Catnip is well known for its gentle and calming properties as it has been employed in traditional western folk practices for centuries. Nepeta cataria is a member of the mint family and features a square stem, heart-shaped leaves, and small fragrant pink to white flowers on a terminal spike. The leaves can be tinctured, steeped into a relaxing catnip tea, and added to herbal tea blends.
The ultimate feline herb, for centuries cats have been going crazy over this plant. It makes them happy and spunky yet has a more calming effect on people. Catnip has been used in European folk medicine for generations as a calming agent for body and mind. It is gentle and is very useful for children and infants.
Catnip is a gray-green perennial with the square stems and terminal flower spikes typical of the Mint or Lamiaceae family. It has fuzzy, heart-shaped, toothed leaves and grows 2-3 feet tall. It is native to the dry and temperate Mediterranean area in Europe, Asia, and Africa, and was introduced to the many parts of the world, particularly North America, by European settlers, and is now widely naturalized and cultivated extensively in gardens and for commerce.
Catnip was part of American folk medicine and Native American healing systems and employed as a gentle tea for children in cases of occasional upset stomach or sleeplessness. Catnip was used by the Hoh, Delaware, and Iroquois tribes for children's complaints due to its mild nature. The Cherokee used the plant similarly to other indigenous groups and also considered it to be an overall strengthening tonic. They chose this herb when a relaxant was needed in cases of irritability or sleeplessness, just like the Europeans. In the southwestern United States, catnip or 'nebada' amongst the Spanish speakers, was utilized in traditional folk medicine to allay a range of digestive challenges. It was considered particularly useful for soothing the stomach and enhancing digestion in infants. Also, it was sold as a brandy infusion with 'hinojo' or fennel as a digestive tonic. Catnip is useful for soothing stomach complaints and therefore good in a laxative formula with harsh herbs like senna. Some herbalists find it helpful to balance physical manifestations such as occasional indigestion that stem from emotional issues or the "gut level". This herb is energetically considered to be slightly warming and thus useful as a diaphoretic to bring on perspiration.