Nepeta cataria

Family: Labiatae
Genus: Nepeta
Species: cataria


Synonyms and Common names:

Catnip, catnip

Description and Habitat:

An erect, shrubby herb, up to a metre tall, with whitish-green serrated ovate leaves with hairy undersides. The flowers are white to pale blue, with crimson dots, and are arranged in small tight whorls with toothed hairy sepals. The mint-like odour is much-loved by cats. It inhabits banks, waysides, and waste places on calcareous soils throughout northern temperate regions.

Catmint or Catnip, is a wild English plant belonging to the large family Labiatae, of which the Mints and Deadnettles are also members, is generally distributed throughout the central and the southern counties of England, in hedgerows, borders of fields, and on dry banks and waste ground, especially in chalky and gravelly soil. It is less common in the north, very local in Scotland and rare in Ireland, but of frequent occurrence in the whole of Europe and temperate Asia, and also common in North America, where originally. however. it was an introduced species.

Parts used:
Leaves and flowering tops

Collection and preparation

Harvested when the herb is in full bloom, between June and September depending on the weather.


Volatile oil (including carvacrol, nepetol, thymol, nepetalactone, citronellol, geraniol and citral), bitter principle, tannins.


Aromatic, carminative, spasmolytic, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, febrifuge, antidiarrhoeal, sedative, astringent, refrigerant, digestive stimulant, gentle circulatory stimulant (although it reduces body temperature in fever), antidiarrhoeal

Indications and Therapeutics:

Catnip is one of the traditional cold and flu remedies. It is a useful diaphoretic helpful in any feverish condition, especially acute bronchitis. As a carminative with anti-spasmodic properties, Catmint eases any stomach upsets, dyspepsia, flatulence, and colic. It is a perfect remedy for the treatment of diarrhea in children. Its sedative action on the nerves adds to its generally relaxing properties.


Avoid during pregnancy.   Catmint tea may be drunk freely, but if taken in very large doses when warm, it frequently acts as an emetic.

Preparation and dosage:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day. Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.


Folklore and additional comments:

Catmint is a member of the mint family that has a distinctive and peculiar scent, which is well known as a feline high.

Not all cats adore it though and kittens dislike it. The acquired taste does not develop until the kittens are at least 2-3 months old.  Although it is said that too much catnip can make a cat sick, or can make said cat very angry, shaking its head, showing its teeth, spitting and such like.  I do wonder if there is a certain ingredient in catmint that gives this effect.

Rats are said to detest catnip and will not go near it, which is well worth remembering when you consider what herbs are grown in the garden.

Catnip oil is also said to be an extremely effective insect repellent. Catnip tops are edible and in small quantities may add an unusual note of distinction to your salads.

Long before Darjeeling or Assam sent us their tea-leaves to brew our cuppas, country-folk utilized catnip leaves for the same purpose.

According to an old story, the root is said to conjure up the courage. Once upon a time, there was a particularly gentle minded executioner, who completely missed his calling, for he could never conjure up the courage or anger to pull the fatal string, lest he had ingested a bit of catnip root first.

Another story along these lines tells that ingesting catnip will make the kindest of people mean, and hangmen consumed the herb before hanging someone as it ‘got them in the mood’.  This is another instance of wondering whether there is a certain ingredient in catmint that affects the emotional part of the brain, inducing anger rather than calming that catmint is known for.