Nepeta cataria L.

Last updated: 10 Oct 2016

Scientific Name

Nepeta cataria L.


Calamintha albiflora Vaniot, Cataria tomentosa Gilib. [Invalid], Cataria vulgaris Gaterau, Glechoma cataria (L.) Kuntze, Glechoma macrura (Ledeb. ex Spreng.) Kuntze, Nepeta americana Vitman [Illegitimate], Nepeta bodinieri Vaniot, Nepeta cataria var. citriodora (Dumort.) Lej., Nepeta ceretana Sennen, Nepeta citriodora Dumort., Nepeta laurentii Sennen, Nepeta macrura Ledeb. ex Spreng., Nepeta minor Mill., Nepeta mollis Salisb., Nepeta ruderalis Boiss. [Illegitimate]  , Nepeta tomentosa Vitman, Nepeta vulgaris Lam. [Illegitimate]. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Catmint, catnip [2]
China Jing jie, jia jing jie [2]
India Bili-lotan, gandh-soi, gandhsoi [2].

Geographical Distributions

Nepeta cataria is a perennial herb native to Europe, Asia and Africa but now also commonly found in Europe and North America. [3]

Botanical Description

Catnip (N. cataria) falls under the family of Lamiaceae. It is a perennial mint, 30 to 100 cm in height, and branched above. [3]

The stems can grow up to 40-150 cm, white pubescent with 0.7-3 cm, slender petiole. The leafy stems are gray-pubescent (downy). [3]

The 3 to 8 cm leaves are stalked, somewhat heart-shaped at the base, and coarsely toothed. The leaf blade ovate to triangular-cordate, 2.5-7 × 2.1-4.7 cm, adaxially yellow-green, hirtellous, abaxially whitish pubescent especially on veins, base cordate to truncate, margin coarsely crenate to dentate, apex obtuse to acute. [3]

The densely clustered flowers have a corolla (collective term for petals) 8 to 12 mm long, subtended by a calyx (collective term for sepals) 5 to 7 mm. Flowers are whitish or pale lilac, dotted with pink or purple; the lower lip is slightly toothed. [3]

Cymes axillary basally, upper ones in loose or compact, interrupted terminal panicles; bracts and bracteoles subulate, minute. Calyx tubular, ca. 6 × 1.2 mm, white pubescent; teeth hirsute inside, subulate, 1.5-2 mm, posterior teeth longer, urceolate in fruit. Corolla white with purple spots on lower lip, white villous; throat pubescent inside, ca. 7.5 mm; tube slender, ca. 0.3 mm in diam., abruptly dilated into broad throat; upper lip ca. 2 × 3 mm, apex emarginate; middle lobe of lower lip subcircular, ca. 3 × 4 mm, cordate, margin coarsely dentate. Stamens included. [3]

The nutlet is nearly triquetrous, ovoid. [3]


N. cataria is easily grown in average, dry to medium, well-drained soils in full sun to part shade. Thrives in dry soils and is very tolerant of drought. Site plants in full sun in northern areas. Plants are somewhat intolerant of the heat and humidity of the deep South where they generally appreciate some afternoon shade. Shear flower spikes after initial flowering to promote continued bloom. N. cataria is also easily propagated by division of established plants and wet soils in winter can be fatal. It is easily grown from seed. N. cataria will self-seed in the garden, often profusely. [4]

Chemical Constituent

No documentation.

Plant Part Used

Leaves, flowering tops, aerial parts. [5]

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. 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. 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. [5]

Preclinical Data


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. [6]

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, diarrhoea, cough and asthma [7]. N. cataria has also been reported to possess antibiotic and anthelmintic activity. [8]

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 [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

Clinical Data

No documentation


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Nepeta cataria L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Oct 10]. Available from:
  2. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms, and etymology. Volume IV M-Q. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 265-266.
  3. Encyclopedia of Life. Nepeta cataria. Catnip. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2016 Oct 6]. Available from:
  4. Missouri Botanical Garden. Nepeta cataria. [homepage on the Internet]. No date [cited 2016 Oct 6]. Available from:
  5. Moerman DE. Native American ethnobotany. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press, 2009; p. 353.
  6. Catnip Monograph. Review of natural products. St. Loius, Missouri: Facts and Comparisons; 1991.
  7. 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. 2009;121(3):405-411.
  8. 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. 2001 Dec;18(6):583-585.
  9. Harney JW, Barofsky IM, Leary JD. Behavioral and toxicological studies of cyclopentanoid monoterpenes from Nepeta cataria. Lloydia. 1978;41(4):367-374.
  10. Miceli N, Taviano MF, Giuffrida D, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of extract and fractions from Nepeta sibthorpii Bentham. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;97(2):261-266.