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Nepeta cataria - L.

Common Name Catmint, Catnip
Family Lamiaceae or Labiatae
USDA hardiness 3-7
Known Hazards Catnip has diuretic properties and may increase amount and frequency of urination. Smoking catnip can produce euphoria and visual hallucinations. Sedation. Women with inflammatory diseases of the pelvis or are pregnant should not use. Care if using and driving or using machines [301].
Habitats Roadsides and near streams[7]. Hedgerows, borders of fields, dry banks and waste ground, especially on calcareous and gravelly soils[4, 17].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Scandanavia south and east to Spain, W. and C. Asia to the Himalayas
Edibility Rating    (3 of 5)
Other Uses    (1 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Well drained soil Moist Soil Full sun
Nepeta cataria Catmint, Catnip

Nepeta cataria Catmint, Catnip


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Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Nepeta cataria is a PERENNIAL growing to 1 m (3ft 3in) by 0.6 m (2ft).
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 3 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from July to November, and the seeds ripen from September to October. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Bees.
It is noted for attracting wildlife.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Cataria vulgaris. Calamintha albiflora. Glechoma cataria. Nepeta mollis.

Plant Habitats

 Hedgerow; Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves
Edible Uses: Condiment  Tea

Young leaves - raw[7, 20]. A mint-like flavour, they make an aromatic flavouring in salads[7, K]. Older leaves are used as a flavouring in cooked foods[2, 27, 105]. They can be used fresh or dried to make an aromatic herb tea[21, 105, 183]. The tea should be infused in a closed container in order to preserve the essential oils, boiling is said to spoil it[218].

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Antianxiety  Antispasmodic  Antitussive  Astringent  Carminative  Diaphoretic  Emmenagogue  Nervine  
Refrigerant  Sedative  Stimulant  Stomachic  Tonic

Catmint has a long history of use as a household herbal remedy, being employed especially in treating disorders of the digestive system and, as it stimulates sweating, it is useful in reducing fevers[254]. The herbs pleasant taste and gentle action makes it suitable for treating colds, flu and fevers in children. It is more effective when used in conjunction with elder flower (Sambucus nigra)[254]. The leaves and flowering tops are strongly antispasmodic, antitussive, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, slightly emmenagogue, refrigerant, sedative, slightly stimulant, stomachic and tonic[4, 7, 9, 14, 21, 165, 218, 238]. The flowering stems are harvested in August when the plant is in full flower, they are dried and stored for use as required[4]. An infusion produces free perspiration, it is considered to be beneficial in the treatment of fevers and colds[4]. It is also very useful in the treatment of restlessness and nervousness, being very useful as a mild nervine for children[4]. A tea made from the leaves can also be used[213]. The infusion is also applied externally to bruises, especially black eyes[245].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Essential  Herbicide  Pot-pourri  Repellent

The plant is said to deter insects such as ants and flea beetles[14, 20, 201] as well as rats and mice[4, 200, 201]. (The idea behind it being a rat repellent is probably based on the plants attraction to cats, see notes above.) A strong infusion can be used to repel fleas from carpets or the fur of animals[201]. An extract from the leaves (called nepetalactone) has herbicidal and insect repellent properties[222]. The freshly harvested flowering tops contain 0.3 - 1% essential oil by distillation[218]. It is mainly used for medicinal purposes[218]. The dried leaves retain their fragrance and can be used in pot-pourri[245].

Special Uses

Attracts Wildlife  Scented Plants

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Easily grown in a light sandy soil in a sunny position[200]. Succeeds in heavier soils if the drainage is very good. Plants are hardy to about -25°c[187]. Catmint emits a scent that is irresistible to many cats, who will then avidly attack the plant[4, 7, 20, 46, 200]. The smell is said to be similar to certain cat hormones and is more effective with male cats. Quite often a cat will completely destroy even a fairly large plant, small plants especially might need protection until well established[K]. Sometimes grown in the herb garden, there are some named varieties[183]. 'Citriodora' has lemon-scented leaves that are more attractive to people and less attractive to cats[183, 187]. If the plants are cut back hard when they are flowering a second crop of leaves will be produced[238]. Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer or rabbits[233]. Catmint is a good companion plant to grow in the garden[238]. It is said to repel various cabbage pests, aphis (including peach aphis), flea beetles, cucumber beetles, squash bugs and ants from plants they grow near to[238]. The flowers are very attractive to bees[108].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame in the autumn[200]. The germination of spring sown seed can be erratic[200], it is best sown in a cold frame. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in the summer. The seed remains viable for about 5 years[4]. A fast-growing plant, the seedlings can reach flowering size in their first year[238]. If you have sufficient freshly ripe seed then it is well worth trying a sowing outdoors in situ in the autumn. Division in spring or autumn[200]. Very easy, large divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found that it is better to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in light shade in a cold frame until they are well established before planting them out in late spring or early summer. Basal cuttings in late spring or early summer. Harvest the shoots with plenty of underground stem when they are about 8 - 10cm above the ground. Pot them up into individual pots and keep them in light shade in a cold frame or greenhouse until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the summer.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Calamintha nepetaLesser CalamintPerennial0.6 5-9  LMNDM322
Nepeta raphanorrhiza Perennial0.5 4-8  LMHNDM20 
Nepeta tenuifoliaJing JieAnnual0.3 -  LMHSNM02 
Nepeta tenuifolia japonica Perennial0.3 -  LMHNDM20 

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Botanical References


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Readers comment

T. C.   Tue Jun 6 2006

A caution when using catnip essential oil as an ingredient in mosquito repellants used daily: as a concentrated essential oil,even when used in small quantities, the catnip's emmenagogue effect is increased. And also noted is it's ability to cause irritability, which is not mentioned very often in the literature on catnip. I did find a reference at http://www.drugdigest.org/DD/PrintablePages/herbMonograph/0,11475,4093,00.html which said: Catnip's safety has not been determined in children. In one documented case involving a small child, swallowing excessive amounts of catnip caused irritability and excessive sleepiness.


Jan Karpisek   Fri Sep 12 2008

Photo of the Catmint in bloom by Jan Karpisek for pfaf.org

Amanda Radford   Wed Sep 9 2009

I am having great trouble finding these plants to buy. An Italian friend who keeps a cat in a flat in London says catnet is essential for her cat and easy to buy in Italy. Does anyone know where these plants can be bought?

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