Other Names: Catnep; herbe aux chats (French); Katzenminze (German); cataire, nepeta (Italian).
Description: A perennial herb of up to 1 m in height, with opposite pairs of hairy leaves and numerous small, white, pink or blue flowers arranged in rounded clusters. Various cultivars, differing in growth form, flower colour and essential oil composition, have been developed.
Origin: Eastern Mediterranean region, southern Asia and central Asia.
Parts Used: Leaves or flowering tops (Nepetae catariae herba); essential oil.
Uses and Properties: Catnip tea is mainly used as a calming and sleep-inducing herbal supportive, usually taken at bedtime. It also eases indigestion, help promotes sweating and controls the symptoms of diarrhoea. Folk uses include supporting infections, toothache, headache, stress, colic, scalp irritations, joint pain, eye inflammation, allergies and haemorrhoids. Catnip tea was once commonly used in Europe as a relaxing and multi-purpose hot beverage before real tea was introduced. It was one of the main rejuvenating plants grown in the herb gardens of medieval monasteries.
Preparation and Dosage: A tea prepared from about 10 g of dried herb in a cup of boiling water can taken twice a day. It can also be used as liquid extracts and capsules.
Active Ingredients: An essential oil, rich nepetalactone (the main compound); nepetalic acid, epinepetalactone, caryophyllene, citral, citronellol, linonen and camphor are present. Nepetalactone and related compounds are iridoids.
Health Effects: The calming effect of catnip is ascribed to nepetalactone and related compounds. Nepetalactone and nepetalic acid were shown to significantly increase sleeping time in mice. Catnip oil is known to cause CNS depression in humans when taken in large amounts.
Notes: The common name is derived from the effect it has on cats. Nepetalactone is thought to have aphrodisiac and pheromone activity associated with feline courtship behaviour and catnip is therefore used by manufacturers of cat toys with the aim of causing playful behaviour. It is also an effective insect and rodent repellent.
Status: Traditional health. The spicy, bitter leaves of catnip support the lungs, liver, and nerves in the body. Diaphoretic, sedative, nervine, and carminative actions make it useful for insomnia, fevers and colds, and diarrhea. The biochemical constituents of catmint include an essential oil comprised of cavracol, citronellol, nerol, geraniol, pulegone, thymol and nepetalic acid along with tannins.
Catnip is famous for its sedative effects on the nervous system. It gently supports the "congestion" affecting the nerves as a result of built-up emotional tensions.
Catnip is a good supporter for diarrhea and is frequently used in enemas to relax and gently restore the tone of the bowels. Because of its mild, gentle nature, catnip, like lemon balm, is excellent to give for nervousness and hyperactivity of children and a diaphoretic tea to help support fevers and colds. For such complaints, it combines well in a tea along with equal parts camomile, spearmint and lemon balm.
It is best taken as a tea; steep one ounce of the dried leaves, covered, in a pint of boiling water until cool enough to drink. Take before retiring in the evening, alone or with passion flower and/or lemon balm, for insomnia.
Take 1 capsule, 3 times daily, with meals.
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