What Is Catnip?
Catnip is a plant which is botanically known as Nepeta cataria and it belongs to the mint family. The herb is also known by the following other names – catmint, fieldbalm, catsworth, catrup etc. Apart from its behavioral effects on cats, the aromatic Catnip offers many health related benefits for humans.
Catnip was originally found in Europe from where it spread to other parts of the world, especially Asia and North America. Catnip requires a milder climate to grow and even does well in garden soil without many requirements. The medicinal part of this three feet long plant is its aerial flowering top which is collected and dried for herbal use.
Catnip has white colored two lipped flowers with purple spots. It is said that the herb Catnip has the following properties – anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-pyretic, sedative, diaphoretic and refrigerant.
How Does It Work?
Catnip has the following components in it – Volatile oil like nepetalactone, epinepetalactone, pulegone, caryophyllene and thymol, tannin, acetic acid, buteric acid, dipentene, nepetalic acid, para-aminobenzoic acid, pantothenic acid, valeric acid, lifronella, choline, citral, limonene, folic acid, biotin, inositol, manganese, sodium, iron, phosphorous, sulfur, Vitamin A, Vitamin Betc.
Health Benefits Of Catnip
Catnip essential oil can be used as an effective insect repellant and the leaves of this plant repel mosquitoes naturally more than any other commercial product. However, the health benefits of this herbinclude the following:
For A Healthy Nervous System
Catnip is popular for its relaxing effect on the nervous system of the human body. The herb was traditionally used to relieve problems such as stress, depression, anxiety, indigestion (due to anxiety) and nervousness. Many take the herb to promote overall relaxation and calmness of the mental system.
Another related advantage offered by Catnip is its ability to treat sleep-related problems such as insomnia. The herbal tea made using Catnip is known to be sedative in nature leading to a good night’s sleep. This herb is therefore used by those who do not want to get dependent on harmful chemicals for solving insomnia. According to some medical experts from the University of Maryland Medical Center taking catnip tea may help those with bulimia nervosa.
For Migraine & Headaches
Another benefit of taking Catnip supplements is in the treatment of headaches, stress related headaches and even migraine. Catnip helps to treat headache by relaxing the body musclesand by acting as a mild sedative.
For Treating High BP
According to some, drinking catnip tea may help in reducing high blood pressure(though there are no scientific studies to validate this claim).
Aids In Digestion
Another common usage of Catnip is in treating gastro-intestinal problems due to problems in the digestion process. The herb can be used to treat gas, nausea and even diarrhea, according to some. Drinking a cup of catnip tea is often recommended to get quick relief from gastro-intestinal distress. Catnip works by relaxing the stomach muscles and by lowering the acid levels in the intestine.
For Treating Viral & Bacterial Infections
Herbal tea made from catnip offers diaphoretic effect on the body that leads to increased sweating without raising the body temperature. As a result of this feature, catnip was used in folk medicine to treat common cold, flu (influenza), bacterial and viral infections.
The antipyretic property of this herb therefore can break a fever and bring down the body temperature to normal levels. In folk medicine, a combination of catnipand saffron was used to treat scarlet fever.
Another traditional usage of Catnip is in the treatment of toothache. Catnip poultice is usually applied on the affected portion to treat minor tooth ache problems.
For Hyperactive Children
Since catnip has a calming effect on the nervous system, the herb is also used in calming hyperactive children who are prone to restlessness and agitation. It can also be used in treating motion sickness and nervousness in children. According to experts, the herb can also be used for treating infant colic as it calms the stomach and intestinal walls.
Some recommend that nursing mothers should drink the catnip tea to calm the baby and some say catnip tea drops can be given directly to the baby. However, before using herbal products on lactating mothers, infants and children one must always take the opinion of a qualified medical practitioner.
For Female Problems
Another traditional usage of catnip is in starting menstrual period in women and also in relieving menstrual pain & cramping. In folk medicine, catnip is used to make the muscles of the uterus stronger.
For Rheumatism And Arthritis
The herb can also be used in treating the pain associated with rheumatism and arthritis. Catnip poultice can be applied on the affected area to reduce swelling and joint pain.
Catnip tea can be taken two to three times a day to relax the body muscles and to reduce stress.
Side Effects, Overdose & Other Considerations
The herb is usually safe and does not have any adverse side effects. However, it may lead to vomiting and headaches in some cases. Catnip should not be smoked or taken at high dosage levels.
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Pregnant women should avoid this herb as it may lead to uterine contractions. Women with pelvic inflammatory disease and menorrhagia (heavy periods) also should avoid catnip as it may start menstruation and make it heavy. The herb should be avoided atleast two weeks before a surgery as it may interfere with the anesthesia and related drugs.
Catnip is an herb with many uses – it strengthens the human immune system, calms the nervous system, reduces fever and pain, treats flatulence and also helps in treating some common female problems. The herb is available in the market in the form of capsules, powder extracts and in liquid form.
Medical studies related to this herb are usually less and inconclusive. The herb is usually safe with no side effects. Some even say that catnip tea can be given to children without any possible risk.
Catnip interacts with sedative medications (CNS depressants).