Catnip: Everything You Need To Know

Catnip: Everything You Need To Know

Catnip has been used traditionally within various cultures as a healing herb. Although the research is early, interesting results are emerging as to why catnip produces its relaxing effects.

What is Catnip?

Catnip, also called catmint and catswort, is herb most famously known for being able to send cats into nirvana. Felines seem irresistibly attracted to the scent of this herb, and usually proceed to roll around in it before chowing down. Once the effects set in, cats seem to experience an intense altered state of consciousness; their pupils widen, they become erratic, and usually start to move around with speed. Although it’s fun to watch cats enjoy the effects of this seemingly psychoactive herb, there is much more to this plant species than feline entertainment.

Catnip, known by its scientific name Nepeta cataria, has been used historically and is still employed by some people today in attempts to improve digestion and relax muscles. The species belongs to the same family of plants as many mints and deadnettles (the Lamiaceae family) and is highly prolific in nature, found within its native regions of Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East, and certain regions of China. The plant has also spread beyond its home range into Northern Europe, North America, and New Zealand.

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Botany Catnip

Catnip is a perennial plant that grows to between 50–100cm in height and similar in width. As a member of the mint family, catnip looks very similar to common mint species, with green leaves that are wide at the base and taper into a point. These leaves are accompanied by small flowers in the blooming period that sport pretty colours of pink and white, along with fine purple spots.


Catnip has been used for hundreds of years by native populations within traditional medicine systems. European cultures used the herb to lessen nervousness, induce restorative sleep, treat restlessness, support healthy digestion, and soothe stomach pains. The herb was also wrapped in clothes and used as a poultice to topically treat wounds.