Other Names: Catmint, Catnep, Catswort,
Recently found in a
University Study to be 10 times as effective as Deet at repelling
mosquitoes. Please let us know your results!
Photo copyright K Bergeron 2002
Catnip is a perennial herb found growing wild throughout North
America and Europe where it is thought to have originated. It is
easily cultivated in any garden soil. A member of the mint family,
Catnip has square, erect and branched stems and grows 2 to 3 feet
high. The leaves are heart-shaped, toothed, opposite and covered
with fine downy hairs especially on the under sides giving the whole
plant a grayish green appearance. The small tubular, two-lipped
flowers grow in dense whorls atop each stem and are white to
lavender with reddish to purple spots. Catnip blooms from June to
September. The entire plant has a minty fragrance. Gather the above
ground parts of Catnip just after blooms open.
Catnip Medicinal Properties and
Young leaves are edible raw. They have
an aromatic mint-like flavor eaten in salads. As the name (cat-nip)
suggests, cats love to nip at it, although watching them it might better
be called (cat-roll) for they seem to roll, rub, and totally crush the
plant into the ground. They discover that the more they crush it the more
oil it releases. Plant constituents include Nepetalic acid, Alpha- & beta-
Citral, Nepetalactone, Limonene, Geraniol, Dipentene, Citronella, Nerol, a
terpene, Acetic acid, Butyric acid, Valeric acid and Tannin. The leaves
and flowering tops are strongly antispasmodic, antitussive, astringent,
carminative, diaphoretic, slightly emmenagogue, refrigerant, sedative,
slightly stimulant, stomachic and tonic. Catnip has a long history of use
in alternative medicine, being employed especially in treating disorders
of the digestive system and, as it stimulates sweating, it is useful in
reducing fevers. The fresh juice is used as an emmenagogue (to promote
menstruation). Mild catnip tea is used to relieve colic in babies,
restlessness and nervousness, and is very useful as a mild nervine for
children. Stronger tea relieves fevers due to colds and flu as well as
calming the stomach and preventing nausea and diarrhea. The fresh young
shoots are good in spring salads and rubbed into meat for flavor. Applied
externally or added to bath it is good for skin irritations. Catnip oil is
great for aroma therapy. A strong infusion can be used to repel fleas from
carpets or the fur of animals. An extract from the leaves (called
nepetalactone) has herbicidal and insect repellant properties.
Folklore and History
It was once believed that smoking the
leaves would produce a mild hallucinogenic effect. Although this use has
since been dispelled, it may work in some individuals. It was also
believed to deter the (evil-eye) from children given to fits, this because
of its ability to calm an extremely agitated child and diminish
Catnip Herb Tea
To 1 cup of boiling water add 2 tsp.
dried herb; steep for 10 min. give warm in cup doses-½ cup for children 1
tbsp. diluted or in milk for babies.
Mintcream: Add 3 tbsp. to ½ cup heavy
cream use in cocoa or coffee.
Article by Deb Jackson & Karen Bergeron
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