Catnip Tea

Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on November 15, 2017Written by Ana Gotter

Overview

Catnip is a strong-smelling herb. It is native to Central Europe, though it can now be found in most of Canada and the Northeast United States. It belongs to the mint family and has oval-toothed, dark green leaves and white flowering tops.

Catnip has long been thought to have medicinal properties. Its dried leaves and white flowers are traditionally used for this purpose. Both can be used to make tea, which is sometimes used to treat conditions like insomnia, anxiety, and headaches. In some cases, the roots of catnip can be used. However, these act as a stimulant instead of a relaxing agent.

How to make catnip tea

To make catnip tea, mix 2 teaspoons of dried catnip leaves or flowers with 1 cup of boiling water. Add lemon juice and honey, stir, and let cool for several minutes. Many people prefer a steeping time of about 10 to 15 minutes.

Catnip tea has a woodsy, almost grassy taste. The longer it sits with lemon in it, the more you’ll taste the natural underlying minty, citrusy flavor. Some people prefer this to drinking the tea immediately after cooling.

Uses

Catnip tea is most commonly used to treat nervousness and anxiety, along with other symptoms these conditions can cause, such as indigestion and insomnia.

It may be used to treat conditions or symptoms related to gastrointestinal upset, including indigestion, cramping, and gas.

It can act as a diuretic, increasing urination and thus decreasing water retention. This could help in the treatment of a number of different conditions.

Catnip tea has historically been used to treat issues like arthritis, coughs, hives, fevers, and viruses.

Potential health benefits

Catnip tea’s biggest health benefit is the calming effect that it can have on the body. Catnip contains nepetalactone, which is similar to the valepotriates found in a commonly used herbal sedative, valerian. This can improve relaxation, which may boost mood and reduce anxiety, restlessness, and nervousness.

Catnip tea can stimulate uterine contractions, which can help women or girls with delayed menstruation get their periods. It may also help promote evacuations of the placenta following childbirth.

Side effects and risks

A common side effect of catnip tea is drowsiness, which is often mild. While this is a plus if you’re trying to relax or treat insomnia, it’s not ideal at the beginning of a work day. Drink catnip tea at night so you can learn how it affects you.

However, because it’s a diuretic and causes both frequent urination and heavy perspiration, you shouldn’t drink it immediately before bed. Doing so could lead to frequent trips to the bathroom and interrupted sleep.

Catnip tea may cause headaches and digestive upset in some individuals. If this doesn’t pass after a few uses, stop drinking the tea.

Catnip tea should only be consumed by adults unless otherwise advised by your doctor. While it’s sometimes used to treat colic in infants, it hasn’t been tested in children. It may cause excessive drowsiness and sluggishness in children and infants, so it may be safer to choose another remedy.

You should not drink catnip tea if you’re pregnant, as it can cause uterine contractions that may result in premature labor.

These uterine contractions can also cause a woman’s period to start earlier, so catnip tea isn’t advised for women with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or those with heavy menstruation, as it can aggravate both symptoms.

Stop drinking catnip tea for several weeks before surgery, so that it doesn’t interfere with or intensify anesthesia and the central nervous system.

Takeaway

There isn’t currently much scientific evidence that catnip tea is an effective treatment for many of the conditions it’s sometimes used as a remedy for, but there is some strong anecdotal evidence. It’s safe to drink two to three times a day for maximum effectiveness for most people.

If catnip tea isn’t effective in treating your symptoms, you can consult your doctor. They’ll be able to offer additional remedies that you might find useful, including other alternative remedies and lifestyle changes.

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