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What Is Catnip Used for Today?
Catnip is primarily used by today's herbalists as a treatment for insomnia , as well as for mild stomach upset , especially when caused by stress. One ingredient of catnip, trans-cis-nepetalactone, is the active ingredient so far as cats are concerned. Most (but not all) cats respond to this substance with a complex reaction called the "catnip response" that can go on for about an hour.
Nepetalactone is similar to a class of substances called valepotriates, found in the sedative herb valerian . 1 This has attracted some attention, as valerian also is used for insomnia and stomach discomfort. However, as valepotriates are no longer considered to be the active ingredients in valerian, it is not clear that this relationship has any significance.
As yet, there is no real evidence that catnip produces any effect at all in humans. Tests conducted on chicks and rats have produced conflicting results, although high doses of essential oil of catnip have increased sleeping times in the latter. 2
- Review of Natural Products. St. Louis, Mo: Facts and Comparisions; 1991: Catnip monograph.
- Sherry CJ, Mitchell JP. The behavioral effects of the lactone-free hot water extract of catnip ( Nepeta cataria ) on the young chick. Int J Crude Drug Res. 1983;21:89–92.