Catnip, one of the cats favourite plants, just like Valerian, is in great favour among humans as well, as it is often used for medicinal purposes and is said to be effective against a number of health disorders.
Catnip botanical name is Nepeta cataria from the genus of about 250 species from the Lamiaceae family. The plant, however, is more familiar to us as Catmint, Field Balm, or Catwort. It is a relative of such herbs as oregano, basil, and spearmint. Some state that it is also a distant relative of marijuana, basing on the tranquilizing effects of the plant.
Nepeta cataria is a hardy perennial herb, growing to about 3 feet tall. It has erect square stem with many branches, occupied by the dense cloud of green heart-shaped leaves. The whole body of the plant is covered with grey hairs, which makes Catnip look a kind of dusty.
The leaves of the herb are opposite, with the toothed margins, and almost white from the downside due to the hairs. They are a bit larger than the leaves of the Peppermint.
The small tubular flowers of Catnip are either white, pale pink, or lilac, covered with tiny purple dots. They are situated on the short footstalks and gathered in whorls at the upper part or top of the branch, practically forming a spike. The plant is in bloom from June to September.
Nepeta cataria is native to Europe, Asia, and Africa, being most common in the Mediterranean region, but stretching up to China. Been brought to the North America, it has naturalized there by this time, and now grows wildly almost in every part of the continent.
Catnip is a very hardy plant. It can grow on the wastelands, woodlands, hedgerows, and so on, tolerating almost any type of soil and little moisture. However, moderately rich well-drained soil is best for it. The herb prefers partial shade, but it can still grow in full sun.
Catnip leaves and flowering tops are most commonly used in folk medicine.
It seems all the possible market forms of Catnip can be purchased these days: bulk herb with leaves and flowers or leaves only, grinded or powdered plant, alcohol extract or capsules – Nepeta is definitely not the rare plant difficult to find.
Catnip may have tranquilizing, sedative, and even hallucinogenic effect on humans, acting similarly to marijuana and producing mild euphoria. It is a good means to sooth nervous system and induce good night sleep, to stimulate gastric juices, to promote perspiration and reduce fever. Catnip is an effective pain-reliever, carminative (expels gas), anti-spasmodic, astringent and diuretic (promotes urination). It is also said that its remedies can help expel worms and act as mild antiseptic means.
The active ingredient of Catnip is said to be a terpenoid nepetalactone – the main constituent of the volatile oil, found in the microscopic bulbs (trichomes) situated on the stems and leaves of the plant. The oil is released when those bulbs burst in response to the touch of an animal passing by the herb or by a human taking the leaves.
Other constituents of Nepeta cataria are acetic, valeric, and butyric acids, geraniol, dipentene, citronellol, nerol and tannins.
Not to lose the healing powers of Catmint, the plant should be infused rather than boiled, as boiling will make the volatile oils to evaporate. Different doses are recommended to treat various conditions. Moreover, even fresh juice of the plant can be taken if its emmenagogue action is necessary, or if the relief from headaches due to stress and nervousness is required.
Catnip is used to treat such conditions as:
- colds, flu, coughs, sore throats, sinusitis and bronchitis;
- measles, smallpox, scarlet fever;
- diarrhoea, abdominal cramps and colic, indigestion and flatulence;
- sleep disorders and headaches;
- painful or irregular menstruations.
Topical solutions are used to stop bleeding and heal various skin conditions, as insects bites, cuts, burns, and wounds and inflammatory skin disorders. Catnip is also prepared as eyewash to treat inflammation due to allergies or viral infections, or a remedy against the sore gums and toothache.
The majority of sources state that Nepeta catria is safe to be used in kids and even infants to help with stomach colic, calm them down, and induce sleep.
Finally, it is interesting to note that though Catnip in indigenous to Eurasia, its main benefits were discovered in the North America after it was introduced there.
Send us your experience or opinion that we may publish on this site.