Nepeta cataria

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Nepeta cataria
Catnip flowers.jpg
Flowers of the plant
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Nepeta
Species: N. cataria
Binomial name
Nepeta cataria

Nepeta cataria, commonly known as catnip, catswort, or catmint, is a species of the genus Nepeta in the Lamiaceae family, native to southern and eastern Europe, the Middle East, central Asia, and parts of China. It is also widely naturalized in northern Europe, New Zealand, North America, etc.[1][2][3][4] The common name catmint can also refer to the genus as a whole.


Nepeta cataria is a short lived herbaceous perennial, growing 50–100 centimetres (20–39 in) tall and wide. It resembles a typical mint family member in appearance by having the characteristic square stem that members of the Lamiaceae plant family have,[5] but with brown-green foliage. The coarse-toothed leaves are triangular to ovate.[6]

The small bilabiate flowers can be white and finely spotted with pale purple or pink. They are showy and fragrant. The plant blooms from late spring through autumn.[6]


The plant terpenoid nepetalactone is the main chemical constituent of the essential oil of Nepeta cataria. Nepetalactone can be extracted from catnip by steam distillation.[7]


Nepeta cataria is cultivated as an ornamental plant for use in gardens. It is also grown for its attractant qualities to house cats and butterflies.[6]

The plant is drought tolerant and deer resistant. It can be a repellant for certain insects, including aphids and squash bugs.[6]

Varieties include Nepeta cataria var. citriodora (or N. cataria subsp. citriodora), or "lemon catnip".[citation needed]


The compound "iridodial" as extracted from catnip oil has been found to attract the beneficial insect known as lacewings which eat aphids and mites.[8]


Nepetalactone is a mosquito and fly repellent.[9][10] Oil isolated from catnip by steam distillation is a repellent against insects, in particular mosquitoes, cockroaches and termites.[11][12] Research suggests that, in vitro, distilled nepetalactone repels mosquitoes ten times more effectively than DEET, the active ingredient in most insect repellents,[9][13] but that it is not as effective a repellent when used on the skin.[14]


Nepeta cataria can be brewed to produce a herbal tea.[15] Also used as a culinary herb for many dishes. Catnip can also be ingested through smoking the herb. It has a negligible effect of relaxation like most other "herbal" cigarettes.[16][17]

Catnip has a history of medicinal use for a variety of ailments.[18] The plant has been consumed as a tea, juice, tincture, infusion or poultice, and has also been smoked.[18] However, its medicinal use has fallen out of favor with the development of more commonplace pharmaceutical drugs.[18]


Catnip contains the feline attractant nepetalactone. Nepeta cataria (and some other species within the genus Nepeta) are known for their behavioral effects on the cat family, not only on domestic cats but also other species of cats.[18] One test showed that tigers, leopards and lynxes all reacted strongly to catnip in a manner similar to domestic cats, while lions reacted less frequently.[19][20]

With domestic cats, N. cataria is used as a recreational substance for pet cats' enjoyment, and catnip and catnip-laced products designed for use with domesticated cats are available to consumers. The common behaviors cats display when they sense the bruised leaves or stems of catnip are: rubbing on the plant, rolling on the ground, pawing at it, licking it, and chewing it. Consuming much of the plant is followed by drooling, sleepiness, anxiety, leaping about and purring. Some growl, meow, scratch or bite at the hand holding it.[21][22] The main response period after exposure is generally between five and fifteen minutes, after which olfactory fatigue usually sets in.[23]:p.107

The nepetalactone in catnip acts as a feline attractant after it enters the feline's nose.[24] Cats detect it through their olfactory epithelium, not through their vomeronasal organ.[25] At the olfactory epithelium, the nepetalactone binds to one or more olfactory receptors.

