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Nepeta cataria


Nepeta cataria


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Catswort, Catnip, Field Balm


Nepeta cataria is an an herbaceous perennial. The flowers are tightly grouped together on longish spikes. They have hairless stamens and protrude outside of the opening of the flower. It has grayish-green leaves that are opposite and heart-shaped with irregular edges.

Origin / Habitat

N. cataria is a perennial herb native to Europe, Asia and Africa but now also commonly found in Europe and North America. The leaves and flowers are medicinal and have a strong odor that is used to attract cats.(1) N. cataria was a familiar herb in English kitchen gardens dating back to the 13th century.

Chemical Constituents

Volatile oil composed mainly of nepetalactone (70-99%). Other volatile oils are 1,8-cineol (21.00%), alpha-humulene (14.44%), alpha-pinene (10.43%) and geranyl acetate (8.21%).(3) (1R, 5R, 8S, 9S)-Deoxyloganic acid

Plant Part Used

Leaf, flowering tops and dried aerial parts. (4)

Traditional Use

Many tribes have used N. cataria across the nation and one of the most important uses is for pediatric pain. It is used as an analgesic; leaves were made into syrup (a combination of honey and crude herb) by the Delaware tribe and as a tonic by the Chippewa, Hoh, and Iroquois in children. N. cataria is very important in regard to treating illness in children including diarrhea, stomachaches and insomnia.(4)

N. cataria also has been used in colds and flues. The Menominee tribe the plant as both an oral tonic and a poultice applied to the chest for severe colds and pneumonia. Iroquois used N. cataria as an infusion to alleviate coughs and topically on the forehead for fever and chills.(4)

Many other uses have been recorded as well. The Cherokee used it as an abortifacient in the women with obstruction. Other uses across many tribes include both sedative and stimulant activity. The herb was smoked by the Shinnecock to treat rheumatism.(4)


Tea: 1 oz herb to pint hot water taken 3 doses daily of two tablespoons.(2)



Studies report that the main aromatic compound, nepetalactone, is a mild sedative, which explains the use of N. cataria for treating Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Nepetalactone is similar to a class of compounds called valepotriates, found in the sedative herb valerian.(5)

Laboratory studies have found that N. cataria possesses spasmolytic and myorelaxant activities mediated through inhibition of calcium channels and PDE (phosphodiesterase), which may explain its traditional use in colic, diarrhea, cough and asthma.(6) N. cataria has also been reported to possess antibiotic and anthelmintic activity.(7)

1,8-Cineol and two nepetalactones have been reported to be the major components of the oil of N. camphorata and N. argolica ssp. dirphya respectively.(8) These varieties of Nepeta have been reported to have activity against Helicobacter pylori.(9) N. cataria may also be used as an anti-inflammatory agent. Ursolic acid may contribute to the anti-inflammatory activity of N. cataria var. citriodora.(10)


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

No documentation

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

N. cataria has been reported safe in recommended doses. N. cataria has been traditionally used as a uterine stimulant, so use in pregnancy is not recommended.(11)


No documentation

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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  1)  Western Herbs


  1. Hatch RC. 1972. Effect of drugs on Catswort (Nepeta cataria)-induced pleasure behavior in cats. Am J Vet Res . Jan1972; 33(1): 143-155.
  2. Hutchens AR. Indian Herbalogy of North America. Boston MA: Shambhala Publications;1991.72.
  3. Modnicki D, Tokar M, Klimek B. Flavonoids and phenolic acids of Nepeta cataria L. var. citriodora (Becker) Balb. (Lamiaceae). Acta Pol Pharm. May-Jun2007;64(3):247-252.
  4. Moerman DE.  Native American Ethnobotany. Portland OR: Timber Press; 2009.353.
  5. Review of Natural Products. St. Loius, MO: Facts and Comparisons;1991:Catswort Monograph.
  6. Gilani AH, Shah AJ, Zubair A, et al. Chemical composition and mechanisms underlying the spasmolytic and bronchodilatory properties of the essential oil of Nepeta cataria L. J Ethnopharmacol. 30Jan2009;121(3):405-411.
  7. Nostro A, Cannatelli MA, Crisafi G, Alonzo V. The effect of Nepeta cataria extract on adherence and enzyme production of Staphylococcus aureua. Int J Antimicrob Agents. Dec2001;18(6):583-585.
  8. Harney JW, Barofsky IM, Leary JD. 1978. Behavioral and toxicological studies of cyclopentanoid monoterpenes from Nepeta cataria. Lloydia. Jul-Aug1978; 41(4): 367-374.
  9. Kalpoutzakis E, Aligiannis N, Mentis A, et al. Composition of the essential oil of two Nepeta species and in vitro ecaluation of their activity against Helicobacter pylori. Planta Med. 2001:67(9):880-883.
  10. Miceli N, Taviano MF, Giuffrida D, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of extract and fractions from Nepeta sibthorpii Bentham. J Ethnopharmacol. 28Feb 2005;97(2):261-266.
  11. Jackson B, Reed A. Catswort and the alteration of consciousness. JAMA.1969;207:1349-1350.

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