Nepeta cataria L.
General: erect perennial from taproot, commonly several-
stemmed, branched upward, 30-100 cm tall, grey-hairy
throughout, especially on the lower surfaces of the leaves,
with soft, loosely spreading, not very long hairs.
Leaves: basal lacking, stem leaves opposite, scarcely
reduced upward, stalked, with coarsely sharp- to blunt-
toothed blades, triangular-ovate, heart-shaped at base,
mostly 2.5-7 cm long and 1.5-5 cm wide.
Flowers: whitish, commonly dotted with purple, 10-15
mm long, short-hairy outside like the calyx, the upper lip
2-lobed, the broad central lobe of the lower lip with small
teeth. Many flowers in short, dense, spikelike clusters
mostly 2-8 cm long and 1.5-2.5 cm wide at the ends of the
branches. Calyx 5-6 mm long, with 15 raised nerves, the
slender, sharp-pointed teeth shorter than the tube, almost
equal in length.
Flowering time: June-September.
Fruits: 4 nutlets.
Roadsides, stream banks, and disturbed areas, less often
in relatively undisturbed habitats, in w., c. and se. parts of
MT. Native of Eurasia, now widely naturalized in America.
Edible and Medicinal plant: see below.
(click on image for full size)
(click on images for full size)
Young leaves of catnip are edible raw. Catnip leaves are used to add flavor to sauces, soups and stews.
The dried leaves, seeds or powdered roots can be used as herbal tea. The tea should be infused in a closed
container in order to preserve the essential oils, boiling is said to spoil it.
The leaves and flowering tops of catnip are
strongly antispasmodic, and have agents that prevent or relieve cough, cause tissue to contract, relieve
and remove gas from the digestive system, induce sweating, reduce fever, give strength and tone to the
stomach, to a slight extent promote or assist the flow of menstrual fluid, and are slightly stimulant,
sedative and tonic.
Leaves of catnip can be chewed to alleviate
toothache. Catnip tea has been shown to have anti-cholinergic effects and has been used to relieve intestinal
cramps and gas discomforts. Taken as hot infusion, catnip promotes sweating and is beneficial for cure
of colds, flu and fevers. Catnip is believed to help prevent miscarriage and pre-mature birth and allay
morning sickness. Catnip has been used for relief of insomnia. The juice of catnip leaves can be used
to stimulate menstrual flow.
Catnip oil can be used as natural insecticide. Thymol extracted from catnip can be used as fungicide and
preservative. Thymol is a crystalline phenol with aromatic odor and antiseptic properties.
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