Catnip Herb Profile

homemade tincture to help kids sleep better

You’ve probably heard of Catnip herb before, and true to its name, you probably heard of it in reference to its properties that are highly attractive to felines.

What is much less well-known, are the practical uses of this herb for humans.

Herbal Uses for Catnip

Catnip is one of my favorite herbs for children. I use it when one of us has a high fever, as it is known to relax the body while increasing perspiration, which helps the infection leave the body faster. It has also been found to settle the stomach and sooth children when they are upset.

Externally, I’ve used Catnip infusions and baths to help with the achy muscles that accompany flu and illness. It can be used externally on the stomach of colicky babies to relax the stomach and help them sleep.

This herb has natural relaxing and soothing properties. It is one of the ingredients in my Sweet Dreams Sleep Tincture, which is great at helping kids relax and sleep better, especially during illness.

It is said to repel certain insects, and I use the essential oil in my Homemade Bug Spray (recently tested and approved by a reader on a cruise down the Amazon River!).

A mild tea made with catnip herb is said to help improve digestion, ease morning sickness, and calm nerves. It’s relaxing properties also make it beneficial to those who suffer from insomnia.

I also keep a small jar in my kitchen for culinary uses. I add small amounts to sauces, stews, and soups for its flavor and to help improve digestion and nutrient assimilation.

Other uses, from Mountain Rose Herbs:

Scientists have ascertained that the feline reaction to catnip is due to it’s content of nepetalactone. The herb is also strongly anti-fungal and a bactericide for Staphylococcus aureus, as well as a close chemical relative to a number of insect repellants that affect mosquitoes and termites… Catnip has also been used as a sedative to help with insomnia, producing similar effects as Valerian.

Precautions: Check with a doctor before using if pregnant. Can cause drowsiness in extreme doses. Very rare allergic reactions. As always, talk to your health professional before using any herbs, supplements, or medicine.

Where to get Catnip

I buy my this and other herbs in bulk from here and make my own teas, tinctures, eye pillows for sleep, and herbal bath salts.

It is also available in capsule form as a sleep aid,  as an herbal tea (in tea bags), as an essential oil for skin use, as an herbal extract with fennel for digestive relief, and Amazon recently started carrying an essential oil blend of the same herbs I use in my herbal bug spray, pre-mixed.

You can also actually find herbal catnip toys for you cats.

As always, please check with a doctor or qualified practitioner before using this or any herb as a remedy.

Ever used catnip as an herb, or was your knowledge of it limited to the amusing reactions that it gets from cats? Share below!

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Reader Comments

  1. I’ve never used it, but I have a good amount growing around my garden that I want to transplant along the side of my house where we have ant issues, and as a ground cover underneath shrubs that line the perimeter of our backyard… to help with mosquitoes.  I would love LOVE to start using these things from my own backyard!  You really are helping me change my life to the way I’ve always dreamed of it being.  Thank you.

    • doesn’t seem to repel ants, nor spiders. i have some planted next to my rose bushes to keep the flying critters off, but when i picked some today, it was full of ants. this could also have been to my wife recently watering that part of the yard. water always brings the ants up. the spiders taking roost in my plants is a bit bothersome. i don’t want to make spider web/catnip tea.

      i have a ton of other catnip plants around my yard, since we have 5 cats. they get all goofy, so i had to see what the fuss was about. i made 2 pretty strong cups, and tossed them back with a bit of sugar(was out of honey), made me a bit sweaty, very relaxed, and a lil bit “stoney”. very mild on the last one, but still feeling very good at the moment. i can see why the cats like it. mine eat it and roll around in it.

      i think i need a cat nap. =)

  2. At what age would you start giving the tea? My daughter is 7 mos and since we’ve started giving her solids she’s been more prone to gas, and she’s just had a resp virus as well. I’ve given her weak chamomile tea (a couple of tbsp).

    • You could try it now though I usually wait until one year.., for now, I’d just use on her stomach externally.

    • My friend used it quite often in her infant’s breast milk bottle. She was a colicky baby with some GI issues. She swore by the catnip tea mixed with the bottle!

    • I gave both my daughters catnip tea at about 4 wks. It helped with colic and made them. They are now 43 and 41. I recommend it highly.

    • I know that it is good for children as young as 2 yrs. It was recommended by my doctor for my sons nausea and vomiting. After just a few sips of catnip tea there was no more symptoms. And it relaxed him and helped him sleep better thru the virus.

  3. When giving to a colicky you just make it as a tea and give a small amount in a medicine dispenser? Please help! Thank you.

    • On babies I just make into a tea or tincture and rub on the stomach… Works faster and you don’t have to put it in their mouth

  4. I have never made a tincture before, how would I do that with catnip to use for my children? Also, for a bath, do I just sprinkle it in? Thank you!

      • Thank you! Don’t laugh, but I’ve never made a tea that doesn’t come in a tea bag either…:)

  5. Are catnip and valerian safe for nursing moms?

    • I’ve taken Catnip, but I’d ask a doc or midwife to be sure…

  6. Ok, this might sound a bit wierd, but I was just in Walmart, and saw a can of 100% organic catnip in the pet section. Is this the same kind? Because it was only $5, and that would so rock!

    • it might be… did it look like a leaf/herb?

      • Yep. I was loose in the jar, it’s intended purpose was to stuff your own cat toys..

  7. I’m so glad we have catnip growing in our yard(my cats are glad too). My husband harvested a bunch so I can make homemade bug repellent bars using your recipe. We’re just waiting for it to dry.

    • I grow catnip for my cat. It grows just like mint (same family)
      so be careful where you grow it, unless you want it to take over
      your herb garden.

