With over 250 species, the genus Nepeta contains the well-known species of catnip and catmint. Having been brought to the Unites States after colonization, the plants are native to Europe, Asia, and Africa. Classified as an herbaceous plant, Nepeta can grow as a perennial or an annual. Leaves are characteristically heart shaped, and shaded either gray or light green. Vertically spiked flowers will grow in a number of pastel colors depending upon the specific species.
Often cultivated as an ornamental garden or container plant, catmint is a known feeding source for many moths and butterflies. Pollinators such as hummingbirds and bees rely on this species for their pollination pursuits.
Benefits of Catmint
Catmint has been utilized in eastern and western medicines for centuries as a cure or remedy for children’s ailments, common colds, anxiety, female abdominal pain, insomnia, and as an organic insect repellent. Natural properties within the plant, including rosmarinic acid, tannins, and volatile oil, give catmint the ability to act as a carminative, diaphoretic, antioxidant, and antispasmodic property.
In addition to these benefits, catmint contains high values of vitamins C and E. The phytochemicals found within the plant are most often related to the sedative effects of the likes of valerian. It is also used to stimulate appetite, aid digestion, and control stress and headaches.
When making herbal remedies with catmint, only the leaves and flowering parts of the plant are utilized. Catmint leaves and flowers may be steeped into a tea or tonic, though should never be boiled as the natural properties cannot handle the high temperature.
Catmint is found in a number of dietary and nutrition related stores, and is often sold in powder or capsule form. Catmint may also be applied directly to the skin via a poultice or compress for combat against swelling and inflammation.
While most often associated with the feline species (cats love the taste!), catmint has extraordinary beneficial uses for the human population, and has proven its effectiveness over many years.