Nepata cataria | Family Lamiaceae

Nepeta cataria, a well-established medicinal herb, stands distinguished among its counterparts like N. mussinii (syn. N. racemosa), N. nervosa, N. grandiflora, and N. x faassenii, which primarily serve as ornamental additions to landscaping. While Nepeta cataria shares the common name of “catmint,” confusion often arises due to the existence of other plants, such as Nepeta faassenii and its cultivars, also bearing the same name. Nepeta faassenii, lacks any effect on feline companions, has a narrower leaf, and blue-purplish flowers with milder properties and a sweeter aroma. Notably, not all cats are attracted to Nepata cataria, when they are it’s amusing to witness their behaviours.

The genus name, reportedly inspired by Nepete, an ancient Etruscan city, encompasses approximately 250 species predominantly found in temperate regions across Europe and Asia. Originating from Eurasia, catnip has effortlessly integrated into both natural habitats and cultivated landscapes worldwide. Its resilience is evident in its capacity to propagate from cuttings or seeds, self-sow, and adapt to various soil conditions, thriving in well-drained soil with moderate moisture levels, and tolerating both sunny and semi-shaded environments. While catnip remains relatively unfazed by frost, periods of drought can hinder its growth significantly.

At Patrizia’s Herb Garden and Apothecary, Nepeta cataria reigns supreme as the species of choice for cultivation and medicinal purposes.

Catnip might appear unassuming at first glance, but it’s a surprisingly useful medicinal herb. Catnip is revered as an ideal remedy for children, offering gentle yet effective relief for various ailments, with a long traditional use for fevers, colds, coughs, bronchitis, colic, pain, headaches, irritability, indigestion, cramps, insomnia, nicotine withdrawal and more. It has a bitter and pungent taste with a strong aromatic odour. It came to be called catnip owing to having a strong scent that cats find attractive. 

Parts Used: The most potent parts of catnip are its tops and leaves, harvested just before or during flowering when its active constituents are at their peak concentration.

Active Constituents:

  1. Volatile Oil: Catnip boasts a volatile oil content, primarily composed of iridolactones like α- and β-nepetalactone, along with other compounds such as caryophyllene, camphor, and thymol. The composition of this oil can vary based on factors like variety and growing conditions.
  2. Tannins and Bitter Principles: Catnip also contains tannins and bitter principles, including iridoids, contributing to its therapeutic effects.
  3. Nutritional Components: Rich in vitamins A, B complex, and C, as well as essential minerals like magnesium, manganese, and phosphorus, catnip offers nutritional value alongside its medicinal properties.


  1. Diaphoretic: Inducing sweating, aiding in fever reduction.
  2. Carminative: Relieving flatulence and promoting digestive comfort.
  3. Spasmolytic: Easing muscular spasms and colic pains.
  4. Sedative: Calming the nervous system, aiding in relaxation and sleep.
  5. Antidiarrheal: Alleviating symptoms of diarrhea.
  6. Antipyretic: Lowering fever, particularly in childhood illnesses.

Scientific Information: While catnip has a long history of medicinal use, recent scientific research is limited. However, preliminary studies suggest its potential antimicrobial, antioxidant, and insecticidal properties. The presence of nepetalactones contributes to its relaxant effects although human trials are lacking.

Medicinal Uses:

  • Cardiovascular System: Treating fevers, especially in childhood illnesses.
  • Respiratory Tract: Alleviating symptoms of colds and coughs.
  • Gastrointestinal Tract: Soothing nervous dyspepsia, colic, and flatulence.
  • Nervous System: Relieving headaches, insomnia (especially in children), and restlessness.
  • External Use: Providing relief for conditions like haemorrhoids through topical applications.


Infusion of dried herb, 2–4 grams, three times a day. Tincture 1:5 (25%), 3–6 ml. Fluid extract (25%), 2–4 ml. For elderly individuals, it’s best to use a moderate dose. Adjust the dosage accordingly for children, sticking to the lower end of the recommended dosing.

There is a reported case of a child developing gastrointestinal discomfort, irritability, and lethargy after ingesting large amounts of catnip.

In conclusion, catnip’s unassuming appearance belies its remarkable medicinal properties. Whether brewed as a tea or incorporated into herbal remedies, this humble herb continues to offer valuable therapeutic benefits, particularly in pediatric care and the treatment of various ailments affecting the body and mind.

References: Materia Medica of Western Herbs Carole Fisher

The information provided is for educational purposes and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment. Consult your medical care provider before using herbal medicine, particularly if you have a known medical condition, are on any medication, and if you are pregnant or nursing.