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Herb Library

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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.




CATNIP
LABIATAE
aka Cat's Fancy, Cat's Wort, Catmint, Catnep, Catrup, Field Balm, Herb Catta, Nep
(Nepeta cataria)
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DRUG INTERACTIONS: Increases effects of hexobarbital.

CONTRAINDICATED: NOT used when pregnant.

CONTAINS: Bitter principle, tannins, volatile oil, resin, citronellal (also found in Lemon Balm), thymol, pulegone, geraniol, carvacrol, nepetal, iridoid glycosides, including actinidine (believed responsible for the effect on cats), camphor humulone, caryophyllene, epinepetalactone, isodihydronepetalactone, nepetalactone, water (88% fresh, 6.4% air dried).
PER 100 grams based on zero moisture = 25 mg aluminum, 5% ash, 616 mg calcium, 0.27 mg chromium, 1.18 mg cobalt, 13.8 mg iron, 207 mg magnesium, 3.74 mg manganese, trace mg niacin, 241 mg phosphorus, 2,350 mg potassium, 0.36 mg riboflavin, 1.23 mg selenium, trace mg silicon, trace mg sodium, trace mg thiamine, 1.1 mg tin, 4,000 IU vitamin A, trace mg vitamin C, trace mg zinc.
SEEDS: 57% linolenic acid, 18% linoleic acid, 12% oleic acid, 6% saturated fatty acids.



This erect, shrubby, perennial plant, from 1 to 3 feet tall, is native to Eurasia but widely naturalized throughout the temperate zones. Can be found in hedgebanks, along roadsides, and in waste places. Leaves are heart-shaped, toothed, 1 to 3 inches long and downy, more so beneath the leaf than above and with a strong mint-pennyroyal aroma and a bitter camphorish flavor; 'white as a nep' is an old English expression referring to the pale color of the leaves. The stems are 4-sided (square) as is typical of members of the mint family. The bilabiate flowers are tubular, white to pale blue with crimson dots, appearing in dense, prickly, spike-like whorls. The calyx tube has 15 ribs (characteristic of Nepeta species). Fruit contains 4 smooth tiny nutlets or seeds.

Was official in the USP from 1842 to 1882 and the NF 1916-50.

The name 'nepeta' is said to be taken from Nepi, an ancient Tuscan town, where it was said to grow in abundance.

Astrologically ruled by Venus. Was said to have been sacred to the Egyptian goddesses Bast (cat) and Sekhmet (lion). Is associated with the Major Arcana of Tarot, specifically #8 - Strength, and the 9's of the Minor Arcana. In Earth religions it is used in ritual with Dragon's Blood to rid one's self of bad habits and in shape shifting practices.

NOTE: An urban legend states that you can get high smoking catnip. YOU CAN NOT!



PROPAGATION: By SEED in spring and fall and by STEM-TIP or SOFTWOOD CUTTINGS in spring or summer. Although many sources state it can be propagated by root division, my experience says it cannot be done successfully. The plant goes into a permanent sulk and dies. Perennial. Seed viable 5 years.
NEEDS: Grown as an ornamental in full to part sun in sandy loam that is well-draining. Hardy to zones 3 and 4. Susceptible to powdery mildew. Protect young, growing plants from cats rolling on them by enclosing in wire cages. May benefit from a side dressing of well-rotted compost in spring.
PART USED: Dried leaves and dried budded tops.
HARVEST: Leaves and tops in late summer while plants are in full bud and getting ready to bloom. Dry for use. Also, young fresh leaves for culinary use.
SOLVENT: Hot water.
FLOWERS: July - September
RELATED SPECIES:
JAPANESE CATNIP (Schizonepeta tenuifolia): Used in Chinese medicine for hemorrhages (especially postnatal), excessive menstruation, colds, measles and stinging nettle rashes.
LEMON CATNIP (N.c. 'Citriodora'): Possesses a lemon aroma similar to Lemon Balm, but is less desired by felines. It makes a nice tea and was once used for seasoning.
PERSIAN CATNIP (Nepeta X Faasenii): A sterile hybrid with purple flowers.



