Other Name(s):

Cataire, Catmint, Catnep, Catswort, Chataire, Field Balm, Herbe à Chat, Herbe aux Chats, Hierba Gatera, Menta de Gato, Menthe des Chats, Nepeta cataria.


Catnip is a plant. The flowering tops are used to make medicine.

Catnip is used for trouble sleeping (insomnia); anxiety; migraine and other headaches; cold and other upper respiratory infections; flu; swine flu; fever; hives; worms; and gastrointestinal (GI) upset, including indigestion, colic, cramping, and gas (flatulence). It is also used as a tonic, for increasing urination, and for starting menstrual periods in girls with delayed onset of menstruation.

Some people apply catnip directly to the skin for arthritis, hemorrhoids, and as a compress to relieve swelling.

Some people also smoke catnip medicinally for respiratory conditions and recreationally for a “high.”

In manufacturing, catnip is used as a pesticide and insecticide.

How does it work?

It is thought that the chemicals in catnip have a calming effect.


Next to red peppers, you can get the most vitamin C from ________________. See Answer

Uses & Effectiveness

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Mosquito repellent. Early research suggests that applying catnip oil or certain catnip chemicals to the skin may help repel yellow fever mosquitos. However, the commercial insect repellents SS220 and DEET might work better.
  • Difficulty sleeping (insomnia).
  • Migraine headaches.
  • Colds.
  • Flu.
  • Fever.
  • Hives.
  • Stomach upset.
  • Gas.
  • Anxiety.
  • Arthritis.
  • Increasing urination.
  • Treatment of worms.
  • Starting menstruation in girls.
  • Hemorrhoids.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of catnip for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

Side Effects

Catnip is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth in small amounts. Cupful amounts of catnip tea have been consumed without serious side effects. However, catnip is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when smoked or taken by mouth in high doses (many cups of catnip tea, for example).

It can cause headaches, vomiting, and a feeling of being ill.

Not enough is known about the safety of applying catnip directly to the skin.


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Special Precautions & Warnings

Children: Catnip is POSSIBLY UNSAFE for children when taken by mouth. There has been one report of a child experiencing stomach pain, irritability, and sluggishness after taking catnip leaves and tea.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: It is LIKELY UNSAFE to use take catnip during pregnancy. There is some evidence that catnip can stimulate the uterus. This might cause a miscarriage.

There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking catnip if you are breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side, and avoid use.

Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): Women with PID should avoid using catnip because it can start menstruation.

Heavy menstrual periods (menorrhagia): Because catnip can cause menstruation, it might make heavy menstrual periods worse.

Surgery: Catnip seems to be able to slow down the central nervous system (CNS), causing sleepiness and other effects. Anesthesia and some other drugs used during and after surgery also slow down the CNS. There is a concern that using catnip along with these drugs might slow down the CNS too much. Stop using catnip at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.


LithiumInteraction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Catnip might have an effect like a water pill or "diuretic." Taking catnip might decrease how well the body gets rid of lithium. This could increase how much lithium is in the body and result in serious side effects. Talk with your healthcare provider before using this product if you are taking lithium. Your lithium dose might need to be changed.

Sedative medications (CNS depressants)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Catnip might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking catnip along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.

Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.


The appropriate dose of catnip depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for catnip. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.


Abad, M. J., Guerra, J. A., Bermejo, P., Irurzun, A., and Carrasco, L. Search for antiviral activity in higher plant extracts. Phytother.Res. 2000;14(8):604-607. View abstract.

Akbay, P., Calis, I., Undeger, U., Basaran, N., and Basaran, A. A. In vitro immunomodulatory activity of verbascoside from Nepeta ucrainica L. Phytother Res 2002;16(6):593-595. View abstract.

Baranauskiene, R., Venskutonis, R. P., and Demyttenaere, J. C. Sensory and instrumental evaluation of catnip (Nepeta cataria L.) aroma. J.Agric.Food Chem. 6-18-2003;51(13):3840-3848. View abstract.

Bernier, U. R., Furman, K. D., Kline, D. L., Allan, S. A., and Barnard, D. R. Comparison of contact and spatial repellency of catnip oil and N,N-diethyl-3-methylbenzamide (deet) against mosquitoes. J Med Entomol. 2005;42(3):306-311. View abstract.

Cauffield, J. S. and Forbes, H. J. Dietary supplements used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Lippincotts.Prim.Care Pract 1999;3(3):290-304. View abstract.

Chauhan, K. R., Klun, J. A., Debboun, M., and Kramer, M. Feeding deterrent effects of catnip oil components compared with two synthetic amides against Aedes aegypti. J Med Entomol. 2005;42(4):643-646. View abstract.

Harney, J. W., Barofsky, I. M., and Leary, J. D. Behavioral and toxicological studies of cyclopentanoid monoterpenes from Nepeta cataria. Lloydia. 1978;41(4):367-374. View abstract.

Jackson, B. and Reed, A. Catnip and the alteration of consciousness. JAMA 2-17-1969;207(7):1349-1350. View abstract.

Massoco, C. O., Silva, M. R., Gorniak, S. L., Spinosa, M. S., and Bernardi, M. M. Behavioral effects of acute and long-term administration of catnip (Nepeta cataria) in mice. Vet.Hum.Toxicol 1995;37(6):530-533. View abstract.

Nostro, A., Cannatelli, M. A., Crisafi, G., and Alonzo, V. The effect of Nepeta cataria extract on adherence and enzyme production of Staphylococcus aureus. Int.J.Antimicrob.Agents 2001;18(6):583-585. View abstract.

Sherry, C. J. and Hunter, P. S. The effect of an ethanol extract of catnip (Nepeta cataria) on the behavior of the young chick. Experientia 2-15-1979;35(2):237-238. View abstract.

Zhu, J., Zeng, X., Yanma, Liu, T., Qian, K., Han, Y., Xue, S., Tucker, B., Schultz, G., Coats, J., Rowley, W., and Zhang, A. Adult repellency and larvicidal activity of five plant essential oils against mosquitoes. J Am Mosq.Control Assoc 2006;22(3):515-522. View abstract.

Osterhoudt KC, Lee SK, Callahan JM, Henretig FM. Catnip and the alteration of human consciousness. Vet Hum Toxicol 1997;39:373-5. View abstract.

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