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This article is from the Herb Reference series.


Other Names:

Field Balm

Latin Name:

Nepeta cataria Catnip
Nepeta faassenii Catmint

The Romans used Catnip for both medicinal and culinary purposes. In the middle ages it was used against many ills including leprosy. Catnip came to North America with the settelers and spread so quickly that the natives didn't connect it's appearance with the arrival of the settelers.

Once a native of Europe and Asia but now found pretty much everywhere in North America.

Catnip, a rugged perennial, belongs to the enormous family of mints and, like its relatives, possesses the same square (in section) stems and branches.

Stems: Square, hairy, and branching.

Flowers: little spikes of whitish or pink bilabiate flowers which are 1/4 to 1/2 inch long, have red anthers, and the tubular calyx is ribbed and has five parts.

Leaves: Opposite, pointed with scalloped edges, cordate or oblong in shape, and have grey or whitish hairs on the underside.

Fruit: Four tiny, smooth nutlets.

Height: to 3 feet.

Cultivation: It needs only a regular soil, and hardly any watering to flourish but, like all mints, will take over your garden if you give it half a chance. You can break up your clumps of catnip in spring or fall and throw out the older wood, or keep slips of root for planting elsewhere.

Catnip contains a volatile essential oil. The main component; Cis-trans- neptalactone, is similar to the valepotriates found in Valerian. Catnip is stomachic (soothing to an upset stomache) and diaphoretic in effect, but its properties as a sedative outweigh both these uses.
A Mild Sedative can be made by infusing in a covered pot 1 ounce of dried catnip to 1 pint boiling water. Flavor if desired with honey.

NOTE that catnip Tea when drunk warm in large quantities can have an emetic effect on some people.

    1) Mix together

2 parts catnip 1 part motherwort 2 parts skullcap 1 part sage 2 parts Chamomile

infuse 1 teaspoon blend in 1 covered cup of boiling water, Strain after 10 minutes and sweeten with honey if required. Drink 1 glassful 3 times a day and before going to bed.

2) Mix together

1 part catnip 1 part Chamomile 1 part spearmint 1 part marjoram

Prepare the same way as the first blend.

3) Mix together

2 parts catnip 1 part bruised celery seed 3 parts skullcap

Infuse 1 teaspoon in a covered cup of boiling water for 15 minutes, strain and flavor with honey if required. Drink 1 lukewarm cup upto 4 times a day.
Cats of course, are given a 'high' from this plant. This is probably because Cis-trans-neptalactone causes the same reaction in cats as sexual stimulation.

Rats on the other hand, detest it thoroughly and will avoid it.


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