      • You can limit it’s expansion by cutting the white flowering buds, before they dry out and drop their seeds. i trim the whole branch back to almost a nub, and it seems induce further new growth. but like you said, if not careful, they will take over.

        one of thing it noticed, if you chew the little while flowers, they will make your mouth tingle with a minty/numbing feeling. the numbing/tingliness was a bit unexpected, but not entirely unpleasant.

  8. My son 5 year old son has trouble falling asleep. How can I incorporate the catnip herb in his bedtime routine? Currently, I give the hebs to my cats. they love it.

    • Depending on your routine, mix it with milk and a little sugar or honey and it’ll taste minty. Warning though it WILL make him have to pee so if he feels any urge he would need to go immediately

  9. Hi Katie,
    I was wondering your thoughts on making a homemade flea repellant shampoo for dogs with a water infused with catnip, rosemary, feverfew and wormwood. Do you think enough of the oils would be retained to make it effective? Love your lotion bars BTW 🙂

  10. Hi. I hate to point this out but it’s important. Pregnant wouldn’t shouldn’t drink catnip tea as if can cause uterine contractions. Catnip tea is known for helping regulate menstrual cycles and blood loss during them. If a pregnant woman is having a miscarriage, catnip tea can help calm nerves and ease her pain.

    • True! My Dr is using me, (quite willingly), as an experiment for alternative treatment for adenomyosis. Drinking catnip tea for my PMS and period weeks. First month this month, been drinking it for about 4 days and I feel better than usual. Not as much bloating or heart palpitations from anxiety and insomnia has taken a much welcomed vacation. Keep your fingers crossed, the alternative is a full hysterectomy, not something I want anything to do with.

  11. In the cat nip article you mention its good for morning sickness, but ive read pregnant women should not have because it can cause miscarriage

  12. Growing up my mom used to give us capnip and fennel mixed with a small amount of warm water for upset stomach. Was easy to fond at the drug store 40+ years ago. I would love to know if I could make my own.

  13. Hi

    How much should catnip should I give my 4 and a half year old so she can sleep through the night? She has been waking up 4-5 times a night. Sometimes crying, sometimes not, but either way, it wakes us up at night. She doesn’t come in our room, but she is up. This has been happening for a month already. A cup of catnip seems to much for my child to drink, but do I have to give her the whole cup for her to sleep through the night? I don’t want to give her drugs to help her sleep. This has been happening for over a month already. I’m getting desperate. Any suggestions?


    • Does the child have parasites?

      Check with health care provider.

      Is there a protein, veggies and small amount of carbohydrates for supper
      Or too many sweets?

    • I agree with the “check with your physician” comment. She may have a urinary tract infection that is waking her up at night. I’ve had nightmares when I had to go to the bathroom at night, and it was my body’s way of waking me up. Or is she seeing something that is scary on TV? Talk to her to see if she is afraid of something, and then reassure her that she’s safe.

  14. I’ve been using catnip tea for anxiety, and it seems to help. I drink a cup about half an hour before eating, or on an empty stomach. I was drinking it three times a day, but now I’m down to two.

  15. I love you newsletters! I grow a lot of my own herbs. Still trying to find mugwort, clarysage and plantain plants. Nurseries don’t seem to carry those. Any ideas? I can’t even find the seeds. also, I grow my own Yarrow. But, I unexpectedly found that some of my yarrow is red. Does that take away from its medicinal

    Thank you for all your help.
    Charleene Deaver

    • It cann depend on your growing zone. Some plants need less heat, less cold…. Try seed catalogs. Most herbs are easily grown from seeds.

  16. Plantain where I live really is a weed… It grows everywhere. Especially where car tires chew up the soil. Very healing herb, delicious in soup… Once you learn to recognize it, you may find it everywhere… I am in southern Canada and it grows like crazy here, but can not say for sure in other locations… Best wishes

  17. I really would not recommend catnip for morning sickness. While it does help settle the stomach, it can also induce contractions.

  18. Hi,
    Just wondering if you have to dry the herb or can you use it as is (fresh)?

  19. Catnip grows wild here, so I use it fresh and dry it.

    I do give my babies catnip. I make a catnip and mint tincture and just put a couple drops under baby’s tongue. Or I put warm catnip tea in a bottle and let them take a couple swallows. It doesn’t take much. This really helps a fussy baby to relax and get rid of gas that is causing them a bellyache.

    My 14 month old has been waking up crying at night. I can’t figure out what his problem is, but a dropper or two full of catnip tincture seems to help him.

    I give catnip tea to anyone in my house who is sick. It’s especially good for stomach issues like diarrhea and vomiting, and for fevers.

    I too have read that catnip can cause contractions, so I avoid it during pregnancy.

  20. When I was pregnant with my fifth and started having contractions at five months, my midwife had me drink catnip tea to stop them. And it worked. Not sure if it’s ok in early pregnancy, but it was helpful during second trimester that pregnancy and a subsequent one. I always ask my midwife (or read websites of midwives) though about using herbs in pregnancy. I don’t trust the medical community to tell me what herbs are ok though, because they tend to say none are ok for pregnancy, but you can take some of their toxic drugs!

  21. I had never heard of using catnip for humans, imagine my surprise when we were visiting my husband’s grandmother and our infant grandson had colic (he had it a LOT). Grandma told us to go to the Healthfood Store and buy the catnip, make a weak tea and mix it with his formula. I couldn’t believe the difference it made for him and, needless to say, it became a staple in our house. He is grown now and has his own infant son – with colic; so Meme reminded him about the catnip.

  22. I have used it successfully as a mosquito repellent. It also seems to help with relaxation and on sore muscles.

  23. Has anyone used it for hyperactivity or attention issues? Staying away from a number of preservatives etc but still need some help.

  24. I found catnip at a dallortree can i used that in my home.Do it have to be from the Herb store.thank u the website is verey helpful so things i didn’t know about.thank u again.