Common names: Catnip, Catmint, Catwort
Taxonomic name: Nepeta cataria
Related herbs: Mints, Lavender, Rosemary, Oregano
Healing constituents : Aromatic oils
Uses: Relaxant, fevers, colds, flu. cats love it, insect repellent attracts Lacewings
Area of origin: Eurasia
Warnings: Make sure you get the right one.
Before we start looking at Catnip (Nepeta cataria), I should note that even though one of its common names is ‘Catmint’, the Catmint that is sold in garden centres can be any of a few varieties of related Nepeta that have far weaker medicinal qualities and are grown for landscaping. Make sure that the one you but is labelled Nepeta cataria or at least ‘Catnip’.
Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is one of the Mint Family, Lamiaceae. You’ll note when looking at it that it has the square stem and lipped flowers characteristic of that Family and like other members of that Family, has an essential oil as its therapeutic component.
A cup of Catnip tea before bed time is a sure way to ease yourself into a restful sleep. You could try one or two at other times of the day to relax you in general. It is my second favourite relaxant, after Hops (Humulus lupus).
Catnip is also useful in cases of colds and flu. It can help kick up a sweat and speed along the healing process, One of my favourite cold remedies is a tea of Catnip and Elder Flower or Yarrow. All these herbs complement each other quite well, though I advise adding a little honey to lighten the taste.
When you make Catnip tea, as with all of the other Mints, its good to cover your cup while it is brewing. This prevents the essential oils from escaping, giving you more bang for your buck.
Nepetalactone is the chemical that gives Catnip its well known effect on cats. It is also an insect repellant against mosquitoes and cockroaches. Interestingly, another compound in the oil, iridodial attracts Lacewings which are predators on aphids and mites.