My Three Favorite Ways to Use Catnip on Humans

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How To Use Catnip

Last week I filled the drying loft in our barn with catnip (Nepeta cataria). Its leaves are typically harvested just as the flowers begin to think about blooming. Since then I’ve had to think about taking the extra step of closing the barn door when I go in and out. Every year when I put up the catnip it’s like a siren song for all the furry addicts in the neighborhood. If I didn’t mind the door I’d find them rolling drunkenly around on the second floor.

Catnip is a curious plant. When we sell it at the farmer’s market I often remind people how to use catnip for themselves, and to be sure to have a cup of catnip tea while they share it with their pets. I still get confused looks.

Catnip Is For People Too!

We know catnip primarily for the stimulating effect it has on our cats. It is actually really good for us as well, but it has the opposite effect. Here are three reasons you might want to have a cup of catnip tea:

Swallowed Emotions

The very name for one of the teas I make at the farm that contains catnip. One of my favorite uses for this plant is to address the specific kind of stress and anxiety created in the body when people can’t express their emotions. This is perfect for someone who isn’t able to tell the boss or the in-law just what they’d like to say because it wouldn’t be polite, or good for the family budget.


Catnip is a digestive herb. The scent that we get when we rub its leaves between our fingers is evidence of a high amount of volatile oils. This plant chemical is responsible for its ability to calm the stomach of an adult or a nursing child with colic. (Mountain Rose Herbs sells a Tummy Care Extract made with catnip, which you can find here.)

A catnip tea after a particularly large meal can be good protection against indigestion. (Find dried catnip here.)


This is one of the most popular herbs for reducing a fever. It is part of a class of herbs called febrifuges. These herbs have the ability to cool the body by inducing a sweat. It is almost never a good idea to interrupt a fever. For the rare times that a fever has been particularly prolonged (your patient is becoming dehydrated and listless) or too high (over 102° for a typically healthy adult, around 104° for a typically healthy child) it can be helpful to have a fever tincture around. I make mine at the farm with catnip, elder and peppermint.

How To Make a Fever Tincture

  1. Select a glass container.
  2. Fill the container ⅓ full with dried catnip. (find dried catnip here)
  3. Cover the catnip with your choice of vodka, gin, rum or brandy.
  4. Secure the lid. Label the jar and leave it sit for 4-6 weeks.
  5. Shake the jar occasionally.
  6. At the end of the 4-6 weeks strain the herbs out of your tincture and bottle it.

For a fever you can now use ⅛-¼ teaspoon (adult dose) every half hour until the fever subsides. This dose will need to be scaled down depending on the age if you’d like to give this to a child. I have a great dosage chart in my new book, Conceiving Healthy Babies, an Herbal Guide to Support Preconception, Pregnancy and Lactation. (Purchase the book here.)


image credit to Rainer Stropek

About Dawn Combs

Dawn is a wife, mother, farmer, author, ethnobotanist, professional speaker, and educator. She has over 20 years of ethnobotanical experience, is a certified herbalist, and has a B.A. in Botany and Humanities/Classics. Dawn is co-owner of Mockingbird Meadows Farm. Her books include Conceiving Healthy Babies and Heal Local.

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  1. Mary says

    This sounds great. Thanks for the info. I do have a question though–I have ‘cat mint’. Do you think I can use cat mint in place of the catnip?

    • Dawn says

      Cat mint is often a different plant. Nepeta faassenii is different and will have different properties than Nepeta cataria, though it might make a pleasant tea.

  2. Laura says

    That is strange that ants should eat your catnip plant! I have catnip plants growing in several parts of my yard , for years, and have never had ants eat any of it. What kind of ants? What did they look like, as there are many types of ants? If you know what they are, then you could put something there that would discourage them.

    My plants are growing in the ground, whereever they have spontaneously come up. Tho we transplanted one into a pot when we changed that garden area. But we left the potted one right near there, as my cat likes to eat catnip from it and we thought he would miss it being there. N ants there either.

  3. Robin H says

    I planted catnip this year along with a couple of other herbs and ants DEVOURED the catnip plant! I was unable to get rid of the ants. Should I have planted it in a pot?

  4. mamadebbie says

    My hubby and I used catnip tea for our daughters colic, that was 31 years ago. It worked well. Our cats love to roll in the plants we grow for them. I wish it made me feel as good as it does them. We also love the tea for ourselves, it has a gentle, pleasant flavor, nice with a little honey : )

  5. Sharon says

    Hi, really love your emails and tips, they are really great. What I would really also love is the ‘recipe’ for the Swallowed Emotions tea, or a rough idea at least, is this at all possible? Thank you 🙂

