Report on Catnip Side Effects and Usage


Natural health supplements sometimes have unexpected side effects or interactions with medication that can lead to adverse reactions that are sometimes life threatening. The following is a list of cautions that you should be aware of before using Catnip (Nepeta cataria). These are referred to as drug/herb interactions. Catnip also is known as catnep, catmint, catswort, and field balm.

Warning 1 – Contraindications: Pregnancy and breast-feeding – Catnip may stimulate uterine contractions and there is some evidence that it may induce menstruation or miscarriage. The effects of using catnip during breast-feeding are unknown and therefor not recommended.

Warning 2 – Heavy menstrual periods (menorrhagia): may make heavy menstrual periods worse.

Warning 3 – Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID): Because catnip can start menstruation, women with PID may want to avoid using this herb.

Warning 4 – Alcohol: Catnip may enhance the effects of alcohol.

Warning 5 – Sedative/hypnotics: Catnip may increase the effects of sedatives.

Warning 6 – Surgery: Because catnip seems to slow down the central nervous system (CNS), there is a concern that using catnip along with anesthesia might slow down the CNS too much. Experts recommend stopping use at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Warning 7 – Diuretic action: Catnip may increase the frequency and amount of urination.

Used as a natural health remedy: Catnip has been used as a tea for centuries to treat the following conditions:

  • Colds
  • Colic
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever (increases perspiration without raising body temperature)
  • Flatulence (gas)
  • Flu (influenza)
  • Gastrointestinal disorders
  • Headaches
  • Induce menstruation
  • Insomnia
  • Intestinal cramps
  • Nausea
  • Restlessness, nervousness
  • Toothache
  • Upset stomach

Used as a natural health remedy: Catnip is an astringent. Externally, it has been used to treat the following conditions:

  • cuts and scrapes to halt bleeding
  • insect repellant
  • promote healing
  • reduce swelling from rheumatism

The essential oil found in catnip, nepetalactone, has been shown to be as effective as DEET as an insect repellant and also works as a flea treatment in animals and on carpets.

Side Effects of Catnip

Excessive use of Catnip may produce the following side effects:

  1. decreased mental alertness
  2. dizziness
  3. fatigue
  4. headache
  5. nausea
  6. vomiting

Other side effects may also occur when using Catnip. (See form below)

Catnip is UNSAFE when smoked, when taken by mouth in high doses (for example drinking more than 1 cup of catnip tea), and when used in children.

As with any herb, a serious allergic reaction is possible. Seek immediate medical attention if you notice any symptoms of a serious allergic reaction. These may include a rash, itching/swelling (especially of the face/tongue/throat), severe dizziness, or trouble breathing.

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For questions and answers about the side effects of herbs see the Herb Forum

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