Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Perennial - Labiatae
Common names: Catmint, Catnep, Catswort, Field Balm
Range: Native to Europe, naturalized in North America
Catmint is related to mints and nettles and bears an odor similar to that of pennyroyal or mint. And, as most of us know, this characteristic scent drives cats wild, as the old saying asserts:
"If you set it, the cats will eat it,
If you sow it, the cats don't know it."
In many parts of Europe, young catmint leaves are added fresh to salads or steamed and presented as a cooked vegetable. Tea is another popular venue for this herb, as it was used in Europe before the import of tea from China.
According to The Herb Garden, "The root when chewed is said to make the most gentle person fierce and quarrelsome, and there is a legend of a certain hangman who could never screw up his courage to the point of hanging anybody till he had partaken of it." It is also said that rats and mice have a strong dislike for the plant and will avoid places where it grows.
Catnip has been employed for a variety of ailments over the years. It was once combined with saffron and made into a tea to treat scarlet fever and small pox. The tea was also believed to be able to stop a headache in its tracks and, when prepared as a jelly or conserve, the herb would stave nightmares. Culpepper recommended catnip prepared as a poultice or ointment to treat wounds and bruises and infused with honey to quiet coughs.
Catnip is an effective diaphoretic, meaning that it promotes sweating. It may be taken as a strong infusion (tea), often combined with elder flowers and peppermint. For headaches, consider an infusion that blends catnip, chamomile, feverfew and/or skullcap.
Catnip possesses antispasmodic, diuretic, sedative, diaphoretic and antipyretic properties. It should not be taken during pregnancy.
Constituents: volatile oil (up to 0.7%), thymol, camphor, caryophyllene, epinepitalactone, pulegone, carvacrol
Certified Organic Catnip