USES

MEDICINAL:
Bitter, appetite stimulant (taken before a meal), astringent, antispasmodic, anodyne, antibiotic, diaphoretic, febrifuge, carminative, emmenogogue, nervine, sedative, digestive aid (taken after a meal); affects nervous and digestive systems, lungs and liver.
Has been used in infusion form for anemia, to improve circulation, colds, flu, catarrh, bronchitis, feverish illnesses, indigestion, flatulence, insomnia, measles, neuraligia, nightmare, scurvy, tuberculosis, chicken pox, hives, headaches (also a compress of the infusion on the forehead), hyperactivity, palpitations, colic, nervous dyspepsia, nervousness, drug and nicotine withdrawal, fatigue, hemorrhoids, hiccups, infertility, insanity, pain, restlessness, shock, skin problems, external sores, stress, vomiting, roseola, amenorrhea (also for difficult periods; for delayed or spotty periods, 1 tbsp of the juice of the leaf jas been taken 2 or 3 times daily), diarrhea (due to the presence of tannins), worms and head congestion before a flu.
Two cups of infusion has been added to a shallow bath as an alternative to internal use.
The young tops were once made into a conserve for nightmare.
Has been taken daily in the form of tea as a preventative for cataracts, although there is no scientific proof this actually works.
The bruised herb has been applied as a poultice (2 to 3 hours) to relieve pain of piles. An ointment containing the juice has been used for the same purpose. Has also been used in poultice form as an antiseptic for scabs, boils, other skin problems.
An infusion has been used as a rinse for dandruff and applied to acne as a lotion.
Has been used in enema formulas (1 Tbsp dried herb steeped in 1 pint of water). The warm tea was once used as an enema for children with convulsions and for blocked urine, fever, and expelling worms in children.
Has been combined with Yarrow (Achillea millefolium) and Elder (Sambucus nigra) for the feverish stages of colds and flu, and with Ground Ivy (Glechoma hederacea) for the congestive stages.
Has been combined with Fennel for colic in children.
A tea of equal parts Catnip and Saffron in tea form was once used for small pox and scarlet fever.
Has been used in stress formulas for its sedative effect.
Has been added to laxative formulas to avoid cramping.
Was once used to calm restless toddlers (5 drops tincture in a bottle of water or formula).
The tea has been used externally for bee stings.
Nicholas Culpeper, a 17th century herbalist, noted that barren women sat over the fumes of catnip tea in an effort to rectify their inability to breed. He also advises the juice of the plant in wine to treat bruising.
Was used by the Menominee for pneumonia. The Flambeau Ojibwe steeped the herb in lukewarm water as a bath to raise body temperature; they also brewed a tea used as a blood purifier.
Was used by settlers of the Smokey Mountains for colds, nerves, hives, stomach problems and the leaves were smoked for respiratory problems..
Has been used in poultice form for painful swellings.
In Chinese medicine a poultice has been made from the whole plant and used for corns. The leaves have been chewed to relieve toothache and sore gums.
In some Chinese folk lore, a salve of catnip was used as a cancer cure (type unknown).

DOSE: TRADITIONAL DOSES FOR PROFESSIONAL NOTE ONLY!
!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
GRAINS = 30 to 60
FRESH = 1 to 2 tsp in 1 cup of water.
INFUSION = 1 oz dried herb in 1 pint of water just off the boil, steeped 15 minutes; MUST be covered (use a saucer) while steeping so the delicate, volatile oil isn't lost; taken 1 to 2 cups daily, 1 mouthful at a time (large amounts taken hot can act as an emetic). Also: 1 tsp herb with 1 cup water.
EMMENAGOGUE = 1 Tbsp juice of plant 3 times daily.
TINCTURE = 1/2 to 1 tsp

VETERINARY:
Used by natural practitioners as a diabetes preventative and cure in cats.

CULINARY:
Once used to season sauces, stews, soups.
Leaves are used to make tea which was once very popular in England before the introduction of Chinese tea.
Was used as a salad green by the Romans.
Euell Gibbons (modern father of natural foods) used to make an after dinner treat of candied catnip leaves by dipping them in beaten egg white and lemon juice, then sprinkling each side with sugar and allowing to dry for a day or two; these were then placed in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator.

COSMETIC:
In the herbal bath to soothe. As a rinse for hair.

INSECTS:
Fresh plant material is steeped in water and sprinkled on plants to repel flea beetle as well as aphids, peach aphids, flea beetles, cucumber beetles, squash bugs, ants. Also: plant near other plants to repel flea beetle.
On the other hand, it attracts beneficial pollinators such as predatory wasps, hover flies, and robber flies.

OTHER:
Cats love it. The active principle for pleasuring cats is found in the vapors of the plant's essential oil and is released when the leaves are crushed; the animal has to smell the oil for the nervous system to be affected. The entire dried plant is used to make cat toys.
The volatile oil has been used as a lure to trap wild members of the cat family, including the larger species, although it has been replaced by a cheaper synthetic.
Was once worn as a fertility charm.
Supposedly hated by rats.





©2000 & 2005 by Ernestina Parziale, CH

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