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Nepeta cataria


Nepeta cataria


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Catnip, Catmint, Catswort, Field Balm, Lemon Catnip


Nepeta 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. N. cataria is traditionally used to treat abnormal growths, respiratory conditions, colic, colds, stomach ailments, nervousness, insomnia, restlessness, corns, hives, and toothaches.[2] In children, N. cataria is traditionally used for calming and relaxation, helping to relieve restlessness and induce sleep. N. cataria may aid in digestion by decreasing stomach acid and alleviating gas, have antispasmodic activity, and is used in nervousness, fever (diaphoretic), colic, headaches, menstrual flow, and sleep. N. cataria is traditionally made into tea or chewed, smoked, or used topically as a poultice. N. cataria is used as a diaphoretic and mild sedative and used to promote sweating and alleviate restlessness in children with symptoms of hyperactivity.

N. cataria, or Catnip, is a perennial herb, roughly 50-100cm in height.  The plant is thought to be related to the mint family, which is observed in its almost perfectly square stem, a characteristic often associated with mints.  The stem is a grayish-green, and, like the rest of the plant, is covered in a light, white pubescence.  Between the months of July and September, the tubular flowers of N. cataria can grow to 1.25cm in length.  Each flower is white in color, but often covered in purple, lavender or pinkish spots.  The petals are two-lipped and smooth.  The flowers occur in spikes that grow closely to the stem.  The leaves of N. cataria are ovate, sometimes cordate and heavily toothed.  Ranging in size from 3cm to 10cm in length, the dark green leaves often have a white hue on the underside as a result of the pubescence.  From each flower grow four small, smooth nutlets.

Origin / Habitat

N. cataria is a perennial herb native to Europe, Asia and Africa but now also commonly found in Europe and North America.  Its growth requirements are similar to that of mint.

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.


Nepeta cataria var. citriodora contains acetic acid, butyric acid, citral, citronellol, dipentene, geraniol, limonene, nerol, tiglic acid, ursolic acid and valeric acid.[4]

Plant Part Used

Leaf, Flowering top and dried aerial part

Medicinal Uses


Digestive aid (carminative)
Diaphoretic (used in colds and flu)
var. citriodora used as a mild sedative.
Anthelmintic; antimicrobial
Antispasmodic Antioxidant
Insect repellant


Most Frequently Reported Uses

Digestive aid (carminative)
Diaphoretic (used in colds and flu)
var. citriodora used as a mild sedative.


Dosage range 

Take 2-60 drops of extract (1:4w/v), 2-3 times per day as needed.  For tea (infusion), add 1 ounce (30gm) of dried N. cataria to 1 pint (approx. 500mL) of boiling water, steep for ten minutes, then strain. Drink 2-3 cups daily as needed.

Most Common Dosage

There is no common dosage for N. cataria due to the variations in application and raw material.


Standardized to

No standardization known.



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 Nepeta cataria var. citriodora.[10]


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

There are no known drug interactions with the use of N. cataria in recommended dosages.

Based on pharmacology, caution should be used when taking N. cataria and medications that may cause drowsiness, such as benzodiazepines and sleep medications.

Use caution when driving and automobile or operating heavy machinery and taking N. cataria preparations.

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]

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

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  1)  Native American Herbs


  1. Hatch RC. 1972. Effect of drugs on catnip (Nepeta cataria)-induced pleasure behavior in cats. Am J Vet Res. Jan1972;33(1):143-55.
  2. Grognet J. Catnip: Its uses and effects, past and present. Can Vet J. Jun1990;31(6):455-456.
  3. Modnicki D, Tokar M, Klimek B. Flavonoids and phenolic acids of Nepeta cataria L. var. citriodora (Becker) Balb. (Lamiaceae). Acta Pol Pharm. 2007;64(3):247-252.
  4. 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.
  5. Catnip Monograph. Review of Natural Products. St. Loius, MO: Facts and Comparisons;1991.
  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. 30 Jan2009;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. Behavioral and toxicological studies of cyclopentanoid monoterpenes from Nepeta cataria. Lloydia. 1978,41(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. 28Feb2005;97(2):261-266.
  11. Jackson B, Reed A. Catnip and the alteration of consciousness. JAMA. 1969;207:1349-1350.

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