  6. Holly says

    Amyah! i have to share my experience with chamomile infusion. this herb is very well known for its aid in sleep and restful sleep at that! i made a chamomile infusion (about 1/3-1/2 oz of dried herb in a 16 oz canning jar, boil water and pour into jar with dried chamomile flowers already in jar, cover jar -airtight- and let sit all day or night until it is room temp, then strain and enjoy!) the reason for making an infusion rather than a regular tea is that a regular tea may not get all the beneficial properties from the herb like an infusion does. when i made this chamomile infusion i drank some about an hour before bed. i slept for 7 hours and woke up feeling like i slept for 10 or 11 hours, NO JOKE. (a hint of lavender will really make this a relaxing tonic) i will make this one again soon, the aromatherapudic properties of this infusion are astounding too, it smells just divine. i hope you get some good sleep girl.
    Dawn, congratulations on the book! it turns out i am pregnant and a naturopath so i might just have to give it a read! 🙂 great article on catnip too, i know people who smoke this stuff lol! its similar to mary jane from what i’ve heard, never tried either… ahem. anyways… thanks for the info!!! peace and love~

    • Amyah says

      Thank you Holly…that is a real good idea… just wonder if I put a big pinch of catnip with it… will try that today for sure…

      Sleeeeeeeeping!!!! Oh! That will feel so good… I used to be a marmot before the assault so, my body is really deprived and can’t heal properly.

      Thank you all for the suggestions… will try them.

      Wish you a wonderful pregnancy, Holly… it will be a beautiful little precious <3

  7. Jennifer S. says

    I love the idea of catnip tea for stress. My husband has a stressful job which translates into stress for me too. I think we’ll look into getting some catnip.

  8. Amyah says

    Hmmmm…. just found some catnip at the herborist and looking forward to make a tea.

    With what other plant could Imix it with? I am healing from PTSD following a violent assault… I am just beginning to sleep again after 5 years but my sleep is not rejuvanating (yet) … I think my adrenals are really down.

    What plant would you suggest I use with catnip for regaining a good healing sleep?Oh! I take no medications at all…

    Thank you for your attention and advices 🙂

    • Dawn Combs says

      Amyah, best wishes on your continued healing. I would recommend you add in some rose petals as they are wonderful for emotional stress. For sleep and your adrenals I would suggest you look into astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous) or ashwagandha (Withonia somnifera). You might also look at hops (Humulus lupulus) just for your nervous system and sleep.

    • Laura says

      Good luck with your healing. I understand some of your issues with PTSD and sleep problems, after having my own issues after a traumatic death in the family. It has taken me 3 years to get to being not so emotionally stressed out. Yes, the adrenals take a bit hit with something like that, and can wake you up or disrupt your sleep almost evey night.

      A few things I found to be very helpful were 1. therapy, but what really helped was EMDR therapy. It stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. I had it done one time and it changed the oversensitiveness and crying that I experienced to being much more calm and in control of my feelings, without the sudden outbursts of emotion.

      The other thing, and I did a lot of looking up on adrenal issues, is Vitamin C 500mg, B complex 50 mg, pantothenic acid (B5) 250 mg, (about 3 times per day); rhodiola herb @ 400mg, and calcium 2000 mg per day. Not neccessarily all together, but most definitely the Vit C and B5 thru out the day to keep the adrenals calm, and then before bed. If I wake up in the night usually to go to the bathroom, then I take more of those two. This seems to stop the inappropriate release of cortisol in the middle of the night. As a result, I sleep so much better and longer, which makes the day better.
      Hope this helps. Any questions, just ask. Good luck.

      • Amyah says

        Thank you for your suggestions… I will give it a big try.

        PTSD is really not fun, more when you used to be strong and independant… it is affecting all spheres of life. So will follow both your advices and continue to go toward health.

        Thank you 🙂

        • Laura says

          A few more things, Amyah, I use Ester C or buffered C, which is easier on the stomach. And, now less so than before, I use GABA or taurine, which both help turn off an overexcited brain, such as repetitive thoughts that won’t let you sleep. (Turner’s book, see below.)
          Also I got some of this info from Sarah Gottfried’s book , The Hormone Cure, and Natasha Turner’s book, The Hormone Diet. They both have great explanations of (esp. Gottfried) adrenal problems and how cortisol normally fluctuates during each 24 hour period plus how it can go wrong, plus recommendations on herbs and supplements to help.
          And also, I learned this from experience – you want to keep the adrenals calm all day by supporting them with supplements, herbal teas (I have used ashwaghanda also, kind of switch back and forth with rhodiola), etc. If you were to only take things before bed, any accumulated stress or imbalance during the day will backfire on you during the night. So it is something you want to be consistant with all day long.
          Sleep is such an important thing. Without it, we cannot heal and get back to anything resembling normal. And if we can’t get back to normal – there IS no normal.
          Good luck!

  9. Rachel says

    Elder= elder berries or elder flower???

    Can you harvest it after it flowers???

    Enjoy your site.

    Can you email me directly, please?

    Thank you!

  10. Cheryl Johnson says

    While in Venezuela many years ago I was shown that many people use catnip tea for headaches.

  11. Christin says

    Can I use the dried catnip I buy for my cat to make tea for me? I’m assuming that if it’s safe for him to consume, it’s safe for me.

    • Dawn Combs says

      Probably, just be aware that the catnip you buy at the petstore may not be the best quality. They aren’t producing it with the idea of it being eaten by a human. If you bought well raised catnip from a friend, or farmer’s market booth I’d say go for it!