Common names: Catnip, catmint, catswort
Latin name: Nepeta cataria
Part used: Leaves and flowers
Medicinal uses: 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.