Catnip, also known as catmint, catswort, and field balm, is a member of the mint family of herbs and is believed to have originated in regions of Europe. Today catnip can be found growing in most of the milder climates of the Northern Hemisphere. Catnip plants have fuzzy, grayish-green leaves and small, white flowers that bloom in the summer. The flowers, leaves and stem are cut while the plants are in full flower and then dried for use in herbal preparations. Because it repels certain insects, catnip or chemicals derived from it have been used in pesticides.
Taken orally, catnip is most commonly used in connection with anxiety, insomnia, and nervousness. It contains a substance, known as nepetalactone, which has a sedative effect in humans. (Nepetalactone is very similar to valepotriate found in valerian, a more commonly used herbal sedative.) Due to this effect, catnip may also be used to help lessen migraine headaches. Catnip has also been used historically to relieve stomach complaints such as colic, cramps, gas, and indigestion because chemicals in it may have muscle-relaxing, or antispasmodic, effects.
Topically, catnip has often been used to reduce swelling associated with arthritis, hemorrhoids, and soft tissue injuries.Dosage and Administration
Capsule and oral liquid forms of catnip are available commercially and dried catnip may be brewed into a tea. Although dosage for catnip is not standardized, a common recommendation for catnip tea is 1 or 2 teaspoons of the dried aerial parts soaked for about 10 minutes in 1 cup of water that has been allowed to boil and then removed from the heat. Boiling catnip may cause the loss of active ingredients. Catnip is often taken three times a day.
To use topically, dried leaves or flowers of catnip are moistened with warm water to make a poultice, which is applied externally as often as needed. Cooled catnip tea may also be used as a soak or a wash.Supporting LiteratureSherry CJ, Hunter PS. The effect of an ethanol extract of catnip (Nepeta cataria) on the behavior of the young chick. Experientia 1979;35:237-238.Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 120-121.Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988.