Mother Earth Living

The Medicinal Herb Catnip - Not Just for Felines

The medicinal herb catnip is not just a plant for the enjoyment of felines, but can also be used in humans to calm nerves and soothe the digestive tract.
By The Mother Earth Living staff
November/December 2003
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The medicinal herb catnip is not just fun for felines but also helpful for humans.
Photo By Christopher Hobbs

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Learn about the medicinal herb catnip, its not just an intoxicant for felines but also useful as medicine for humans as well.

Common names: Catnip, catmint, catswort

Latin name: Nepeta cataria

Family: Lamiaceae

Part used: Leaves and flowers

Medicinal uses: The medicinal herb catnip works for felines and people. In people, catnip helps calm the nerves and soothe the digestive tract. It also may help relieve menstrual cramps. The herb also makes a good, mild tea for colds, flu and fever. In most cats, the herb has intoxicating effects.

Forms commonly used: Tea, tincture, capsules and tablets.

Side effects: No toxic reactions to catnip have been reported to the Food and Drug Administration, according to Michael Castleman, author of The New Healing Herbs (Rodale, 2001). As with any herb, allergic reactions to catnip are possible. Occasional stomach upset also has been reported. Avoid catnip during pregnancy.

Notes: To make catnip tea, use 2 teaspoons of the dried herb per cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 to 20 minutes, then strain and drink. Do not boil catnip—Castleman says boiling dissipates the herb’s healing oil. Drink up to 3 cups daily.

To treat minor mishaps that occur in the garden, press some crushed catnip leaves on cuts and scrapes until you’re able to get inside to wash and bandage your injury—the herb has mild antibiotic properties, according to Castleman.

Catnip doesn’t intoxicate just domestic felines; large cats, such as lions and jaguars, are also susceptible to its effects.

Read more about the health benefits of herbs: How Herbs Improve Your Health.

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