Not all cats are affected by catnip;[18] roughly 33% are not affected by the plant.[26][27] The behavior is hereditary.[18]

Other plants that also have this effect on cats include valerian (Valeriana officinalis), Acalypha indica (root) and plants that contain actinidine.[28] Domestic house cats who do not react to catnip will react in a similar way to Tartarian honeysuckle sawdust.[23]:p.108

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Nepeta cataria information from NPGS/GRIN". Retrieved 2008-04-07. 
  2. ^ World Checklist of Selected Plant Families: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
  3. ^ Flora of China Vol. 17 Page 107 荆芥属 jing jie shu Nepeta Linnaeus, Sp. Pl. 2: 570. 1753.
  4. ^ Altervista Flora Italiana, genere Nepeta includes photos plus range maps for Europe + North America
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b c d Missouri Botanical Garden: Nepeta cataria (Catmint) . accessed 1.10.2013
  7. ^ "DIY Kitty Crack: ultra-potent catnip extract". Instructables. June 3, 2007. Retrieved February 14, 2009. 
  8. ^ Agricultural Research. May/Jun2007, vol.55 Issue 5, p7-7. 1p.
  9. ^ a b Kingsley, Danny (September 3, 2001). "Catnip sends mozzies flying". ABC Science Online. Retrieved February 14, 2009. 
  10. ^ Junwei J. Zhu, Christopher A. Dunlap, Robert W. Behle, Dennis R. Berkebile, Brian Wienhold. (2010). Repellency of a wax-based catnip-oil formulation against stable flies. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 58 (23): 12320–12326 (8 Nov 2010, doi:10.1021/jf102811k).
  11. ^ Schultz, Gretchen; Peterson, Chris; Coats, Joel (May 25, 2006). "Natural Insect Repellents: Activity against Mosquitoes and Cockroaches". In Rimando, Agnes M.; Duke, Stephen O. Natural Products for Pest Management. ACS Symposium Series. American Chemical Society. 
  12. ^ "Termites Repelled by Catnip Oil". Southern Research Station, United States Department of Agriculture – Forest Service. March 26, 2003. 
  13. ^ Dennis Loney (2001-08-28). "Mosquito Repellents". American Chemical Society. Archived from the original on 26 April 2006. Retrieved 2007-08-28. 
  14. ^ Chauhan, K.R.; Klun, Jerome A.; Debboun, Mustapha; Kramer, Matthew (2005). "Feeding Deterrent Effects of Catnip Oil Components Compared with Two Synthetic Amides Against Aedes aegypti". Journal of Medical Entomology 42 (4): 643–646. doi:10.1603/0022-2585(2005)042[0643:FDEOCO]2.0.CO;2. PMID 16119554. 
  15. ^ "Catnip tea". Supplement SOS. Retrieved March 22, 2013. 
  16. ^ "Similar Effects to Pot, Minus the High". Erowid Experience Vaults. 
  17. ^ "How Does Catnip Affect Humans?". RealClearScience. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f Grognet J (June 1990). "Catnip: Its uses and effects, past and present". The Canadian Veterinary Journal 31 (6): 455–456. PMC 1480656. PMID 17423611. 
  19. ^ Chris Poole (Aug 2, 2010). Q: Do Tigers Like Catnip?. Big Cat Rescue. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  20. ^ Durand, Marcella (March 4, 2003). "Heavenly Catnip". Archived from the original on May 15, 2013. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  21. ^ Becker, Marty; Spadafori, Gina (2006). Why Do Cats Always Land on Their Feet?: 101 of the Most Perplexing Questions Answered About Feline Unfathomables, Medical Mysteries and Befuddling Behaviors. Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, Incorporated. ISBN 0757305733. 
  22. ^ Spadafori, Gina (2006). "Here, Boy!". Universal Press Syndicate. Retrieved May 3, 2014. 
  23. ^ a b Arden Moore (20 July 2007). The Cat Behavior Answer Book: Solutions to Every Problem You'll Ever Face; Answers to Every Question You'll Ever Ask. Storey. ISBN 978-1-60342-179-9. Retrieved 18 July 2013. 
  24. ^ Siegel, Ronald K. Intoxication: The Universal Drive for Mind-Altering Substances. Inner Traditions / Bear & Company. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-59477-069-2. 
  25. ^ Hart, Benjamin L.; Leedy, Mitzi G. (July 1985). "Analysis of the catnip reaction: mediation by olfactory system, not vomeronasal organ". Behavioral and neural biology 44 (1): 38–46. doi:10.1016/S0163-1047(85)91151-3. PMID 3834921. 
  26. ^ "Catnip (Nepeta cataria) – Everything You Need to Know About Catnip!". Cat World. 2014. Retrieved 2015-01-02. 
  27. ^ Turner, Ramona (May 29, 2007). "How does catnip work its magic on cats?". Scientific American. Retrieved February 14, 2009. 
  28. ^ Smith, L (2005). "CATNIP". Archived from the original on 20 Jan 2007. Retrieved 30 March 2012. 

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