Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Parts used and where grown: The catnip plant grows in North America and Europe. The leaves and flowers are utilized as medicine.

In what conditions might catnip be supportive?

¥ cough

¥ insomnia

Historical or traditional use: Catnip is famous for inducing a delirious, stimulated state in felines. Throughout history, this herb has been used in humans to produce a sedative effect.1 Catnip tea was a regular beverage in England before the introduction of tea from China.2 Several other conditions (including cancer, toothache, corns, and hives) have been treated with catnip by traditional herbalists.

Active constituents: The essential oil in catnip contains a monoterpene similar to the valepotriates found in valerian, an even more widely renowned sedative.3 Animal studies (except those involving cats) have found it to increase sleep.4 The monoterpenes also help with coughs.

How much should I take? A catnip tea can be made by adding 250 ml (1 cup) of boiling water to 1-2 U.S. teaspoons (5-10 grams) of the herb; cover, then steep for ten to fifteen minutes.  Drink 2-3 cups per day.  For children with coughs, 5 ml of tincture three times per day can be used.

Are there any side effects or interactions? Using reasonable doses, no side effects with catnip have been noted.


1. Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 120-1.
2. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 325-6.
3. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 282.
4. Sherry CJ, Hunter PS. The effect of an ethanol extract of catnip (Nepeta cataria) on the behavior of the young chick. Experientia 1979;35:237-8.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.


Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

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