Unless you’re this cat, who broke into a pet store and found bliss in the catnip aisle, you might be wondering why you should care about this little herb with heart-shaped leaves. I mean, it’s for cats, right?
Yes, but it’s also amazing for people who need to relax, or want to help their kids wind down for bed, or who need some digestive support. So basically people.
What is catnip, and how does it benefit me?
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a little different from adaptogens (which help with stress) and other herbs that work best when used consistently over a period of time. This member of the mint family is mostly helpful in one-off situations, like when you need to unwind after a particularly stressful day.
Catnip is what herbalists call a “relaxing nervine”, which means that it helps create a sense of peace, calms overstimulation, and ease forehead tension and motion sickness. Catnip is also slightly sedative, and is often sipped as a tea before bed to help with sleep.
Other Benefits and Uses of Catnip
- Muscle Support: Catnip tea has traditionally been used for muscle cramps and menstrual cramps, and current research supports this approach (Gilani 2007)
- Respiratory Support: Clinical studies have also confirmed the bronchodilator properties of the essential oils found in catnip, supporting the use of catnip tea for respiratory issues. (Gilani 2007)
- Digestive Support: Catnip is carminative, bitter, and astringent, a combination not often found in many herbs. This makes catnip tea useful for digestive issues like gas, indigestion and heartburn.
- Immune Support: Native Americans traditionally used catnip for immune support, especially in cases of fevers or colds. (source)
- Bug Spray: According to researchers, “nepetalactone, the essential oil in catnip that gives the plant its characteristic odor, is about ten times more effective at repelling mosquitoes than DEET — the compound used in most commercial insect repellents.” (source) The EPA’s guide to insect repellents also lists it as one of three oils that are helpful for repelling ticks – citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus) and lemon eucalyptus (Eucalyptus citriodora) are the other two. I use the essential oil in my homemade bug spray, homemade tick spray, and my dogs flea and tick powder.
- Wound Care: Catnip can be used as a compress or topical wash for wounds.
Is catnip safe for pregnancy?
According to the Botanical Safety Handbook, 2nd edition, there are no known contraindications, interactions, toxicities, or side effects for the above recommended amounts of catnip during pregnancy, lactation, or any other stage of life.
How do I use catnip?
The easiest way to use catnip is as a tea. One-half to one teaspoon is often used with other herbs depending on which system is being supported. (Herbalpedia) However, catnip is not known to be toxic, so you can likely use as much as is needed until you achieve the acute support you desire.
Catnip Tea Recipe
I recommend this stainless steel basket infuser to make straining this tea super simple. It works perfectly nestled in a coffee mug 16 ounce mason jar.
- 1 teaspoon organic dried catnip leaves or 1 tablespoon fresh catnip
1 cup boiling water
Pour boiling water over the catnip leaves and steep for five to seven minutes, then strain and add honey/maple syrup if desired.
Is catnip easy to grow?
Yep! Catnip is super easy to grow, especially if you buy seedlings from an organic nursery. They’re also pretty easy to grow from seeds like these, which can be a fun thing to do with littles. Harvest the leaves and flowers after the plant has started to flower, and use twice as much fresh as you do dried.
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About the authors: This article was coauthored by Heather Dessinger and Dr. Lori Valentine Rose (PhD). Dr. Rose, PhD is a college biology, nutrition, herbal, and wellness instructor, Certified Nutrition Professional (CNP), Registered Herbalist with the American Herbalist Guild, and is Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition. She created, developed, and instructs the Hill College Holistic Wellness Pathway, the most thorough, affordable, degreed wellness program in the country. She loves spreading love and light, and helping others feel awesome on the inside and out so they can live their dreams and make this world more awesome!