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catmintAlso Known As:

Cataire, Catmint, Catswort, Chataire, Field Balm, Hierba Gatera, Menta de Gato,

Menthe des Chats.

CAUTION: See separate listing for Schizonepeta.

Scientific Name:

Nepeta cataria.

Family: Lamiaceae/Labiatae.

People Use This For:

Catnip is used for insomnia; migraine headaches; cold; flu; swine flu; fever;

hives; and gastrointestinal (GI) upset, including indigestion, colic, cramping, and

flatulence. It is also used orally for conditions associated with anxiety, diuresis,

as a tonic, for upper respiratory tract infections, and headaches. Additionally,

catnip is also used orally for lung and uterine congestion, eradicating worms, and

for initiating menses in girls with delayed onset of menstruation.

Topically, catnip has been used for arthritis, hemorrhoids, and as a poultice to

relieve swelling.

As an inhalant, catnip is smoked for respiratory conditions and recreationally for

inducing a euphoric high.

In manufacturing, catnip is used as a pesticide and insecticide.


POSSIBLY SAFE ...when used orally and appropriately (2,3). Significant adverse

effects have not been reported when catnip tea is used in cupful amounts (62).

POSSIBLY UNSAFE : when used orally in excessive doses. Higher doses may

be associated with significant adverse effects (62). ...when inhaled by smoking

dried leaves. Smoking the dried leaves of catnip has been associated with a

euphoric high (2), which might impair judgment; however, whether catnip can

truly produce this effect in humans remains controversial (2).

There is insufficient reliable information available about the safety of topically

applied catnip.

CHILDREN: POSSIBLY UNSAFE ...when used orally. One child developed

stomach pain and irritability followed by lethargy and hypnotic state after

ingesting catnip leaves and tea (1,5).

PREGNANCY: LIKELY UNSAFE ...when used orally. Catnip tea has been

reported to have uterine stimulant properties (3); avoid using.

LACTATION: Insufficient reliable information available; avoid using.


There is insufficient reliable information available about the effectiveness of


Mechanism of Action:

The applicable part of catnip is the flowering tops. The pharmacological effect

that catnip is famous for is the euphoric state it induces in cats. It is thought that

the constituent cis-trans-nepetalcatone produces the characteristic stimulation

in cats only when they smell it (1). Although humans have used catnip to

induce a euphoric high, whether or not this effect actually occurs in humans

is controversial. In humans, the constituent nepetalactone is thought to be

responsible for catnip's calming effects in insomnia, anxiety, gastrointestinal (GI)

conditions, and migraine headache. Nepetalactone is the major component (80-

95%) of the volatile oil of catnip and is structurally related to the valepotriates

found in valerian. Catnip provides approximately 0.2-1% volatile oil. Catnip

reportedly also has antipyretic and diaphoretic effects, which have been

attributed to its use for colds, flu, and fever. Other reported pharmacological

effects, include diuretic and stimulation of gallbladder activity (2).

Adverse Reactions:

Report an Adverse Reaction to CATNIP

Catnip abuse may result in headache and malaise. Large amounts of tea may

cause vomiting (2). One case report exists of a nineteen-month-old child who

developed a stomachache and irritability, followed by lethargy and a hypnotic

state after ingesting raisins soaked in catnip tea and chewing on the tea bag (5).

Interactions with Herbs & Supplements:


concomitant use of catnip with herbs that have sedative properties might

enhance therapeutic and adverse effects. Some of these supplements include

5-HTP, calamus, California poppy, catnip, hops, Jamaican dogwood, kava, St.

John's wort, skullcap, valerian, yerba mansa, and others.

Interactions with Drugs:

CNS DEPRESSANTS <<interacts with>> CATNIP

Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination.

Severity = High • Occurrence = Possible • Level of Evidence = D

Theoretically, concomitant use with drugs with sedative properties may cause

additive effects and side effects (4).

LITHIUM <<interacts with>> CATNIP

Interaction Rating = Moderate Be cautious with this combination.
Severity = Moderate • Occurrence = Probable • Level of Evidence = D

Catnip is thought to have diuretic properties. Theoretically, due to these potential
diuretic effects, catnip might reduce excretion and increase levels of lithium. The
dose of lithium might need to be decreased.

Interactions with Foods:

None known.

Interactions with Lab Tests:

None known.

Interactions with Diseases or Conditions:


catnip is also used to stimulate menstruation, theoretically it is contraindicated in

pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and excessive menstrual bleeding (3).

SURGERY: Catnip has CNS depressant effects. Theoretically, catnip might

cause additive CNS depression when combined with anesthesia and other

medications during and after surgical procedures. Tell patients to discontinue

catnip at least 2 weeks before elective surgical procedures.


ORAL: People typically use two 380 mg capsules three times daily at meals or

prepared as a tea using 1-2 teaspoons in 6 ounces of boiling water.

Specific References: Catmint

1. Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal: A Sensible Guide to the Use of

Herbs and Related Remedies. 3rd ed., Binghamton, NY: Haworth Herbal Press,


2. The Review of Natural Products by Facts and Comparisons. St. Louis, MO:

Wolters Kluwer Co., 1999.

3. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A, eds. American Herbal Products

Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, LLC


4. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. 2nd ed. Sandy, OR:

Eclectic Medical Publications, 1998.

5. Osterhoudt KC, Lee SK, Callahan JM, Henretig FM. Catnip and the alteration

of human consciousness. Vet Hum Toxicol 1997;39:373-5.

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