Nepeta cataria (Catnip)
Nepeta cataria (Catnip) is an ornamental, erect perennial herbaceous plant that grows to 20–39 inches high, which are very leafy and covered with a mealy down. The heart-shaped, toothed leaves are likewise covered with a soft, close down, especially on the undersides, which are quite white with it, so that the whole plant has a hoary, greyish appearance, as though it had had the dust blown over it. It has little white or lilac blossoms that are dotted with purple spots. They are in bloom from July to September. Catnip flower is about 1/2 inch long and has 5 petals united into a 2-lipped tube. The upper lip consists of 2 lobes while the lower lip has 3-lobes which is common in mint plant family.
Catnip flowers form a dense whorled cluster at the ends of stems and branches. The fruit is not ornamentally significant. The names catnip and catmint are gotten from the intense attraction most cats have towards them and many people grow the plant just to amuse their cats. Young leaves are edible raw. They have an aromatic mint-like flavor eaten in salads.
Catnip also holds amazing benefits for human beings and is a very potent mosquito repellent.
Scientific Name: Nepeta cataria
Common Names: catswort, catmint and field balm
Native Range: Central Europe
How to care and grow Nepeta cataria (Catnip)?
It prefers to be in full sun but can tolerate some partial shade. Keep your plant at least 5 hours of direct sunlight daily.
It grows well in any good, fast-draining potting soil. It prefers the soil pH range between 6.1 (mildly acidic) and 7.8 (mildly alkaline).
Nepeta cataria prefers temperatures of 60°F to 70°F for best germination.
Water young Catnip plants twice a week for the first two weeks, reduce watering to every other week after plants become well established. Allow soil to go almost dry between watering. Keep the soil moist but never soggy.
Fertilize Nepeta cataria (Catnip) plants with a weak liquid fertilizer every two weeks. Start fertilizing the soil two weeks after planting and continue until the first week of the summer season.
It can be easily propagated by seed, stem cuttings, or rootball division. Cuttings from young plants tend to root more quickly, often in just a week. Stem cuttings should be about 4 inches long. Plant seeds in the spring and seeds germinate in 5 to 10 days. You can collect seeds from flowers, but the plant will self-sow and grow in the same spot year after year.
Prune after the first bloom to encourage a second flowering before the winter season. Chop the catmint plants down to 3 or 4 inches after the first frost. This helps encourage new healthy growth during the spring. Remove spent flowers by pinching them off to prevent self-seeding.
Harvest leaves at any time after the plant has reached 8 inches in height. Cut back but leave at least four inches from the ground to ensure regrowth. The best leaves will be those before the plant has flowered but it can be cut back several times during the year to retard flowering and increase leaf production. Dry leaves either by grouping stems together and hanging upside down in a dry warm place or by stripping from the stalks and drying on racks on in a dehydrator. Keep out of the sun to avoid bleaching of the leaves. Store in tightly closed jars or plastic packs.
Pests and Diseases:
Catmints are susceptible to spider mites and whitefly. Since the herb comes from the mint family the herb is prone to diseases such as mint rust, anthracnose, and verticillium wilt.
Benefits of Nepeta cataria (Catnip):
- It is used to treat colds and fevers as it can help promote sweating and induce sleep without increasing the heat in the body which helps to remove toxins and reduce fever and cold virus symptoms.
- It is also helpful in treating headaches related to digestive problems. A tincture of the herb makes a good friction rub for rheumatic and arthritic joints, and as an ointment treats hemorrhoids.
- A catnip infusion acts as a detoxing agent, by eliminating toxins in your body. Its anti-fungal, antibiotic and astringent properties protect your body from viruses and bacteria. Also, the aromatic foliage also repels mosquitoes.
- Pregnant ladies should not use catnip. It may stimulate the uterus and cause miscarriage.
How to make Catnip tea:
Mix 2 teaspoons of dried catnip leaves or flowers with 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 10 to 15 minutes. Add lemon juice and honey.
Some people prefer drinking the tea when the lemon has been immersed for a longer time for the natural minty, citrusy flavor to come out.
Catnip has been used by people with insomnia. Its sedative effect helps slow down the body’s natural cycles and induce a calm, relaxed state.
Catnip reduces stress and chronic anxiety as well as strengthens the immune system.
Speeds up Healing (Flu and colds)
Catnip induces sweating and gets the toxins flushed from the system.
Increased Sweating And Weight Loss
Catnip has diaphoretic property that makes one sweat more. Thus, it removes all harmful toxins from the body and improves metabolism. With improved metabolism, the body will burn fats much more quickly.
Drinking catnip tea or rubbing Catnip essential oil or leaf salve on the temples can offer quick relief.
Heals Digestive Problems
The organic compounds in catnip has relaxing, anti-inflammatory effects to relieve tightness and discomfort of the gastrointestinal system.
Menstrual cramps/Irregular periods
Catnip tea is a natural remedy to quickly relieve cramps and stresses in the body. Its sedative and calming effects can also soothe mood swings, depression and other symptoms of menstruation.
Treats Skin Conditions
Aside from Catnip’s natural repellent quality, it also has organic compounds to soothe bug bits, relieve skin of irritation and reduce inflammation quickly.
Beneficial For Kidneys
Catnip is a diuretic meaning it promotes urination and quickly eliminating wastes from the body.
Catnip has antiseptic properties that is good for irritated scalp and those with dandruff. The catnip tea can also be used as a conditioner.
- It’s recommended to drink catnip tea at night as this will make one drowsy.
- However, since it’s also a diuretic it would cause frequent urination and frequent trips to the bathroom/interrupted sleep.
- You should not drink catnip tea if you’re pregnant, as it can cause uterine contractions that may result in premature labor.
- Stop drinking catnip tea for several weeks before surgery, so that it doesn’t interfere with or intensify anesthesia and the central nervous system.
- Always consult your doctor prior to taking any medications and avoid self-medication.
Medicinal properties and Health Benefits of Nepeta cataria:
Parts used: Leaves, flowers and stem
Catnip has long been thought to have medicinal properties.
The leaves and flowering tops are sedative, antispasmodic, antitussive, diaphoretic, astringent, carminative, slightly emmenagogue, refrigerant, slightly stimulant and tonic. Its plant constituents include Nepetalactone, Nepetalic acid, Alpha- & beta- Citral, Geraniol, Dipentene,Limonene, Citronella, Nerol, a terpene, Valeric acid, Acetic acid, Butyric acid, and Tannin.
The catnip’s dried leaves and flowers are made into herbal teas to treat intestinal cramps, indigestion, diarrhea, headache and common colds as well as to cause sweating, to induce menstruation, as a sedative, and to increase appetite.
The dried leaves have been smoked to relieve respiratory ailments, and has been used externally as a poultice to reduce swelling.
Traditional doses for sedation require 4 grams of dried herb that is made into tea.