


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