Catnip is undoubtedly best recognized as an intoxicating herb that cats find to be irresistible. Also commonly called catnep and catmint, this relative of the mint family is also a well regarded herbal calmative with numerous applications for a number of human ailments. Use of catnip as a mildly relaxing tea dates back to old England were it was a popular drink prior to the importation of teas from Asia.
In folk medicine, catnip leaves and flowers are usually steeped to make a pleasant tasting tea. Consumed prior to bedtime catnip tea is widely believed to hasten slumber and aid in achieving a restful nights sleep. It is also employed as a remedy in the treatment of tension and anxiety, and is mentioned as being a useful calmative for hyperactive children.
Catnip is also listed as a mild diaphoretic, helpful in eliminating toxins from the body, as well as acting as a carminative to support digestion, relieve upset stomach, and control the symptoms of diarrhea.
The claimed effects of this mild herb are generally acknowledged in contemporary literature which lists the principal active agent in catnip as nepetalactone, a volatile oil similar in structure to the sedative ingredient found in valerian root, another well known sedative herb.
In recent years the smoking the dried leaves of this herb has been mistakenly popularized in certain circles in the belief that one can attain intoxicating high similar to that produced by marijuana. This is now generally recognized as untrue, and was based upon a confusing similarity in the physical appearance of the two plants. Catnip is an extremely safe herb, and there are no listed warnings or contraindications.