Text Size

Site Search powered by Ajax



Botanical Description & Habitat

Nepeta cataria


Common Names
Field balm

Native to Asia and Europe, naturalized in the United States; found along hedge banks and waste places.

Catnip is a perennial herb with branching stems that are square, erect, and covered with fine, whitish hairs. The plant grows from 3-5 feet in height. Its oblong pointed leaves have finely-scalloped margins and whitish hairs on the lower side. The flowers are white with purple spots, growing in clusters along part of the length of the peduncle from June to September.

Some two-thirds of cats may respond euphorically to exposure to the plant or liquid extract.

Medicinal Parts
Leaves and flowering tops

Historical Properties & Uses

Catnip, often called catmint, is indeed a member of the mint family, and possesses many of the same properties as peppermint. Due to the presence of similar oils, it is a soothing carminative to the gastrointestinal tract, a mild tonic, and a favorite tea with young children to relieve flatulence and colic.

North American Indians used the tea for childhood colic, while Europeans used it for similar complaints as well as colds and bronchial infections. Like peppermint, catnip has antibiotic properties. It is an appetite stimulant, and increases digestive capacity.

Method of Action

Catnip has good antibiotic activity
A residue from evaporation of solvent of a hot water extract of dried catnip caused a dose-dependent increase in the number, average episode duration, and average total duration, of light sleep periods in chicks. These results suggest catnip possesses significant biological and even psychotropic activity.

Drug Interactions & Precautions

Possible Interactions
Any of the following drugs may be imperfectly absorbed if catnip is being used on a daily basis: tetracycline derivatives, oral anticholinergics, phenothiazines, digoxin, isoniazid, phenytoin, and warfarin.

It should also be noted the urinary excretion of alkaline drugs, such as amphetamines or quinidine, may be inhibited by the antacid nature of catnip.

Catnip should be used with caution in conjunction with CNS depressants or stimulants; the herb's analgesic effects may be additive with other analgesics and anesthetics.

Catnip may be inhibited by barbiturates, despite any CNS depressant effects which may occur. Furthermore, analgesic property of catnip may be reversed or eliminated by P-chlorophenylalanine, cyproheptadine HCL, and phenobarbital. Conversely, the CNS depressant tendency of this analgesic may be potentiated by chlorpoxthixene HCL, haloperidol, and tranquilizers.

In the absence of other hard data, it may still be assumed observable interactions may occur between the many central nervous system drugs and the psychoactive principles in catnip.

Safety Factors & Toxicity

Catnip is nontoxic in therapeutic dosages. Listed as an herb with undefined safety by the FDA.

Catnip is sometimes used as a marijuana substitute, but no definitive experimentation has been done along these lines. What is known is that cats, both domestic and wild, exhibit behavior changes resembling addiction and 'mind-altering', when smelling it.

Preparation & Administration

Three times a day

Dried leaves and flowering tops
2-4 grams

1 tsp of dried herb

Fluid extract
1:1 in 25% alcohol, 2-4 ml

1:5 in 25% alcohol, 3-6 ml

Note: This Herbal Preparation information is a summary of data from books and articles by various authors. It is not intended to replace the advice or attention of health care professionals.


American Hospital Formulary Service. Am Soc of Hosp Pharm. Wash, D.C.

Clark, T., A. Conney & B. Harpole, et.al. 1967. Drug interactions that can affect your patients. Patient Care, 1(11). pp. 33-71.

d'Amico, M.L. Richere sulla presenza di sostanze ad azione antibiotica nelle piante superiori. Fitoterapia, 26(1), 77- 79, 1950.

De Martinis, et.al. 1980. Milk thistle (silybum marianum) derivatives in the therapy of chronic hepatopathies. Clin. Ter., 94(3). pp. 283-315.

Drug package insert (FDA approved official brochure) and other labeling based on sponsored clinical investigations and New Drug Application data.

Facts and Comparison. The Lawrence Review of Natural Products. Jan, 1991.

Goodman, L.S. & A. Gilman. 1975. Pharm Basis of Thera. Macmillan, NY.

Hatch, R.C. Effect of drugs on catnip (nepeta cataria) induced pleasure behavior in cats. Am J of Vet Research, 33, 143-155, 1972.

Jackson, B & Reed, A: Catnip and the alteration of consciousness. JAMA. 1969, 207:1,349.

Leung, Albert Y. 1980. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredient used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. John Wiley & Sons, N Y. 409 pp.

Melmon, K., H.F. Morelli, J.A. Oates, et. al. 1967. Drug interactions that can affect your patients. Pat Care, Nov. pp.33-71.

Mowrey, Daniel B., Ph.D. Exper. Psych., Brigham Young University. Director of Nebo Institute of Herbal Sciences. Director of Behavior Change Agent Training Institute. Director of Research, Nova Corp.

Neuvonen, P.J., et.al. 1970. Interference of iron with the absorbtion of tetracyclines in man. British Med J, 4. p. 532.

Ngai, S.H., L.C. Mark & E.M. Papper. 1970. Pharmacologic and physiologic aspects of anesthesiology. N.E. J of Med, 282. pp.479-491.

Scientific Committee, British Herbal Pharmocopaeia, British Herbal Medicine Association, Lane House, Cowling, NA Keighley, West Yorks, BD BD220LX, l983.

Sherry, C.J. & J.A. Koontz. Pharmacologic studies of 'catnip tea': the hot water extract of nepeta cataria. Quarterly Journal of Crude Drug Research, 17(2), 68-72, 1979.

Stuart, D.M. 1968. Drug metabolism Part 2. Drug interactions. PharmIndex, 10(10). pp. 4-16.

Tucker, AO & Tucker, SS: Catnip and the catnip response. Economic Botany, 1988, 42:214.

Zinn, M.B. 1970. Quinidine intoxication from alkai ingestion. Texas Medicine, 66. p. 64.