Herb: Catmint


Latin name: Nepeta cataria


Synonyms: Cataria vulgaris


Family: Labiatae



Medicinal use of Catmint:

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. 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). The leaves and flowering tops are strongly antispasmodic, antitussive, astringent, carminative, diaphoretic, slightly emmenagogue, refrigerant, sedative, slightly stimulant, stomachic and tonic. The flowering stems are harvested in August when the plant is in full flower, they are dried and stored for use as required. An infusion produces free perspiration, it is considered to be beneficial in the treatment of fevers and colds. It is also very useful in the treatment of restlessness and nervousness, being very useful as a mild nervine for children. A tea made from the leaves can also be used. The infusion is also applied externally to bruises, especially black eyes.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Perennial


Height:
100 cm
(3 1/4 foot)

Flovering:
July to
November


Scent:
Scented
Perennial

Habitat of the herb:

Roadsides and near streams. Hedgerows, borders of fields, dry banks and waste ground, especially on calcareous and gravelly soils.

Edible parts of Catmint:

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

Other uses of the herb:

The plant is said to deter insects such as ants and flea beetles as well as rats and mice. (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. An extract from the leaves (called nepetalactone) has herbicidal and insect repellent properties. The freshly harvested flowering tops contain 0.3 - 1% essential oil by distillation. It is mainly used for medicinal purposes. The dried leaves retain their fragrance and can be used in pot-pourri.

Propagation of Catmint:

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame in the autumn. The germination of spring sown seed can be erratic, 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. A fast-growing plant, the seedlings can reach flowering size in their first year. 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. 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.

Cultivation of the herb:

Roadsides and near streams. Hedgerows, borders of fields, dry banks and waste ground, especially on calcareous and gravelly soils.

Known hazards of Nepeta cataria:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.