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Everyday Herbals | Medicinal Uses for Catnip

Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

Brief History

The leaves, stems and roots of catnip are used in herbal medicine. While the leaves and stems have a calming effect, the roots have an extremely stimulating effect.

Catnip was traditionally used to treat colds and flus because of its ability to control fever and improve sleep. It has also been historically used to treat colic in infants when combined with fennel seed.

Oh course, I cannot write about catnip without acknowledging its curious effects on the feline population.

“Catnip” by foxgrrl is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Catnip produces, I admit, rather entertaining responses in cats due to its ability to generate euphoric and aphrodisiac effects on our furry friends. You can learn more about its effects on cats here.

What does it do? (to humans)

  • has a sedative effect
  • treats gas, diarrhea, and constipation
  • treats children’s ailments such as colic
  • reduces fever
  • repels insects

Notable Qualities

How does it work?

Catnip contains a volatile oil called nepetalactone, which is a sedative and pain reliever.

Its mechanism of action involves opioid receptors.

Suggested Uses and Combinations

Combine catnip with:

  • peppermint & cinnamon for an antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory effect
  • chamomile to relax and soothe period cramps
  • fennel to treat colic in infants

Interesting Fact:

In the 1960’s, people used catnip like marijuana or as a filler mixed with marijuana. However, I DO NOT recommend smoking catnip.

How is it administered?

  • brewed in a tea
  • in a tincture
  • in an essential oil

What are the side effects?

Catnip is generally safe to use for most people and is well tolerated by children

It should be avoided by:

  • pregnant women since it can bring on menstruation
  • people taking anticonvulsants, barbiturates, and insomnia drugs
  • people taking certain cold medications

Catnip may increase the effects of other herbs such as

  • hops
  • St. Johns wort
  • kava
  • valerian

Summary: Catnip was traditionally used to treat colds and flus because of its ability to control fever and improve sleep. It is effective in treating stomach cramps and in bringing on a woman’s period. It works by affecting the body’s opioid receptors.

How do YOU use catnip as medicine? Let us know in the comments below!

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Much Love, many Blessings, Jesus is Lord.

Reference List

Foster S. CATNIP. Peterson Field Guide to Western Medicinal Plants & Herbs. January 2002:58. Accessed September 14, 2021.

Grognet J. (1990). Catnip: Its uses and effects, past and present. The Canadian veterinary journal = La revue veterinaire canadienne31(6), 455–456.

Vough E. Catnip (Nepeta cataria). Countryside & Small Stock Journal. 2006;90(4):61. Accessed September 14, 2021.

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