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Herb of the week: Catnip, catnep, catmint.

Photo: Nepeta cataria 6. A short profile:

Latin: Nepeta cataria.
Family: mint family, Lamiaceae.
Parts used: Aboveground parts.
Taste: Aromatic, bitter, with a teensy hint of something sharp. (That sharpness is missing from the other Nepetas.)
4 humors: Warmish, dry.


  • calming, nervine
  • bitter
  • diaphoretic = brings moisture to the surface
  • carminative = removes flatulence and mild gut pains
  • nice for mild menstrual pain


  • If it thrives it'll self-seed profusely.
  • Young seedlings look _exactly_ like those of Nepeta grandiflora, another catpissy catmint. Taste a leaf before you pull up your catminty plants ... or you might have a garden without catnip, one of these years.
  • The lemon-scented true catnip, Nepeta cataria 'Citriodora', does have a hint of bitter underneath that lemony sweetness. This one, too, will self-seed _everywhere_.
  • Don't plant it, grow it from seed. Planted catnips disappear in the night, with just a few stray "meoooowwws" left hanging in the air, as hints to the culprits.

Other uses:

  • Cat toys. Cats go wild over catnip because the plant exudes feline sex pheromones. If giving catnip toys to cats isn't misleading advertising, I don't know what would be ...


  • Give catnip a shot for colic. If mom still breastfeeds her kid, give it to mom, else give it to the baby.
  • Nice for fevers: a hot catnip tea will let you break into a sweat, if needed.
  • A mild carminative. I do tend to hand out caraway seeds to chew on instead of making catnip teas, though.
  • Nice for mild menstrual cramps. These days I tell people to take their magnesium + B instead, though: that'll help all KINDS of menstrual cramps, and clear up a host of other magnesium/B-deficient problems as well.
  • Try catnip externally on hemorrhoids. Check your food intake for problems (especially if you also have varicosities in the left leg) (clearing up the digestion will make for much less clogged blood), and/or go for regular walks, too: that'll help pelvic blood supply.

Comments on Facebook:

  • From The Greenfield Clinic:
    Love this herb! it's really suitable for children and is growing abundantly in my garden!
    11 June 2012 at 15:05
  • From Painted Elephant Herbals:
    I just LOVE catnip tea. So happy my cousin Kelly introduced it to me a few years back. Such a calm and soothing flavour.
    11 June 2012 at 14:30
  • From CosyMeadows:
    We sell a lot of the common form of catmint, but also have a wonderful alternative called Nepeta Cataria or lemon catmint, the smell is addictive.
    4 August 2012 at 15:18

Comments on the herblist:

  • From Cami R.:
    Date: 2012 06 11 - 19:44:09 +0300

    The first thing that comes to my mind when anyone mentions catnip is the absolutely startling glossy, dilated pupils my kids get after a cup of weak tea, at the beginning of their three-hour stint of bouncing on the bed and making lots and lots of loud verbal noises. It is a hyper high a little like that from sugar or caffeine but ... spookier and unique.

    I have done it a few times now, separated by the forgetfulness of years: given them fresh or dry catnip tea, gone to bed closely after them, then woken up wondering what drug got slipped into their drink. It lasts for hours and has never affected them the traditional calming way.

  • From Robin Rose Bennett:
    Date: 2012 06 11 - 20:23:18 +0300

    wow, Cami, that's interesting, I've never seen that! though I've seen stimulating reactions from more sedating herbs...good to know it's a possibility...thank you Cami

    (I've generally used it for stomach cramps, and baby/child fevers...) and for increasing my street cred with cats ; )

  • From Sherry B.:
    Date: 2012 06 11 - 21:43:31 +0300

    I have only every used catnip for the obvious reason - for the cats. They love rolling in it and eating and sniffing it. You can just see them slipping into a place of bliss! I think I might want to try some tea after reading about it.

Catnip is in my upcoming book "Practical Herbs 2". Go get the current volume, "Practical Herbs", if you haven't yet!

Your turn: the comments are all yours!