An Herbalist’s Point of View: Catnip (nepeta cateria)


Catnip (nepeta cateria)

Family: Lamiaceae (mints)

Also known as: Catmint, Catswort, Field balm

Catnip is native to central Europe but is now naturalized across Northeastern U.S. and parts of Canada. Catnip can grow up to 2-3 feet wide and high. Catnip has oval-toothed leaves that range from bright-green to deep-green in color. Catnip produces a lovely pale-purple flower that shoots out the top of the stalks. Catnip is easy to grow in any climate or soil conditions.

Catnip has been used over many century’s not only by cats but humans too. In the 1900’s catnip was used to bring on delayed menses, to help abort unplanned pregnancies and ease menstrual cramps. The dried leaves were smoked to help with respiratory ailments. In the 1960’s it was smoked for its euphoric effects. Many healers also used catnip to help with eating disorders. Catnip is used to flavor sauces, soup, stews and many patented beverages, like fruit table wines and liquors.

Now days you are more likely to see catnip leaves and flowers used in teas or capsule forms. Essential oils and extracts are used in balms, salves and insect repellants. Catnip is a great addition to an herbal medicine cabinet or herb garden. It is easy to grow and doesn’t need much attention. It also helps a good number of ailments.


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Parts of the plant used: Leaves and flowers

How to use: tea’s, capsules, essential oil, extras, as compresses, dried or fresh

_MG_7557What catnip helps:

Digestive: Stomach issues, indigestion, intestinal cramps, increase appetite, upset stomach, diarrhea, gas, and colic, diuretic

Respiratory: cough, congestion, common cold, allergy relief 

Reproductive: sooths menstrual cramps, educes delayed menstrual cycles

Skeletal: Arthritis relief, anti-inflammatory

Muscular: anti-inflammatory for sprains and strains

Skin: hemorrhoids, helps bring down swelling in hives and bug bites, repels insects

Mental: insomnia, anxiety, sedative, calms the mind and body, stress relief

Other uses: induce sweating, can help treat cancer, pest repellent, and calms animals.


Therapeutic concerns:

Drug reactions: lithium or other sedatives

Pregnant/Nursing: Should NOT use, can cause menstruation or unwanted bleeding.

Avoid use if: you have kidney or liver disorders

Might cause: headache, sweating and malaise_MG_7553

Notes: Catnip essential oils and extracts may cause a skin reaction. Oils that cause skin reactions need to be mixed with carrier oils. Try a quick skin test to see if you need to dilute the Catnip oil.

How to do a skin test: drop one or two drops of oil on the back of your wrist then check if there is a reaction over the next few hours. If there is a reaction then always dilute with carrier oil before placing said essential oil directly on your skin.

Catnip can help with many ailments; you should do your own research to see if Catnip is a good herb for you and your family. Always consult a medical professional before starting any alternative herbal therapies or stopping any medications you are already prescribed.


Happy Healing,

Janelle McCoy

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11 thoughts on “An Herbalist’s Point of View: Catnip (nepeta cateria)

  1. I grow a small amount of catnip for our cats to enjoy, you would not think it is so temperamental o grow but I struggled all summer to get a healthy plant.

    Thank you for stopping by to share on #OMHGFF this week, hope you will stop by again next week to share more of your posts.

    Have a great weekend!

  2. I’ve found I have to grow catnip in pots that can be hung out of the way of cats or they “love” it to death. I also use it to keep mosquitoes away. I simply pick the leaves and rub them over my skin. I enjoy tea from it right before bedtime too.

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