Addictive Potential: Unkown
Emergency Room Visits Yearly: Unkown
Mandatory Minimum Sentence: None
Mechanism of Action: nepetalactone/unknown
Nepeta is a genus of about 250 species of flowering plants in the family Lamiaceae. The members of this group are known as catnip or catmint because of their famous effect on cats—nepeta pleasantly causes temporary euphoria in cats. It can also induce mild euphoria in humans.
Catnip is also known by the following names: Cataria, Catmint, Catnep, Catrup, Cat’s Heal All, Cat’s-play, Cat’s Wort, Catswort, Catwort, Chi Hsueh Tsao, Field Balm, Garden Nep, Herba Cataria, Herba Catti, Nebada, Nep.
The active ingredient which causes this is an essential oil called nepetalactone, which can be found in the leaves & stem of the plant. Other constituents include Acetic Acid, Alpha & beta-nepetalactone, Citral, Nepetalactone, Geraniol, Dipentene, Citronellol, Nerol, Butyric Acid, Valeric Acid and Tannins.
When a cat encounters catnip, it usually sniffs it, rubs against it, licks it & finally eats it. It’s actually the sniffing that gets produces the high, it’s believed that cats eat catnip to bruise the catnip & therefore release more of the nepetalactone. The high produced will usually last between five & ten minutes.
One interesting fact is that when sniffed, catnip will stimulate kitty, however when eaten it will act as a sedative.
Around 50% of cats are affected by catnip, and those who are, are affected to differing degrees. Kittens younger than 8 weeks old aren’t able to enjoy it’s effects. In fact, they show an aversion to it. The response to catnip appears to be inherited as an autosomal gene. It’s not just domesticated cats who enjoy the effects of catnip, many lot of wild species also enjoy it. Cats can smell 1 part in a billion in the air. Males & females, entire or desexed, there appears to be no one group who is more readily affected by catnip than another.
Nepetalactone causes a hallucinogenic effect. Some say the effects are similar to LSD, others say similar to marijuana. Because cats roll on the floor, which mimics a female in estrus, it has been suggested that catnip acts as an aphrodisiac, but this is unlikely as males react in just the same way. What is likely is the cat is reacting to similar “feel good” pheromones released during sexual courtship/activity. However, non sexual behaviour including playing, chasing & hunting can also be observed. The response to catnip is via the olfactory system. Even cats who can’t smell will can still respond to catnip.
Catnip tends to have a sedative effect on humans. It is most often drunk as a tea.
It is also useful for settling an upset stomach. It has also been used to treat headaches, scarlet fever, coughing, insomnia & smallpox.
Catnip can also be used for cuts, studies show it has a natural healing quality. Crush fresh catnip leaves, damp them & apply to your cut. **
Some other medicinal uses for catnip are: Anaesthetic, antibiotic, anti rheumatic, antispasmodic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, muscular aches and pains, rheumatism, chills, cold in the joints, haemorrhoids, toothache.
K’Eogh, in his Irish Herbal (1735) wrote of catnip, “It provokes urination and menstruation: it expels the stillborn child; it opens obstructions of the lungs and the womb, and is good for internal bruises and shortness of breath. Drunk with salt and honey, it expels worms from the body.” ***
Side Effects and Adverse Reactions:
More research is needed to understand the full spectrum of side effects, adverse reactions, and addiction potential.
Winston & Kuhn’s Herbal Therapy & Supplements (Google E-Book)