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Catnip (Nepeta cataria)

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Also listed as: Nepeta cataria
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Catmint, catnep, catnip oil, catswort, citronellol, citronellyl acetate, field balm, geraniol, geranyl acetate, Lamiaceae (family), Nepeta cataria, Nepeta cataria L., Nepeta coerulea, Nepeta nepetella, Nepeta tuberosa, Nepeta ucrainica L., nepetalactone, perennial herb, verbascoside.

Background
  • Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a perennial herb. In traditional use, catnip is believed to have sedative, carminative, and antispasmodic properties. As such, it has been used to treat insomnia, flatulence, and upset stomach. It has also been used traditionally to treat colds, the flu, and fevers. In Kazakhstan, Nepeta ucrainica L. has been traditionally used as an herbal tea.
  • There is limited available scientific research on catnip. In vitro studies with the aqueous extract and with specific constituents suggest that catnip may have antibacterial, antiviral, and immunomodulatory properties. Early evidence suggests that the essential oil may act as an insect repellant. Aside from case reports, there is a lack scientific data available regarding catnip's alleged psychoactive properties.
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not list catnip on its Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *


Early research suggests that catnip oil or its constituents may repel mosquitoes. However, additional research is needed to confirm these findings.
C
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Antibacterial/antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral (poliovirus type 1), antiviral (vesicular stomatitis virus), herpes simplex-1 virus (HSV-1), immunomodulation, sleep disorders.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • Tincture: According to some herbal texts, 30-90 drops or 2-4 milliliters of catnip tincture has been taken three times daily.
  • Tea: According to some herbal texts, an infusion of catnip, made with 2-3 teaspoons of the dried herb steeped for 10-15 minutes in one cup of boiling water, has been taken three times daily.
  • Insect repellent (mosquito): In laboratory research, catnip essential oil has been applied to the skin (at concentrations of 23 and 468 micrograms per square centimeter of skin) and was effective for six hours.

Children (under 18 years old)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for catnip.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • Avoid in individuals with known allergies or sensitivity to catnip, its constituents, or members of the Lamiaceae family.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not list catnip on their Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) list.
  • Use cautiously in patients with psychiatric disorders, as some researchers have discussed the "alleged psychoactive capabilities" of catnip and its possible effects on consciousness.
  • Use cautiously in patients taking medications that affect the central nervous system, as there has been one case report of central nervous system depression in a toddler who consumed a large quantity of catnip, where no other cause could be found.
  • Avoid in pregnant and breastfeeding women due to a lack of available safety information.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Catnip is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to a lack of available scientific evidence.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Catnip may have antibacterial effects.
  • Two catnip extracts showed antiviral effects against herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) and vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), but not against poliovirus type 1.
  • Use catnip cautiously in patients taking medications that affect the central nervous system. There has been one case report of central nervous system depression in a toddler who consumed a large quantity of catnip, where no other cause could be found.
  • Verbascoside, a compound in catnip, may affect the immune response. Use cautiously with drugs that affect the immune system.
  • Early evidence suggests that catnip may have sleep-inducing effects, although human evidence is lacking.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Catnip may have antibacterial effects.
  • Two catnip extracts showed antiviral effects against herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) and vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV), but not against poliovirus type 1.
  • Use catnip cautiously in patients taking medications that affect the central nervous system. There has been one case report of central nervous system depression in a toddler who consumed a large quantity of catnip, where no other cause could be found.
  • Verbascoside, a compound in catnip, may affect the immune response. Use cautiously with drugs that affect the immune system.
  • Early evidence suggests that catnip may have sleep-inducing effects, although human evidence is lacking.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Abad, MJ, Guerra, JA, Bermejo, P, et al. Search for antiviral activity in higher plant extracts. Phytother Res 2000;14(8):604-607.
  2. Akbay, P, Calis, I, Undeger, U, et al. In vitro immunomodulatory activity of verbascoside from Nepeta ucrainica L. Phytother Res 2002;16(6):593-595.
  3. Baranauskiene, R, Venskutonis, RP, and Demyttenaere, JC. Sensory and instrumental evaluation of catnip (Nepeta cataria L.) aroma. J Agric Food Chem 6-18-2003;51(13):3840-3848.
  4. Bernier, UR, Furman, KD, Kline, DL, et al. 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.
  5. Cauffield, JS and Forbes, HJ. Dietary supplements used in the treatment of depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders. Lippincotts Prim Care Pract 1999;3(3):290-304.
  6. Chauhan, KR, Klun, JA, Debboun, M, et al. Feeding deterrent effects of catnip oil components compared with two synthetic amides against Aedes aegypti. J Med Entomol 2005;42(4):643-646.
  7. Harney, JW, Barofsky, IM, and Leary, JD. Behavioral and toxicological studies of cyclopentanoid monoterpenes from Nepeta cataria. Lloydia 1978;41(4):367-374.
  8. Jackson, B and Reed, A. Catnip and the alteration of consciousness. JAMA 2-17-1969;207(7):1349-1350.
  9. Massoco, CO, Silva, MR, Gorniak, SL, et al. Behavioral effects of acute and long-term administration of catnip (Nepeta cataria) in mice. Vet Hum Toxicol 1995;37(6):530-533.
  10. Nostro, A, Cannatelli, MA, Crisafi, G, et al. The effect of Nepeta cataria extract on adherence and enzyme production of Staphylococcus aureus. Int J Antimicrob.Agents 2001;18(6):583-585.
  11. Osterhoudt, KC, Lee, SK, Callahan, JM, et al. Catnip and the alteration of human consciousness. Vet Hum Toxicol 1997;39(6):373-375.
  12. Sherry, CJ and Hunter, PS. 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.
  13. Zhu, J, Zeng, X, Yanma, Liu, T, et al. Adult repellency and larvicidal activity of five plant essential oils against mosquitoes. J Am Mosq Control Assoc 2006;22(3):515-522.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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