Catnip is more than just a dried herb for making cats happy; it has a history of medicinal and magical use going back over 2,000 years. With it’s many uses, and the ease in which it is grown, catnip makes a wonderful addition to any domestic witch garden.
Cat, catmint, catrup, cat’s wort, field balm, nepeta, nip, nep, herb catta
Catnip originated in Europe and Asia. It was used by Roman cooks and doctors, and records from England and France show that catnip was used as a stimulating hot drink before black tea became popular. European settlers brought catnip to the United States in the late 18th century, introducing it to the Native Americans. There are records of the use of catnip from 13 different Native American tribes, who primarily used the herb for treating children. It was used for colic, treating diarrhea, colds and stomach aches. Catnip has even worked it’s way into literature, appearing in the works of Washington Irving, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. There’s even a book called “Catnip for the Soul“!
Associated Deities: Mostly associate with Bast, catnip is also associated with Venus and Sekhmet.
Catnip can be easily grown from seed in spring and/or summer in zones 3-9. Catnip prefers a fertile, well drained soil in partial shade, and does well in window boxes or pots. The roots can be divided in spring and fall. A self-sowing plant that grows quickly, catnip can yield several harvests within a year. A perennial plant, it has downy, greenish-gray leaves and produces white flowers with purple spots.
Catnip is most frequently consumed in the form of tea, but it can also be added in leaf form to salads, chopped and mixed with olive oil and lemon juice for a marinade for meats, or added into soups or stews as a flavoring.
Catnip has been used in infusion form as a treatment for dandruff. It’s also been used as a treatment for acne.
Avoid during pregnancy. People with epilepsy should avoid this herb. Avoid long-term, heavy use of catnip, as it can, over time, affect the absorption of iron in the body.
Medicinal Action and Uses:
Most often used in the form of a tea, catnip has been used for over 2,000 to treat a variety of medicinal issues, such as:
- digestive issues,
- bladder dysfunction
- discomfort from gassiness
- bronchial congestion
- menstrual cramps
- colds and flu
- insect repellant
Catnip contains a chemical called nepetalactone which can has antibacterial properties. Catnip leaves have been used in the past as a dressing for cuts and scrapes, thus it’s folk name of “field balm”. This chemical is also what makes catnip repel mosquitos and cockroaches when used in the form of a refined oil. (Nepetalactone is also the chemical that attracts cats.)
- Creates a psychic bond with cats.
- Promotes playfulness.
- Used for love spells in mojo bags and sachets.
- Grown in the garden, it attracts good spirits and luck.
- Add to dream pillows to promote sleep
- Large leaves have traditionally been used for marking pages in magical books.
Tie stems together and hang upside down in a warm, dry, shady spot. When completely dry, crumble leaves into an jar with an airtight lid and store away from sunlight.
Growing your own catnip can be a rewarding practice, especially if cats share your home. Easy to grow, easy to dry, catnip is a wonderful herb for your garden and your medicine cabinet.
Sources of information
Encyclopedia of folk medicine: old world and new world traditions by Gabrielle Hatfield
Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs by Claire Kowalchik, William H. Hylton, Anna Carr
Organic Body Care Recipes: by Stephanie Tourles
The information in this article is meant for educational purposes. It is not meant to be medical advice. Always check with a medical professional before using an herbal treatment.
To be notified of new articles by this author, subscribe at the top of this page. For additional content, visit the author’s blog at Confessions of a Pagan Soccer Mom.