Not Just For Feline Friends

Catnip herb pictureThe common Catnip, Nepeta cataria, a member of the mint family is native to the Mediterranean area of Europe, but has spread throughout Europe and North America and many other places, where it grows freely as a weed. The genus Nepeta has many species, some of which are called catmints and are grown as ornamental plants.

And of course most of people know of the stimulating effect Catnip herb has on cats. In addition to cats, bees are also fond of Catnip.

Catnip plant is a hardy perennial, it stem is covered with fine hairs and grows woody near the base as it ages. The leaves of common catnip are heart-shaped, gray green and have a scalloped edge. They are covered with soft hairs and appear downy. The leaves have a lemon-mint flavor and scent.

The catnip flowers are small spikes of white flowers with tiny purple dots on the throat, and not very showy. There is also an uncommon yellow variety. In good conditions catnip can grow to 5 foot high and 3 feet wide. Catnip herb is tough and spreads rapidly by seed through the garden, popping up everywhere.

Growing your own catnip is more economical than purchasing it in the store. Home grown catnip is also fresher and can be more potent than store bought.


The herb Catnip is easy to grow, perhaps even, too easy.

  • Pot Size                        3,25" container.
  • Seed Spacing               Sow Catnip seeds on the top of the slightly moistened soil and gently press them into the soil.
  • Seed Germination         7 to 10 days.
  • Plant Spacing               Catnip should be spaced between 15” and 18” (38 and 45 cm) apart.
  • Water Requirements    Water on a regular schedule, taking care to not overwater.
  • Soil Requirements        Well drained, average soil.
  • Growing Mix                 Mix two parts sterilized potting soil and one part coarse sand.
  • Fertilizer                        All-purpose organic fertilizer. Use only a very mild fertilizer and apply it at half the suggested application rate.
  • Sun Requirements        Catnip prefers full sun but will tolerate some shade. Plants need at least 5 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Catnip can also be propagated by dividing the roots, or from softwood or stem tip cuttings. Cuttings from young plants tend to root more quickly, often in just a week. Stem cuttings should be about 10 cm (4 inches) long.

Cats aren't the only creatures that benefit from Catnip as the leaves may be used in cooking - candied to enjoy as a dessert.
Long before true tea found its way to Europe people were brewing catnip herbal tea. Catnip was used as one of medicinal herbs and just as a soothing warm drink. It was often given to children to calm them and help them sleep. Since Catnip actually has simulative properties the tea probably soothed the colic pains that were keeping crabby children awake. It still makes a safe and soothing tea.

Catnip herb is settling to the stomach, sedative, and, since it powerfully stimulates sweating, fever reducing. Catnip tea taken with Valerian, Lemon Balm or St. Johns Wort can be used as a natural remedy for insomnia. Its pleasant taste and gentle action make it suitable for colds, flu, and fever in children, especially when it is mixed with elderflower and honey. Catnip is markedly antiflatulent, settling indigestion and is also useful in treating headaches related to digestive problems. A tincture makes a good friction rub for rheumatic and arthritic joints, and, as an ointment, treats haemorrhoids.

A strong catnip tea can be used as effective eyewash to relieve inflammation and swelling due to certain airborne allergies, cold and flu, and excess alcoholic intake ("bloodshot eye" syndrome).

The tea is also very good for the miseries of hayfever and nausea. A small cup of warm catnip tea sweetened with honey is good for calming hyperactive kids.

Catnip oil is used to relieve the symptoms of headaches, insomnia, nervousness and depression. Its essential oil is being tested as a mosquito repellent.

Catnip has also been used to discourage rats, who are said to avoid areas where it grows. Some also claim the herb deters mice, flea beetles and Japanese beetles.

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Ann Cairns said...

I love the smell of catnip. It is my favorite perennial. Not only does it attract bees, but hummingbirds and butterflies. I am hoping to grow it Indoors through our winter, and was hoping you would have insight into care during winter indoors. Thank you. AnnC

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