Growing and using catnip for tea (for you, not the cats!)

We're all familiar with catnip and how it affects cats. What is less well-known is how it affects humans. No, catnip is not just for cats and interestingly enough, while it tends to wind cats up it has the exact opposite effect on people. Catnip can be used topically or as a tea, tincture or infusion for many different reasons. Catnip is also one of the herbs that has a long history of use for children.

catnip tea. growing, brewing and using

Catnip (Nepeta cataria) is a member of the mint family. It's sometimes referred to as Catmint. Even though it seems to produce a euphoria response in cats, catnip will not get you high! Maybe because we're much bigger than cats? Kidding! 

Here's an excellent explanation of why it works for cats, though it tends to have a calming effect on us instead. 

Health benefits of catnip (for people)

Catnip has a much milder effect on people but it still produces many desired effects. There are many reasons why you should grow catnip for yourself. My favorite way to use catnip is as a tea, though it can be applied topically too.

  1. Used to treat cold symptoms.
  2. Helps to reduce a fever.
  3. Helps with migraines and other headaches
  4. Can help alleviate menstrual cramps
  5. Anti-inflammatory 
  6. Calms nerves
  7. Settles the stomach
  8. Improves digestion and may ease morning sickness
  9. Mild sedative: helps with stress and insomnia
  10. A warm herbal bath with catnip infused in the water helps to relax muscles
  11. Helps to stop bleeding when applied topically
  12. Can be used as an insect repellent when applied topically

Catnip for stress & anxiety

Catnip is mostly used for stress and anxiety in humans. The sedative nature in the herb is what really helps to relax your mind and body, relieving the stress you might be having. This relaxation effect is also helpful if you have anxiety or you struggle with panic attacks. If you are someone that tends to get more anxiety at night when you are in bed, then drinking catnip tea is perfect for you! 

Catnip for sleeplessness

The second most common use of catnip herb for humans is insomnia. This can be helped with a nightly cup of catnip tea. While catnip makes your cats energetic and hyper, it does the opposite for humans. It can actually slow your heart rate down, ease stress, and provide sedative qualities. A cup of catnip tea each night during your bedtime routine will improve your sleep immensely.

Catnip for inflammation

There are a wide range of illnesses and medical conditions that are related to inflammation. The inflammation causes swelling, which affects how well you can move the joint, plus causing quite a bit of pain. 

A good herb for inflammation is the catnip herb, which has properties to not only relax your mind and body, but reduce inflammation at the same time. Since it also speeds up the healing process in the body, it is great when you have an injury like a sprained ankle.

growing catnip tea

How to grow catnip

Catnip is a perennial in US zones 4-10. It is not terribly picky about where it grows and it can grow well in many different types of soils. Although, it prefers partial shade and well drained soil. 

Catnip seed can be sown directly into the garden as soon as danger of frost has passed. I use a compost rich soil and sow the seeds about 1/8" deep and about 18" apart. Cover and water lightly. Keep soil moist until seedlings pop through the ground. 

If you prefer to grow your catnip indoors, you can also sow the seeds in pots the same way. 

The catnip plant does not need much care aside from watering. If you want a bushier plant you can prune it a bit. Just give it a little trim making sure you don't take more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. Allow to grow back before pruning again.

Catnip is easy to harvest and dry. Once the plant has flowered, simply snip off the desired amount. Either hang the catnip in bunches to dry, or place in a dehydrator on low for a few hours. I store my dried catnip in glass jars as explained in How to store dried herbs.

Catnip is also a proficient self seeder. Last summer I put a potted catnip plant outside on the patio and it stayed there till winter. It went to seed but I didn't worry about it since it wasn't in the garden. This is what the patio looks like right now. 

Catnip growing in seams of patio.

As you can see, the catnip self-seed very well and several tiny catnip plants are popping up in the seams of the concrete under the table! It also happened to seed itself into every single pot that was near it too. 

This is one to be careful with. If you plant it in your garden and do not remove the seed heads you will literally have it everywhere with a year. Catnip can be invasive if not controlled. 

This plant produces small white flowers with little purple dots. To save seeds, wait for the flowers to dry on the stems then snip the stalks and shake the seeds into a bag. 

Catnip can be grown in pots and indoors to keep reseeding to a minimum.

One plant provides plenty of catnip to last me (and the cats!) all winter long! If you want to plant the cats a special treat, here's how I grow cat grass for my cats.

Related reading: How to make a catnip kick stick for your cats. 

Want more posts on taking care of your health naturally? Click here for my other posts on using herbs!


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I am not a doctor or other health care professional nor do I claim to be. I am not trained in any medical field. I am simply passing on information that has worked for me. This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. see a Dr if you are ill. Click for my full disclaimer.


  1. Catnip is the only herb I am successful at growing. I have never tried making trying it myself because my cats enjoy it so that I save it for them. I may have to brew a cup of tea if I can sneak a few leaves in the kitchen without them knowing about it.

    1. You should try it! It has a bit of a 'green' taste to it, but I really like it.

      Do you ever dehydrate your catnip? I put some in my dehydrator and my cat went crazy trying to get to the vent where the air was blowing out of it. lol She just stood there and sniffed it for the longest time! So funny.


  2. I love catnip tea - hard to grow at my house - with a neighborhood full of cats (and four of my own), the plants get found and enjoyed mighty fast!! Thanks for sharing at the Pleasures of the NW's DIY Party!

  3. Something hard to kill is always welcome in my garden!

    1. Mine too! The less care the better. Thankfully most herbs are pretty easy once they get started.

      Thanks for stopping by!


  4. HI Lisa,
    Good post. I remember my Mom used to use catnip when I was a kid, but I did not know it had this many medicinal qualities. Pinned & tweeted. Congratulations on being featured on Healthy, Happy Green & Natural blog hop.

    1. Thanks! I was so excited to see this post was featured! Thanks so much for sharing, I really appreciate it!