Nepeta cataria, Catmint, Catnep, Catswort, Field Balm, Menta De Gato.
Catnip is native to Southern Europe, but is widely naturalized all over Europe and North America, where some of the best quality in the world is grown in the state of Washington. It is a gray-green perennial that grows up to three feet high and looks incredibly similar to species of the mint family, which it is a part of. Catnip is, as its name suggests, the herb of choice for cats. A member of the mint, catnip attracts cats of all breeds and sizes, who often run up to the herb, paw it, roll in it, meow loudly, and then suddenly lose interest in the herb for hours or days until sensitivity to the herb "resets" itself. Catnip has also been used as a sedative to help with insomnia, producing similar effects as Valerian.
Nepetalactone, essential oil
The leaf, dried, cut, and powdered.
As a tea it imparts a pleasant mint flavor. It can also be taken as an extract or lightly sprinkled on food, or as an herbal pillow for cats. It has also been used as a flavoring in sauces, soups, and stews.
Scientists have ascertained that the feline reaction to catnip is due to the its content of nepetalactone. The herb is also strongly antifungal and a bactericide for Staphylococcus aureus, as well as a close chemical relative to a number of insect repellants that affect mosquitoes and termites. Folklore of the early Americans settlers suggested that they felt that ingesting catnip would somehow make even the kindest person mean. It was consumed thereafter by hangmen to "get in the mood".
Not recommended for use while pregnant.