9 Amazing Benefits of Catnip

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

The most important health benefits of catnip include its ability to calm restless sleep, relieve anxiety and stress, soothe menstrual pain, eliminate eating disorders, and ease stomach discomfort. It also helps speed up the recovery from colds and fevers, detoxify the body, reduce inflammation throughout the body, and even speed wound healing.

What is Catnip?

The flowering perennial known commonly as catnip, catmint, or catswort actually has the scientific name of Nepeta cataria. Although most people don’t realize that this treat, so commonly reserved for its sedative, calming effects on cats, also has extensive benefits for human beings like driving aways infections. Its native range is quite diverse, stretching across Europe and parts of Asia, including China. It is potent due to a certain terpenoid, called nepetalactone, but various other chemical constituents and nutrients also affect human health. [1]

Catnip can be applied topically via the leaves or the essential oil, while catnip tea brewed from the leaves is also popular. As per the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the extracts and essential oils made from catnip are also quite popular for their uses. It is generally used in teas, juices, tinctures, extracts, salves, and even as an herb to be smoked, in addition to its culinary applications. [2]

Health Benefits of Catnip

The health benefits of catnip include:

Stress Relief

Researchers J. S. Cauffield and H. J. Forbes have suggested that catnip can provide stress relief and reduce chronic anxiety when eaten, consumed in the form of a juice or tea, or when smoked as an herb. This can also help reduce the secondary symptoms of chronic stress and strengthen your immune system. [3]

Close-up of fresh green catnip leaves in a forest background

Offer a pinch of catnip or a catnip-filled toy to your pet feline, and her response might be dramatic Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Sleep Aid

Catnip has been used by people suffering from insomnia or restlessness for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Its sedative nature helps slow down the body’s natural cycles and induce a calm, relaxed state. Many people choose to drink a cup of catnip tea before bed to ensure a refreshing sleep.

Reduces Digestive Issues

The book, “The New Healing Herbs: The Essential Guide to More Than 130 of Nature’s Most Potent Herbal Remedies” by a San Francisco journalist Michael Castleman, shows that catnip is an antispasmodic. It is particularly effective in clearing up digestive issues, especially constipation, excess flatulence, cramping, and bloating. The relaxing, anti-inflammatory effects of organic compounds in it can ease the knots and inflammation in your gastrointestinal system and relieve tightness and discomfort. [4]

Menstrual Cramps

For women suffering from painful menstrual cramps, catnip tea is often recommended as an alternative treatment, because it can quickly relieve those cramps in the body. Furthermore, its sedative and calming effects can also soothe many symptoms of menstruation such as mood swings.

Headache Reliever

Catnip has proven to be very effective against headaches, even chronic migraines. Rubbing its essential oil on the affected area, drinking its tea or rubbing a catnip leaf salve on the temples can also offer a quick relief.

Speeds up Healing

Catnip induces sweating, so is often recommended by alternative practitioners for treating the common cold. In terms of colds and flu, one of the fastest ways to clean out the body is to induce sweating and get the toxins flushed from the system. This is particularly true in the case of fevers when the lack of sweating before the fever breaks is only keeping those toxins and pathogens in the body.

Anti-inflammatory Activity

The chemical constituents of catnip are effective as anti-inflammatory agents. This means that it can be effective against arthritis, gout, sprained muscles, aching joints, and even hemorrhoids. Topical application or normal consumption of leaves, juice, or tea can be effective for all of these situations.

Relives Skin Irritation

The natural repellent quality of catnip makes it ideal for keeping bugs away from gardens when kept as an ornamental plant, but the organic compounds in the plant make it ideal for soothing bug bites and relieving irritation on the skin. Applying salves or extracts to the irritated or broken skin can speed the healing process and reduce inflammation quickly. [5]

Word of Caution: For people suffering from liver or kidney disorders, the use of catnip may be risky, particularly if you are regularly consuming the tea. Furthermore, pregnant women should avoid it, as it can prematurely induce labor. Other than those specific concerns, it is generally considered non-allergenic and harmless to users. The high potency of the essential oil should be considered, however, and extracts should always be mixed with carrier oils.

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About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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